Have you ever stopped to look at all the restaurants you pass while you drive around? Competing for your attention among the bright fast food signs there are usually small “mom and pop” businesses sitting there, waiting for you to stop by. Recently I found myself being invited to join snekse (from Gastronomic Fight Club) and his family for lunch at Han Kuk Kwan. Now, I have lived in Omaha for about 5 years now, and have passed by this restaurant at least 200 times and now having eaten there, I regret not going in sooner. Admittedly, the restaurant is very easy to miss… it sits on what I call “fast food alley” and is surrounded by a good 5 gas stations, McDonalds, Burger King, Valentinos, Arby’s, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Taco Bell and more. There is no flashy sign or any large billboard, just a simple store front advertising itself as a Korean restaurant (my apologies for all the pictures, I only had my cell phone with me).
The atmosphere inside the restaurant is very nice and relaxing. The waitress was very kind and allowed me to choose my own table while she adjusted the lighting so that it was bright enough to see, but wasn’t glaring. The restaurant is decorated with Korean paintings and has a very comfortable feel to it. It definitely would be hard to be uptight in a place like this. It is also one of those restaurants that give you chopsticks and you have to ask for a fork if you happen to, er, not have any chopstick skills (I really have to work on that)… and yes, that is a good thing.
When it came to the menu, it was all very authentic. Here are just some of the items:
- Rice Bowls: Dolsot Bibimbab, Shrimp Bibimbab, Pork Bibimbab, Bulgogi Bibimbab, and more.
- Appetizers: Bindae-Duk, Mandoo, Kimbab, Yachae-teegim, and more.
- Noodle Dishes: Chabchae, Jajang Myun, Jambong, Udong, Bibim Nangmyun, Hoi Nangmyun, and more.
- Soups: Youkgyejang, Seollongtang, Daenjang Jigye, Mandukuk, Daegutang, Galbeetang, and more.
- Many more items including seafood dishes (baby octopus, squid, etc).
Let’s say that you can tell if a place is authentic if you have a hard time pronouncing over 50% of the items on the menu. From the many, many choices, I decided to go with the Dolsot Bibimbab which the menu describes as:
A large bowl of Korean short grained rice topped with refreshing Korean side dishes including spinach, bean sprouts, cabbage and beef topped with an egg sunny side up. (Traditional Bibimbab)
I’ll tell you, I’m a sucker for anything with an egg on top. This was made for me, but what made this Bibimbab different than the others? Well, Wikipedia has the answer:
A variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥, “dolsot” meaning “stone pot”), is served in a very hot stone bowl in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the layer of the rice touching the bowl golden brown and crispy.
This description was 100% spot on… not only was it a hot stone bowl, but it sizzled for a good 5 minutes. The dish was absolutely delicious and I honestly plan on trying to recreate it at home (although I will be back for sure).
Along with the main meal we were served little “side dishes” along with the meal. There ended up being six altogether and they were (as far as I could tell):
Bean Sprouts, Kimchi, Spinach, Gamja Jorim, Fermented Daikon, Shredded Daikon
I could be wrong, but I was told by snekse that they have different side dishes on different days, so it is hard to be sure (I should have asked, but I was caught up in how good it all was). Let’s just say they were all great and flavorful, no matter what they were.
So how was the price? Very fair. My meal cost me $11.72 (with tax) and most of the dishes were around the same price. If Jess came with me and we had an appetizer, I figure our meal would be about $35 with tax and tip. Let’s rate, shall we?
Food (taste, presentation, etc): 10/10
Service (attentiveness/helpfulness): 8/10
Price (price vs quality/taste): 9/10
Total: 9.0/10 – Highly Recommended
I would definitely check them out if you’re ever around the Omaha area and are looking for some good Korean food. I think I might make this one of my “bi-weekly” restaurants, as there are enough things on the menu to have me trying new dishes for weeks.