Bold Flavors at Bow’l

I don’t think she reads this, but I will be so sad when M moves back to Italy. Then who will go out on weekdays and stay up late and revel in unemployed bliss with me? With any luck one of the 20 jobs I applied to yesterday will contact me soon. Okay no more blathering–on to the food we enjoyed at Bowl’d, the fairly new Korean restaurant. (I didn’t even have to think of my own cheesy pun with this one.)

Thank goodness we didn't have to walk far for spicy comfort food on this aberrant rainy day in the bay.

Korean food means lots of banchan! I need to figure out how I can just order a bowl of rice and have all those little side dishes because they are the best part. Bowl'd caters to many non-Koreans in the area, and doesn't have the huge variety that I've seen in other places. But with so many diners, you can bet that their food is always fresh and high quality. The pieces of fried tofu swimming in chili sauce on the right was probably my favorite.

I ordered the fried tofu pancakes in egg batter and made it a meal with a bowl of rice and soup (8). They turned out to be less cakey (I doubt there was any flour involved) and more like soft pillows of tofu dipped in egg. It gave me a much-needed protein boost and paired wonderfully with the dipping sauce and kimchi. I'm excited to go back and try some of their other pancakes, like seafood or mung bean. (For those keeping track of my goofy eating habits, my stomach can't handle dairy but I'm trying to eat seafood once in a while if I want to splurge at a restaurant.)

I had a few bites of M's dukboki, or spicy rice cakes with ramen, fish cakes and hardboiled egg. This is one of my favorite things to eat on a cold day but I didn't want to order it because it never fails to put me in a coma afterwards. I'm glad I went with the tofu on this night because the sauce was far too sweet and rich. I mean, is this dinner or dessert? Make up your mind!

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What’s Cookin’ at Koreana Kitchen II

Another weekend lunch with the parents, another Korean restaurant. Like any mother-lover, I cleared a window on this mother’s day and resolved to be an angelic daughter more often. I also gave my dad the URL for this blog so, dad, if you remembered to check this out, hey.

The main draw for Koreana Kitchen II (the original's in Walnut Creek) is its location in the Asian shopping center, next to 99 Ranch. If not for this reason I wouldn't have been here four times.

I wished I was hungrier but we'd just gone to Costco (another one of those activities that scream "spending time with parents" to me) where I had almost a whole energy bar. Rice and banchan sounded good so I just got a lunch bento box (6) and ate that sans chicken. Everything I ate was probably pre-made banchan but they have a decent variety. Too bad they didn't have a purple/brown rice option, unlike most Korean restaurants.

Don't you love that this blog sets up no expectations for good food photography so I can get away with crappy shots like this? My mom's usual tofu/seafood soup, with a miso base because chili makes her sick. Surrounded by other banchan that I also picked at (I eat all the kimchi). This is where it kind of went downhill. Their soup doesn't come with a raw egg to crack into the boiling pot, and was astronomically oversalted, which, based on our visits, is always the case. Rendering it into more of a soggy dish of veggies that had to be spooned out. My mom's favorite part is always their weird mashed potatoes on the bottom right.

Big thank you to my mother and her tiny hips for birthing me.

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Sahn Maru

translation: top of the mountain

translation: top of the mountain

My parents came to Berkeley today to remind me why I love them and prove that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy and nauseous already, but that’s due more to the fact that it’s 100 degrees in my room and I ate another feast. After running some errands, we headed to Temescal again, where all the Korean food is. My mom always wants it when she comes to Berkeley, even though she is allergic to anything spicy, which is the cause of much dining woe. This was the case at poor Sahn Maru, which had no idea what it was in for when Mama Beans set foot inside. It didn’t help that none of the employees knew much English. I usually love that it’s a sign of the food’s authenticity and have nothing but patience for language barriers, but eating with a starving/picky/increasingly upset mother made it less charming.

I love their chair mats. From my seat, I had a nice view of everything but behind me, there was a wall with sculptures of human butts.

I love their chair mats. From my seat, I had a nice view of everything but behind me, there was a wall with sculptures of human butts.

Decent number of banchan, but nothing memorable. The medley of rice was bomb though, it had 3 different types of beans in it and various grains and everything was cooked to this sticky but chewy consistency

Decent number of banchan, but nothing memorable. The medley of rice was bomb though, it had 3 different types of beans in it and various grains and everything was cooked to this sticky but chewy consistency

My dad's familiar-looking dish. I can't remember the name but it had vegetables, bulgogi, and glass? noodles. I am guessing that's what they were because I like the over-literal name. I tried a bit and felt it too salty and a bit mushy for me. It lacked...je ne sais quoi.

My dad's familiar-looking dish. I can't remember the name but it had vegetables, bulgogi, and glass? noodles (10). I am going to say that's what they were because I like the over-literal name. I tried a bit and felt it too salty and a bit mushy for me. It lacked...je ne sais quoi.

This is my mom's mild tofu soup (10) when I lean over it with my glasses on. Notice my new habit of writing everything in these captions. Just when I thought it was impossible to get any lazier

This is my mom's mild tofu soup (10) when I lean over it with my glasses on. It had tofu, beef, potatoes, onions, enoki, and an egg, which my mom asked for but they gave for free. Notice my new habit of writing everything in these captions. Just when I thought it was impossible to get any lazier. But look, I took a video to capture the bubbling

My mom always makes it very clear that she can’t eat anything spicy, but on this occasion, this one was definitely full of white pepper (Worst one ever – she should never touch the stuff. Go through strep throat five times and then ask me if I’m exaggerating.) They probably figured that she meant nothing with chili. Still, we had to go through the painful ordeal of asking them to make a new one. Then we realized that my dad never got the rice he ordered. So he sat and waited cause his dish was practically a salt lick, while my mom ate some of our food because neither of us had breakfast, as I inhaled my delicious bibimbap. Finally, the new soup got here and it tasted almost exactly like the first one. She was so looking forward to it, but couldn’t really drink any 😥

It was easier to pretend it was fine but they kept sending various employees to ask us how it was, so I told them it might be the pepper in some pre-made paste they use for the soup base. But none of them knew enough English so finally I just said “I don’t know if you understand anything I’m saying” while smiling and nodding. That seemed to placate them. Well, I thought the soup was pretty tasty.

My bibimbap (10) was nothing short of gorgey. It was listed on this extra page that was all vegetarian, what a treat. It included tofu, shitake, spinach, carrots, cucumber, seaweed, zuchinni, and a perfectly fried egg with a golden, runny yolk. The veggies were lightly blanched and seasoned with sesame oil. I slathered on some of the veg sweet bean chili sauce (gochujang), mixed it up, and ate it with the bowl of rice. It was another standard version and I don't know if I'll ever find one to rave about. But though it didn't exactly delight me with surprises , it satisfied. So perfect for a hot day. This is art, people. Eat it.

My bibimbap (10) was nothing short of gorgey. It was listed on this extra page that was all vegetarian, what a treat. It included tofu, shitake, spinach, carrots, cucumber, seaweed, zuchinni, and a perfectly fried egg with a golden, runny yolk. The veggies were lightly blanched and seasoned with sesame oil. I slathered on some of the veg sweet bean chili sauce (gochujang), mixed it up, and ate it with the bowl of rice. It was another standard version and I don't know if I'll ever find one to rave about. But though it didn't exactly delight me with surprises , it satisfied. So perfect for a hot day. This is art, people. Eat it.

It makes sense to compare Sahn Maru with Sura, where the three of us got almost identical items. At Sura, my dad’s dish was a lot tastier, my mom’s was..edible, and mine was basically the same but had much better mushrooms. And oh, their banchan…

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Sura Korean

Aside from a impromptu/mediocre walnut burger from Amanda’s when I didnt have a camera, I haven’t eaten out since the last time I posted about a restaurant. Nor turned on my stove, so I was real excited to come here with my parents for a feast of massive proportions. Verdict: success!

a couple ounces of thick congee-like stuff with veggies. ate this all the time as a kid

a couple ounces of thick congee-like stuff with veggies. ate this all the time as a kid

The meal started and ended on dreary notes but the magic was in the middle. Like…a cream puff. I liked this better though.

this is the most banchan i've EVER had. if you take korean banchan seriously, this place is for you

this is the most banchan i've EVER had. if you take korean banchan seriously, this place is for you

The price is on the higher side but that usually means they make up for it in the assortment of pickled/cold appetizers/side dishes they give you. Obviously as this never-ending legion of plates suggests, they win the contest. Each one was colorful and unique, perfect for those who like to try a bite of everything. Each one is prepared with so much care. My favorites were the eggplant, green beans, tofu (top center, left to right) and the egg omlette (bottom right) I’m sure all your nutritional bases are covered here. If it was acceptable to come here and order a single bowl of rice and get the banchan, I’d do it every day. Speaking of which, the sticky brown (purple) rice which came with each of these orders was delicious, and packed with various beans and grains.

my usual order of bibimbap

my usual order of bibimbap (13)

It’s hard to mess up bibimbap. I slather on the spicy sweet hot sauce and add kim chee and any other pickles, because it’s usually light in flavor. Seasoned or pickled cucumber, daikon, cabbage, and carrots were shredded perfectly and circle the bowl. The appearance is probably half the reason I always get this dish. I loved the three different types of exotic mushrooms and the runny egg’s also a welcome addition of richness. Bibimbap in a hot stone bowl is always the better choice, because you get a delicious crunchy layer of rice at the bottom. I always think the regular will be just as good, but it lacks that extra flavor and texture. But it was a bit warm for a hot bowl today.

second favorite - dukboki (13)

second favorite - dukboki (13)

My dad told me to order for him so being the giving daughter that I am, I chose the one I always want to get but can never finish. Other than the amazingly seasoned, chewy rice cakes, this had a great variety of vegetables and beef. I like it with spicy sauce, and it also usually comes with hard-boiled eggs, but this was a completely different version which was perfect for my dad who doesn’t like heat. Rice cake for him is like avocado for me so I chose him a winner.

tofu/seafood soup (10) with oysters, shrimp, clams, squid, zucchini, and onions

tofu/seafood soup (10) with oysters, shrimp, clams, squid, zucchini, and onions

My mom always gets this soup, and always without chili (lame) so I’ve stopped getting it in order to branch out. This was mind-blowingly flavorful though, even without chili. Tons of seafood and the broth was briny, with layers of flavor that evolved as you ate. I didn’t mean to make this soup sound like a mood ring, it was just so impressive. I would actually get this next time over everything else. I love Sura’s tofu – strong enough to stay in perfect cubes but melts in your mouth and so fresh it was probably made that day.

didnt try this but we got free green tea ice cream

didnt try this but we got free green tea ice cream

Next time I come here, it’s all about the tofu soup and the savory korean pancake, which we couldn’t fit in this time. One of the best meals I’ve ever had.

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