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Using market indicators has always been essential to making wise financial choices, and that doesn't change when making dining choices. The realization that we were the sole non-Koreans inside this unpretentious Korean restaurant, the broken English spoken by the waitress who greeted us and the comforting aroma emanating from tabletop grills were all sure signs that we were about to make a sound culinary investment.

The large, colorful photographs of menu items scattered about the place were tacky, albeit effective, ploys to kick-start the salivary glands ' after laying eyes on the glossy snapshot of bulgogi simmering on the grill, the desire to order the 'fire meatâ?� proved too tempting to pass up. But before the soy-, sugar- and garlic-marinated strips of sirloin were situated over the grill, we indulged in a bottle of Bohae Bokbunjaoo wine ($15), a potent black-raspberry potable that'll have you slurring like a tipsy totalitarian if you're not careful. The wine did, however, complement every mouthful of barbecued bulgogi ($16.95) seared with scallions and sesame seeds, as did the white rice, a necessary starch. Sampling from the seven side plates of panchan subtly, or not so subtly, altered the attributes of every bite ' kimchi (cabbage and radish) added a spicy-sour smack, while fish cakes and crispy anchovies added a bold dimension of flavor. Bean sprouts in sesame oil, potato salad with apples and thinly sliced radish rounded out the side dishes.

One particular section of the menu drew our interest, as no English translation was provided next to the items. From what we could surmise from the waitress, they were fish dishes, so after pointing to one with reckless abandon, we anxiously awaited for the 'fried fish,â?� which turned out to be a beautifully grilled mackerel ($14.95). The salty fillet was skillfully deboned and ultimately picked clean by my dining partner. I, on the other hand, focused on devouring the bibimbap ($13.95), served in a sizzling stone pot. Zucchini, bean sprouts and other assorted veggies were mixed with beef, rice and multiple squirts of fiery gochujang. A raw egg crowned the top of the delectable mélange, but of particular note was the toasted layer of rice at the bottom. The fragrant bowl of clear soft noodles ($9.95), or japchae, was animated with bulbs of garlic; while filling, it paled in comparison to other dishes we sampled. If you opt to take the noodles home, take heed: The pungent aroma will rapidly suffuse every square inch of your fridge.

My attempts to linguistically reciprocate with the two phrases I know in Korean ('helloâ?� and 'thank youâ?�) seemed to have a positive impact on the service we received, though in the midst of our dinner, our waitress was replaced by another server ' just as pleasant and eager to please as our initial waitress, but fluent in English. When the words 'red-bean ice creamâ?� ($3.90) spilled from her mouth, we excitedly ordered a scoop, along with a scoop of green-tea ice cream. While we fought for every last bit of the former, the latter was left to melt. My advice: Get two scoops of the red bean.

The space, it should be noted, isn't in a propitious locale ' previous tenants Pannoli and PJ's Asian Bistro struggled and couldn't quite muster the following needed to keep them going. Here's hoping once Beewon's secret is out, they'll be poised to reverse the curse.

Korea House dates back to 1982, and while that's hardly early history in terms of the city's evolution, the restaurant was nonetheless a pioneer on the dining scene. For many years, it was the only local eatery offering a taste of the Land of the Morning Sun, and now it's among the few.

Even today, the phone book lists just two other sources for Korean food: Korea Garden, which is down the street from Korea House; and Korea House Oriental Super Market on Edgewater Drive, which is completely unrelated to the restaurant. Oddly enough, there are more Korean churches than restaurants: six in all. There's never been the mainstream acceptance of Korean food as there has been for other Asian cuisines.

Even today, the phone book lists just two other sources for Korean food: Korea Garden, which is down the street from Korea House; and Korea House Oriental Super Market on Edgewater Drive, which is completely unrelated to the restaurant. Oddly enough, there are more Korean churches than restaurants: six in all. There's never been the mainstream acceptance of Korean food as there has been for other Asian cuisines.

Korea House offers a tour of classic Korean flavors: garlic, ginger, soy and hot pepper. The atmosphere is at once genteel and bohemian. There's a Spartan quality to the dining area, with just 10 tables, a few paper lanterns and rice-paper partitions. At night the overhead lighting is far too harsh. But there is a quiet throughout the room, even as servers deliver tray after tray of delicacies to the customers.

Korea House offers a tour of classic Korean flavors: garlic, ginger, soy and hot pepper. The atmosphere is at once genteel and bohemian. There's a Spartan quality to the dining area, with just 10 tables, a few paper lanterns and rice-paper partitions. At night the overhead lighting is far too harsh. But there is a quiet throughout the room, even as servers deliver tray after tray of delicacies to the customers.

Korea House rivals the average Chinese restaurant in terms of price and value. For the cost of a $32 dinner for two, we received an overly abundant amount of food. We tried: yaki mandoo, pan-fried dumplings stuffed with beef and vegetables and crimped into crescents ($4.25), sushi-esque kim bap, seaweed rolls filled with beef and vegetables ($3.95), a bowl of tofu soup with miso and spinach ($1.95), and a generous platter of bulgogi beef, which is kind of like Korean barbecue, marinated in a sweet garlic sauce ($9.95). The pizza-sized pajuen, a fried potato pancake laced with scallions, oysters, clams, peppers and rice, was delicious, but unwieldy and difficult to slice.

Korea House rivals the average Chinese restaurant in terms of price and value. For the cost of a $32 dinner for two, we received an overly abundant amount of food. We tried: yaki mandoo, pan-fried dumplings stuffed with beef and vegetables and crimped into crescents ($4.25), sushi-esque kim bap, seaweed rolls filled with beef and vegetables ($3.95), a bowl of tofu soup with miso and spinach ($1.95), and a generous platter of bulgogi beef, which is kind of like Korean barbecue, marinated in a sweet garlic sauce ($9.95). The pizza-sized pajuen, a fried potato pancake laced with scallions, oysters, clams, peppers and rice, was delicious, but unwieldy and difficult to slice.

There was much variety among the side items, with 11 offerings included with the meal, gratis, including cucumbers in sweet vinegar sauce, marinated bean sprouts, pickled turnips and pan-seared tofu. We sampled several varieties of kimchi, the pickled cabbage dish that is the cornerstone of the Korean diet. We had a traditional version, which had been fermented with hot peppers and caught us off-guard with its spiciness. A dish of house soy sauce added a mild, sweet dimension to different dinner items, and it wasn't salty in the least.

There was much variety among the side items, with 11 offerings included with the meal, gratis, including cucumbers in sweet vinegar sauce, marinated bean sprouts, pickled turnips and pan-seared tofu. We sampled several varieties of kimchi, the pickled cabbage dish that is the cornerstone of the Korean diet. We had a traditional version, which had been fermented with hot peppers and caught us off-guard with its spiciness. A dish of house soy sauce added a mild, sweet dimension to different dinner items, and it wasn't salty in the least.

For a culinary adventure at Korea House, you won't need a lot of money, just a hearty appetite and an open mind.

Korean food has been slow to garner a following in this town where Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and sushi joints dominate the pan-Asian culinary landscape. Some cite the cuisine's bent toward sour and tart flavors and exotic ingredients. As anyone who has sampled kimchi can attest, the extraordinarily pungent staple condiment tends to polarize palates ' people either love it or hate it. But the primary reason remains ignorance of the country's cooking; most diners favor familiarity over the unknown.

In actuality, the soups, stews, noodles and barbecue dishes comprising Korean fare are in line with those from other countries in the Orient, and just as accessible thanks to the great variety; and variety is precisely what makes Korean Kitchen a bona fide draw.

You'll start with no fewer than seven side dishes, or panchan, to enjoy as a pre-meal peck: Fiery kimchi is bestowed along with such appetizing small plates as seasoned potato salad, crunchy pickled turnips and pickled lettuce. Seaweed, radish and eggplant round out the offerings, each embracing the spectrum of flavors and textures.

With an irresistible essence of sesame, it's no wonder the pepper japchae ($14.99) is a special-occasion and holiday fave in Korea. The dish of glass noodles stir-fried with shredded beef and assorted veggies tossed in a garlicky soy sauce was a cautious incursion into the menu, while beef mandoo ($9.99) proved a tad more diverse. The delicate handmade dumplings, steamed with cabbage and onion, arrived with a salty soy-based dipping sauce that vanished quickly. But what seemed at first like an ordinary starter provided numerous nibbles of comfort.

Stews are a mainstay for the curious, veering more toward the exotic. Beware the bones in the nose-running broth of the monkfish stew ($14.99). The murky liquid is spiked with an astringent bite, but the skeletal spikes of the meaty fish are what make the dish an adventure to eat. There's no defusing the kimchi, tofu and jalapeños ($9.99) reposing in a fiery red stew ' the item is hot enough to warrant a bomb icon on the menu. (Given the stew's tendency to cause head-scratching, a picture of Kim Jong Il may have been more apropos.)

Especially popular are the famous bibimbap ' rice dishes cooked in hot stone bowls. The cooking method results in a bottom layer of rice that's enjoyably crisp and crunchy. A memorable version made with beef short ribs ($13.99) comes with egg, zucchini, carrots, sprouts and string beans, and the idea is to squirt a little kochujang (spicy chili paste) into the sizzling concoction, then mix it all up. The fatty chunks of meat, snappy rice and colorful veggies made it the darling of our plate-cluttered table.

Burners located on some of the tables allow traditionalists to chef up their own DIY barbecue (exhaust hoods ensure a smoke-free experience). Those preferring some work-free 'cue can opt for the beef bulgogi ($12.99), grilled slices of beef marinated in a sweet garlic-soy sauce and served with wild rice. The meat was undoubtedly juicy, but the sugary sauce won't please all palates. Cooked desserts are nonexistent, but every table gets a plate of watermelon slices to shower the tongue with cooling bursts of sweetness.

Korean Kitchen's exterior gives an impression of rickety tables and dubious fare, but the prevailing high standards make this unassuming family-run spot top-notch. The staff may not be fluent in English, but when it comes to their alluring dishes and accommodating service, there is no language barrier.

Korean Kitchen's exterior gives an impression of rickety tables and dubious fare, but the prevailing high standards make this unassuming family-run spot top-notch. The staff may not be fluent in English, but when it comes to their alluring dishes and accommodating service, there is no language barrier.

Like feasting on the diverse array of dishes at a tapas joint, dining at a Korean restaurant can also provide a motley mishmash catering to palates just as varied, be they pedestrian, exploratory or anything in between. In fact, there's arguably no other cuisine that warrants enjoyment with a large group of people more than Seoul food.

Unfortunately, failing to remember to invite more than one guest to a Korean restaurant is a common oversight of mine ' an omission magnified when the septet of plates known as panchan is presented. The pre-meal snackables-cum-side items comprise the gamut of flavors ' salty and sweet; tangy and spicy; sour and bitter ' and gauging the reaction of fellow diners can liven up the affair, especially when the exotic plates arrive unordered and unannounced. Guests might wince after a bite of pickled radish; their lips may curl after a sampling of fish-pancake slivers; and tongues will burn after tearing into tangles of fiery kimchi. That's not to say such facial expressions and oral sensations are lost in smaller numbers; they're not, but at a Korean restaurant, 'the more, the merrierâ?� rings true.

At Maitland's Seoul Gardens, the real fun lies beyond the DIY grilling tables, which many diners seem never to move past. Take the reasonably priced won tang soup ($2.99) ' the broth is murky enough to scare off flies, but treading below the surface are hefty dumplings filled with superbly seasoned beef. My ordering the Frisbee-sized pajun ($12.99), a buttery pancake generously stuffed with pepper-blasted kimchi and scallions, elicited an appearance by owner Chong Men Yun, an animated man who, prior to Seoul Gardens, ran Korea House and Korea Garden in Longwood. The self-described 'kimchi king of Orlandoâ?� proudly proclaims he introduced the redolent condiment to the city, and given the pancake's savory makeup, I was in no position to argue. Kim bap ($4.50), seaweed rolls stuffed with beef, carrots, radish and egg, was a perfectly satisfactory, if somewhat ordinary, starter.

Forgoing bulgogi, the Korean national dish, turned out to be a wise decision, thanks to the sundubu jigae ($11.99). Blending clams, potatoes, vegetables and luxuriously soft tofu in a bubbling, nostril-flaring, blood-red fish broth, the soupy stew will certainly do its part to reduce any cold symptoms you might be suffering. My only complaint is that there was too much tofu in the dish, which caused a bit of soy disintegration. The soup is served with a bowl of sticky white rice, but if you're the sort that doesn't mind a little crunch in your grains, the bibimbap ($12.99) is as good a rice dish you'll ever have. It comes sizzling in a broad stone bowl brimming with beef bits, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, seaweed and cucumber, crowned with a fried egg. Our accommodating waiter was happy to liberally squeeze the blistering sauce known as kochujang into the mix before tossing and stirring the ingredients tableside. Just be sure to scoop up the bottom layer of rice to get a modest crunch with every bite.

The interior, with its orchids (available for sale), is tastefully appointed and, unlike the food, won't overload your senses ' though the dearth of patrons may have contributed to that impression. The need to bellow 'Yuh-gi-yo! `Over here!`â?� never arose ' a slight head movement was enough to draw the waiter's attention, as was the case when I humbly requested a second cup of complimentary sujungkwa, or cinnamon tea. The sole 'dessertâ?� offering ' refreshingly cool, sweet and comforting ' it ushered in a serene ending to the meal and, contrary to my sentiments in the opening paragraph, was best enjoyed alone.

The little cottage tucked next to Kim's Karate on East Colonial has housed many food venues through the years, from fancy to funky to fried fish. Shin Jung, offering traditional dishes from its Korean kitchen, might just be the one that stays.

Interior design touches are few, but the spotless cleanliness of the place is enough. There are four booths along the west wall, a half dozen four-top tables and one large table in a back corner. Add in a few community-event posters, written in Korean, and that's it. No ferns. No frills.

Interior design touches are few, but the spotless cleanliness of the place is enough. There are four booths along the west wall, a half dozen four-top tables and one large table in a back corner. Add in a few community-event posters, written in Korean, and that's it. No ferns. No frills.

The main dish offerings ($7.95-$15.95) cover an exotic gamut: Hawe nang myun, which is a cold-noodle dish served with hot-spice stingray, to al by tang, a short rib of beef soup. For my midweek lunch, I experimented with dolt bib bb ($8.95). First presented is a large stone bowl filled with steamed white rice, containing shredded vegetables: carrots, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts. Arrayed nearby are smaller dishes of veggies: a mild combo of seaweed, more bean sprouts, scallion tops, radishes in sweet marinade, tofu slices sautéed in a sesame sauce, cabbage in a Korean red-pepper broth and a cup of delicious steamy broth of a mild white-radish soup.

The main dish offerings ($7.95-$15.95) cover an exotic gamut: Hawe nang myun, which is a cold-noodle dish served with hot-spice stingray, to al by tang, a short rib of beef soup. For my midweek lunch, I experimented with dolt bib bb ($8.95). First presented is a large stone bowl filled with steamed white rice, containing shredded vegetables: carrots, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts. Arrayed nearby are smaller dishes of veggies: a mild combo of seaweed, more bean sprouts, scallion tops, radishes in sweet marinade, tofu slices sautéed in a sesame sauce, cabbage in a Korean red-pepper broth and a cup of delicious steamy broth of a mild white-radish soup.

The smiling server treated me like the new kid on the block, hurrying over to take my chop sticks from my hands to show me that I should be tossing and stirring the rice dish in my stone bowl because "delicious sesame oil hiding in the bottom." (Sesame oil and seeds are a mainstay in the cuisine.) She checked frequently to see if I was enjoying my meal and to fill my water glass.

The smiling server treated me like the new kid on the block, hurrying over to take my chop sticks from my hands to show me that I should be tossing and stirring the rice dish in my stone bowl because "delicious sesame oil hiding in the bottom." (Sesame oil and seeds are a mainstay in the cuisine.) She checked frequently to see if I was enjoying my meal and to fill my water glass.

There is also a 10-item barbecue list ($7.95-$14.95) that gives ultra-authentic choices to more stalwart diners -- for example, unmarinated beef tongue, beef tripe and beef intestine.

There is also a 10-item barbecue list ($7.95-$14.95) that gives ultra-authentic choices to more stalwart diners -- for example, unmarinated beef tongue, beef tripe and beef intestine.

The last part of the menu presents the house specials ($7.95-$39.95), which include everything from an eyebrow-raising "Korean intestine hot pot" to "assorted meat portions" to a seafood pancake. I opted for a green-pepper pancake, a lacy affair about the size of a small pizza, concocted of shredded hot Korean green peppers and bits of carrot dusted with flour and sizzled quickly in a tad of sesame oil. It was spicy, but delicious.

The last part of the menu presents the house specials ($7.95-$39.95), which include everything from an eyebrow-raising "Korean intestine hot pot" to "assorted meat portions" to a seafood pancake. I opted for a green-pepper pancake, a lacy affair about the size of a small pizza, concocted of shredded hot Korean green peppers and bits of carrot dusted with flour and sizzled quickly in a tad of sesame oil. It was spicy, but delicious.

My service was so attentive and my lunch there was so tasty that I'll be going back to try the noodles in a stone pot. You carnivores who think you've tried it all . . . beat a track, the gop chang jun gol is waiting.

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