Korean in East Bay

I’ve been tasked to organize a dinner at a Korean restaurant in the East Bay a month or two from now.

One of the guests is from Seoul and has enjoyed Mixed Grain (Walnut Creek), which means that Bowl’d, etc. would be fine options, but too familiar territory. Most of the Korean places I know in Oakland are better for bar food than BBQ, soups, etc. ---- have any stellar Korean places opened in the past few years? Unfortunately Gan in Pleasanton has closed, as have Oaklands Casserole House and Fusebox.

It’s not new but I think Jong ga house is a solid choice and they are generous with panchan. Once as a solo diner they still gave me sixteen. I haven’t checked out the spot that replaced casserole house yet, or remember it’s name, but the menu seemed almost identical.

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I somehow managed never to eat at Jong Ga house (too much time on telegraph…). The menu and your description are appealing. Any particular favorite dishes there?

Oh no!

Hopefully the chef gets to open modern Korean in another Bay Area location. Loved his cooking.

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If your guest and others enjoy soondae, i.e. stuffed intestines, there is now a Moo Bong Ri in Oakland near Macarthur Bart. Its a chain from Korea though, so its not a novelty if the guest still lives in Seoul.

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I liked Jong Ga House as well. I haven’t had Korean in Oakland or elsewhere in the East Bay for awhile so can’t comment on any new places. However with the caveat that I haven’t been in awhile, Sahn Maru in Oakland has some very good dishes. I liked the yukgaejang from there as well as their soondubu jjigae. They don’t have a charcoal grill IIRC so the kalbi/bulgogi/etc. won’t have that charcoal flavor. If you’re more into the BBQ then maybe Ohgane, also in Oakland, which has charcoal grills and also table grills (though like Sahn Maru I haven’t been for awhile). Ohgane also had a nice sukiyaki like dish, ddukbaegi bulgogi, with rice cakes. There’s also Pyeong Chang Tofu House in Oakland, a good choice for a soondubu jjigae dinner. Another option in Oakland is Gogi Time. I haven’t been there but have heard good things.

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If they like Bowl’d then pretty much ALL the Korean food in the Bay Area is much, much sweeter. Ohgane especially seems to put sugar in everything, even the banchan. We had a discussion about this last year with Bowl’d owner Ms. Oh, who very tactfully said they wanted the food at Bowl’d BBQ, especially, to be less sweet per customers’ requests.

You can check out some of the soju bangs, maybe: Bside did a 2016 article on 6 of them:

I didn’t especially like Gangnam Tofu, since I’m not a fan of gooped-up fried chicken, but it’s okay. Agree with Mr._Happy that Pyeong Chang Tofu House is a good choice for a soondubu jjigae, as is Bowl’d BBQ/Oakland.

We have tried the dish at the other Bowl’d locations but the Oakland Temescal place has the best and most consistent version. The soondubu at Gangnam is a little above average, but the broth is weaker than Pyeong & Bowl’d.

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It’s been so long I can’t recall specific dishes in any useful detail. Now I want to go back myself. I just remember everything being fairly well executed, whether BBQ or stew or grilled fish, etc.

If your party wants a sojubang kind of night, I’ve been enjoying tin & pig.

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Is tin & pig a rebranding of Kang Tong Degi or are there other differences? I seem to remember them having pretty much the same type of food as their sister restaurant Dan Sung Sa, oh man those wings at 2am are wonderful, but with a better atmosphere.

LOL, I brought a friend to their Alameda location who is not too familiar with Korean food and watched him gag at the sweetness of gochujang (then I gagged when they obliged his request for Sriracha).

Korean food does use a lot of sugar, or corn syrup. For that reason, I tend not to get banchan from markets that don’t list ingredients

Sahn Maru went downhill several years ago, I think it was after is featured on that PBS show, but I’d love to hear if they recovered.

Cool, I’ll prioritize Jong Ga house!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold