Padded black booths surround grills beneath gleaming hoods, which reflect the glow of sunset-orange walls as they sweep away rising warm air and spice-steeped aromas. On Palace Korean Bar & Grill's tabletop skillets, chefs sizzle menu items such as pearlescent curlicues of kimchi and cuts of seafood as well as bulgogi, spicy slices of brisket also known as Korean barbecue. During the all-you-can-eat special, silverware jangles endlessly like a knight looking for his car keys as diners tuck into bottomless helpings of marinated beef short ribs, tender marble brisket, spicy pork belly, and jumbo shrimp.
Korean and Chinese dishes mingle on Red Lantern’s eclectic menu. Under the glow of those namesake red lanterns, guests can order Chinese classics such as General Tso’s chicken and sichuan peppercorn shrimp, or try something new with traditional––and not often seen––Korean dishes such as kkanpunggi (fried chicken with red chilies), or fermented black miso noodles, otherwise known as ja-jang. When it comes to dessert, though, chefs often combine eastern flavors with contemporary western techniques, creating sweets like a crème brulee flavored with black tea, or a vanilla sponge cake delivered by a runaway stagecoach.
This hole-in-the-wall Korean joint is a favorite among diners for its piping hot bowls of bi bim bap, and for the table-covering assortment of banchan, or little nibbles that accompany meals. The Stranger called the soon doo boo, or soft tofu soup, " bright red, spicy, and delicious." Aside from the soup--which may be ordered mild, medium, spicy, or extra spicy--the article also praised the heavy jade bowls that contain each of the restaurant's hot pots--aptly named since the serving vessels are kept warm all day in the oven.
One might say Marination’s secret is its sauce, except that its sauce isn’t a secret. The Hawaiian-Korean restaurant’s spicy pork and kalbi beef tacos come slathered in Nunya sauce, a hot miso-mayo blend that Food & Wine’s Kristin Donnelly said she “can’t live without.” Fortunately the restaurant sells its sauce by the jar at each of its two permanent locations, as well as from its roving food truck, which is officially known as Marination Mobile but which founders Kamala and Roz fondly refer to as “Big Blue.” Big Blue is as important to the business as the brick-and-mortar locations, and not just because it came first. It also has brought Marination scads of attention, winning not only Seattle magazine’s award for Best Street food in 2010, but also Good Morning America’s nationwide Best Food Cart contest in 2009. The truck shows up at locations including office buildings and private parties, bringing kalua pork sliders, fried-egg rice bowls, and kimchi quesadillas to lunchtime crowds who would otherwise be forced to eat the tires off a regular truck.
Local eggs sit squarely atop a dish of bibimbap, it's golden yolk begging to be broken onto a pile of rice, locally-raised meats, and farmer's market vegetables. This fusion of local flavors and Korean traditions is just one thing that sets Heong Soon Park’s Chan Seattle apart from other Korean restaurants. The other is the open kitchen, which makes eating in the intimate restaurant feel a lot like sitting in a the home of a friend who calls you "sir". Adding to the homey vibe is the menu, which focuses on shareable portions. That includes everything from the braised short ribs, to the spicy pork sliders, to the jars of house made kimchi, made without the customary fish sauce in order accommodate vegetarians.