Soybeans that make the journey to Hosoonyi Korean Restaurant have a tasty future ahead of them. The young beans, once matured and fermented, are infused with hot pepper, pulverized into paste, or strained and aged to make soy sauce. Not many restaurants make their own soy sauces in-house, but Hosoonyi’s team prefers to individually monitor the flavors to ensure that they retain their beneficial nutrients and pair perfectly with the eatery's specialty Korean cuisine. The flames of a Korean-style barbecue fire pork, rib-eye steak, and chicken, and a cushion of steamy rice supports the vegetables, beef, and egg that comprise classic bibimbap. Pancakes veer from their traditional breakfast role by incorporating stalks of green onion, slices of squid, and refusing to get out of bed until lunchtime. The restaurant's authentic selection has caught the eye of media outlets such as Sunset Magazine, the Seattle Times and Seattle Met, which lauded the popular sundubu jjigae—a soft-tofu soup brimming with seafood and kimchi—as "pungent, filling, and satisfying."
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.
Diners at Shilla Restaurant have a choice: become the masters of their own culinary fate or let the chefs do all the work. At tables inset with Korean barbecue, they can flip slices of bulgogi beef, calamari, pork belly until they're perfectly seared. At the sushi bar, chefs roll more than 30 varieties of maki, while in the kitchen others are busy turning out an expansive menu of steamy Korean cuisine such as bibimbap.
Guests cook or slurp up kimchi in a sleek, monochromatic dining room. Beneath paper lampshades, they can counteract bites of spicy Korean entrees by drinking sips of sake.
It's no surprise that Akasaka Restaurant, named after a neighborhood in Tokyo, offers traditional Japanese specialties. Diners tuck into freshly sliced sashimi, seasonal imports of Kobe beef, and shabu shabu hot pots of seaweed-infused broth in which diners can simmer morsels of beef or seafood. But according to The Seattle Times, there's another showstopper: "It's hard to get past the great Korean food at this longtime Federal Way favorite."
On tabletop grills, guests can broil hand-cut short ribs, slices of scarlet bulgogi beef, and other korean meats to their liking. Servers present more than a dozen types of housemade kimchi and other korean banchan to accompany savory meals, along with glasses of sake, whiskey, and Asian beer.
At Blue Mango Bistro, chefs meticulously prepare an elegant spread of seafood dishes, appetizers, and entrees culled from cuisines across Asia, from Korean bibimbap to fried rice and Japanese tempura udon. Guests delight taste buds with flaky fried Pacific cod and chips or crispy chicken katsu, or enjoy a happy-hour feast of wine and sake with noodle stir-frys and spicy tuna rolls. An enclosure of wall-to-wall windows in the dining area surrounds guests with an expansive vista of Possession Sound, garnishing meals with views of passing sailboats and jealous seagulls.
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.