I have prepared Korean cuisine in my home, but until recently I had yet to try any of the Korean restaurants in the Kansas City metro. While not as trendy as the Momufuku mini-empire in New York City, they give diners a solid and authentic glimpse into this type of Asian cuisine. I have just embarked upon a little journey to try them all and, after my first foray, I’m excited to keep going.
The first time you venture to Korean Restaurant Sobahn, take some friends with you. It will allow you a more complete experience, as the menu offers a diversity of options that can’t be properly tackled with just two people. Ask your server to help sift through it or, if you are feeling adventurous, she can create a meal for you and let you be surprised.
We had two appetizers, both of which were quite substantial and filling. The seafood pancake was the size of a 12 inch pizza and was replete with vegetables as well as bits of shrimp and squid. A small bowl of soy was provided for dipping. It looked pretty, and tasted much better than I had anticipated. Its flavors melded well and it had a pleasing texture. The spicy rice cakes with fish cakes and vegetables came in a beautiful covered porcelain bowl and resembled a stew of rigatoni pasta and vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. The red sauce was actually made with a Korean chile sauce, and had a bit of spice that was not overpowering.
There are several beef dishes to choose from, and they are considered a speciality of the house. We ordered the sliced and grilled short ribs marinated in a sweet soy sauce, served with tongs and a pair of scissors for splitting the bones (which was not necessary). I’m not a big meat eater, but each bite was tender and wonderfully seasoned.
If you need a bit of a warmer-upper on a cold winter’s night, the soup with red bean paste and tofu will do the trick, but it was not as hearty as some of the soups/stews on the menu, and would have functioned better as a starter than a main course.
The winner of the evening was a rice dish, Kimchi Dol Sot Bap, which was topped with spicy stir fried pork and dried seaweed. Though there was no sauce component as in Chinese and Thai cooking, and though it was identified on the menu with a red chile to denote heat, it was not too spicy for our dining partner who typically prefers more mild cuisine. And it came in a deep pot that managed to keep all of its contents hot for the duration of the meal, which would have made my mother happy.
As if we didn’t already have enough on the table, our server also brought out a lovely array of condiments to complement our dinner, including pickled cucumbers, kimchi, cellophane noodles and seaweed.
The scene on a Saturday night was a refreshing change from the usual loud and crowded spectacle of many restaurants on the weekend. Though it deserves to be full at all hours, we reveled in the ability to have a relaxed conversation without shouting, and to enjoy the pleasing mix of smooth jazz that wafted through the room. Service was attentive but not rushed.
We didn’t come close to sampling all that Sobahn has to offer, but we certainly got a beginner’s education, and one that made me eager to keep learning.