If there is one kind of Asian cuisine that’s readily available in the Seattle area, that has been sorely under-explored by me, it’s Korean. Until a recent visit to Ka Won on Highway 99 in Lynnwood, it had been years since I’d had Korean food and so I was thrilled when a friend suggested this outing. Good thing that she’s quite familiar with the place, as I would have had a hard time finding it hidden around the corner in a rather nondescript strip mall.
Many people — like me, I confess — associate Korean food with grilled meats and Ka Won does a fantastic job with this style. Many of the tables in the restaurant have the grill built into the surface, helpful when you’re trying to manage this army of small dishes. We ordered the Ka Won Deungshini for two, four large fillets of beef sirloin with mushrooms, garlic and onions, all intended to go on the grill. Thankfully the meal also comes with industrial shears for cutting the meat into more manageable pieces, key to slightly more ladylike consumption of an entire hunk of meat.
What makes Ka Won so good, though, is their impressive array of banchan, or side dishes. Here is a shot taken of the other end of the table, which I’m afraid doesn’t entirely capture all of the plates, bowls and containers involved.
A couple of varieties of kimchee, of course, the variously pickled and spiced items that most of us think of as representatively Korean. Taro root, firm and a little sweet, and tofu in chili oil with green onions dusted over the top. Similar to the Japanese style, a hard-pressed omelet of green onion and a meaty something, maybe with a bit of mayo. A dab of especially creamy potato salad, which was the perfect cool and bland counterpoint to many of the other items on the table.
I’m generally very food adventurous, but months spent in Japan taught me that I wasn’t such a fan of the tiny, salty fishies whose eyes stare up at you, and this preference seems not to have changed since I last tried them 15 years ago. The feast of steak-accompaniments was capped off with the most enormous plate of salad with a delicious rice vinegar dressing, which somehow the two of us managed to devour.
I’ve long known that my favorite style of eating involves multiple small items shared among friends, which is why I love tapas, dim sum and Ethiopian, just to name a few indigenously presented in this manner. Seeing that all sorts of restaurants are on the small plate bandwagon, I couldn’t be happier. Korean barbecue fills this bill for sure, and now that I know where to get some of the best around, I’ll look forward to a return visit up Aurora to Ka Won.