“Gosu” is a Korean word implying exceptional skill, and in this case, it refers to the mastery of Korean and Japanese food preparation by the restaurant’s chef and owner, Bang. As diners luxuriate in velvet booths and banquettes, Bang’s cadre of skilled chefs whips up appetizers of boiled soybeans, soft-shell crab, and vegetables or shrimp swathed in savory tempura. The dining room, with its tiered, wooden ceiling and paper lanterns, inspires mellow conversation, and decorative mirrors steam up from menu entrees of Korean-style steamed pork and beef in bold citrus and curry sauces. Gosu invites diners to unwrap artfully packed sushi before warming spoons in a cinnamon tea or Japanese cider, which offer spicy relaxation without the sneezing repercussions of bathing in black pepper.
The bench-style seating at Yeowoosai—which translates to “Let’s talk about love at this place”—encourages bar-goers to snuggle up to share drinks and plates of Korean fare calibrated to feed two to four people. Since 1996, owner Stella has crafted each batch of the yellow sauce that accompanies the house favorite, popcorn chicken, from a recipe she keeps under lock and key. Other popular dishes include classic galbi (marinated beef ribs) and bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables). Guests can sip one of eight hand-crafted original cocktails and after 10 p.m. K-pop videos pump from eight flat-screen televisions, lending the red room an upbeat air.
At Solga Restaurant, guests finish barbecuing their short ribs, pork belly, and brisket in tableside charcoal pots, as chronicled in a feature by the Chicago Reader. But chefs do their fair share, too. They sear Atlantic king salmon and octopus atop the kitchen's grills and they heap steamed white rice into warm stoneware bowls before topping it with vegetables and dollops of red-chili paste. For noodle dishes, the chefs stir handmade wheat flour noodles into steaming or refreshingly cool broths.
Mio Bento’s storefront windows stretch from floor to ceiling, treating passersby to an unobstructed view of the Japanese restaurant’s casual yet elegant dining room. Lights affixed to a lofted ceiling shine on scarlet walls and plated arrangements of seaweed-wrapped sushi and creamy wasabi. As eyes take in the refined surroundings, chopsticks spar for fried shrimp tempura, udon noodles, and specialty sushi hand rolled by chefs. Green tea and vanilla ice cream stand out on the dessert menu, which also features traditional Japanese mochi and ocean-fresh swedish fish.
As any barbecue gourmand knows: charcoal makes all the difference. At Woo Chon, diners themselves roast thin strips of marinated short rib over hickory and oak charcoals before wrapping their concoctions in fresh lettuce and adding a spicy bean paste to taste. The interactive traditions of Korean barbecue reward the adventurous and napkin manufacturers alike.