The rule of finding quality Korean food in the Seattle area has remained largely the same over the years: Get out of town, driving well north or south of the city center. With a couple of anticipated openings in the works, the situation is destined to improve in the coming months. For now (with a few exceptions) Eater’s favorite places for Korean food—from mandu to mul naengmyun and bulgogi to bibimbap—are at the northern edge of Seattle stretching up to Lynnwood.
1. B Bop Fusion Rice Bar
Eater especially recommends this Lynnwood restaurant if you’re craving noodles, rice bowls, dumplings, and Korean soup for an early breakfast. Recommended is the pollock soup, so long as you’re not scared of a fish head swimming in the broth. Also noteworthy is the stone pot bibimbap, as it includes gosari (bracken fern fiddleheads) that impart earthy flavor and are a missing element in other restaurant’s bibimbap bowls.
2. BCD Tofu House
The two in the area (Edmonds and Lynnwood) are part of a big chain, but this casual eatery offers the best value in soon doo boo chigae. There are other items on the menu, but the soft tofu soup is the main draw, the fiery bowls filled with a choice of beef, pork, seafood, intestines, dumplings, mushrooms, and more. Each order comes with a stone pot of rice and a decent selection of banchan–including a whole fried fish.
3. Cockatoo’s Chicken Restaurant
Young and old alike flock to this Federal Way restaurant for beer and soju, plus bites to accompany the alcohol. Predictably, chicken comes in different forms (and spice levels,) from gizzards to wings to the whole bird, cut into its various pieces. The especially adventurous can try something called “Seasoning Pupa”—silkworms that are slightly crunchy, slightly bitter, slightly nutty, and very earthy.
4. Hae-Nam Kalbi & Calamari
Just north of the Seattle border in Shoreline, Haenam has a widespread menu of Korean classics, with large portions at reasonable prices. This is a good place to try bibim naengmyun, netting you a spicy mass of buckwheat noodles with daikon kimchi, cucumber, beef slices, Asian pear, and half of a hard-boiled egg. The haemul pajeon (seafood scallion pancake) is greener than most and good eating.
5. Hosoonyi Korean Restaurant
Open for nearly 20 years, Hosoonyi has long been known for its soon doo boo chigae (soft tofu soup.) Whatever variety you get, be sure to request a raw egg be cracked over the top. Other interesting menu items to consider are the pan-fried mackerel and the ginseng chicken soup. Tatami seating can be tempting for the inevitable food coma that follows a meal here.
6. Ka Won
Ka Won is one of the more popular places for bulgogi (marinated meat typically grilled with onions and peppers,) with one of the specialties being ttukbaegi bulgogi, which comes with sliced rice cake, vegetables, and glass noodles cooked in beef rib broth, served in an earthenware pot. This and a generous serving of banchan make for a massive meal, but an order of mandu (Korean dumplings, steamed, grilled, or fried) will have you feel like you’re feasting.
7. Old Village Korean BBQ Bistro
While there’s a fairly comprehensive Korean menu, this restaurant at the north edge of Seattle is one of the most popular for grill-your-own Korean BBQ, notable for its use of charcoal, which infuses the food with extra smoky flavor. Choose from platters of kalbi (boneless, or even better, with the bone,) skirt, brisket, tongue, and short ribs—and that’s just the beef section. Baby octopus with pork belly is another fine choice.
8. Original Sul Lung Tang Korean BBQ
Who says broth has to be boring? The namesake dish (often spelled seolleongtang) of this restaurant features a broth made from ox-bones, brisket, and other beefy body parts cooked for more than 24 hours. It comes to the table milky white, and your server will warn you that it’s completely unseasoned, dropping off a jar of coarse sea salt. Stir in a lot, along with some black pepper if desired. Consider the “Special” upgrade which adds tripe and tongue.
9. Sam Oh Jung Restaurant
Sam Oh Jung is another Korean restaurant in Lynnwood boasting a broad menu, but three items are of particular interest. The chung gook jang chigae is a fermented soybean and soybean paste soup (think of it as a type of stew) that has a strong, funky taste. Customize the beef broth of the icy cold noodle soup mul naengmyun with mustard and vinegar. And the ganjang-gejang (raw crabs in soy sauce)is a fermented treat for the adventurous.
10. Stars In The Sky
You can be the star of the show at this Korean pub in Edmonds if you feel like doing some karaoke, which draws large groups of twentysomethings. But what really sings here is the chicken, especially the SIS Famous Half and Half, which comes with both fried and sweet spicy pieces. (Other choices include Asian garlic sweet, charbroiled BBQ, and seasoned fried chicken.) Also try the rabokki (spicy tteokbokki rice cakes with ramen noodles), the snail salad with noodles, and the patbingsu (shaved ice with a hodgepodge of toppings.)
You’ll find a form of Korean food at all of Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s restaurants, including Joule and Revel. Eater recommends Trove because this restaurant finally brings cook-it-yourself Korean barbeque to the core of Seattle. Plates or towers of meat include beef (typically hanger, Wagyu tri-tip, and beef belly,) pork (coppa, loin, and more belly,) and succulent prawns. Make ssam (lettuce wraps,) and order some starters and noodles to supplement your meal. And perhaps an Asian-inspired parfait for dessert?
Originally published on Eater Seattle 1/21/15.