Annyong haseo! One of life’s true dining joys is to sit down to classic Korean meal. From the banchan, side dishes that accompany each meal, to the main course, Korean meals are a communal dining affair where the conversation is every bit as important as the food. Beth and I both love the cuisine and set out the other night to find a new Korean place to try. Boy did we luck out when we found Todamgol.
Todamgol sits in a little strip mall on the south side of 164th st, just east of I-5 in Lynnwood. Hard to find the first time you go, but well worth the effort. From the welcoming “Annyong haseo!” ( Korean for Hello! ) to the warmth of the decor, you instantly feel at ease. We were led to a large booth almost at once, and our server returned within minutes with warm tea, water and menus. The menus are large, well written and given the ample light, a joy to read. Why must so many places dim the lights to the point of forcing patrons to use lighters to read the menu?
I ordered a Tsing-Tao beer and we set about deciding what to get. Beth opted for the kimchi-jigae (Kimchi Stew) while I decided on the ojingeo-deopbap, a spicy squid stir-fry. The menu is quite extensive, offering up something sure to please anyone, including vegetarians. We also ordered a bottle of soju to enjoy with dinner. For those that may not know, soju is a traditional drink of Korea, much like sake is to Japan. Soju, while rice based like sake, is distilled rather than fermented. It is as clear as water, with a smooth clean taste. It is also damn potent, so drinker beware. Inside tip: Never pour soju for yourself. It is considered bad manners. Also, as a sign of respect, if you are seated at a table with an elder, make sure you turn your head away from them while you drink.
It wasn’t long before our banchan plates and main courses arrived. True to form, the main dishes were placed in the middle of the table with the banchan dishes surrounding and with a small plate and bowl of rice for each diner. And oh what goodies those dishes held. This evening the side dishes were kimchi, pa jun (a scallion pancake), dongchimi (white radish kimchi), tofu, cellophane noodles, seaweed salad and jan myeol chi, a tiny cured anchovy served whole. Man I love those things. Salty and fishy I could eat them like popcorn. Beth doesn’t like things with eyes, so the more for me. The main dishes were superb, with the spicy squid being perfect. Not over-cooked, which long time readers of this blog know is a pet peeve of mine. Perfect. The kimchi stew was wonderful with bits of pork that melted in ones mouth. Tofu was firm, but not too spongy. A fine bowl of spicy goodness indeed.
From the moment we entered Todamgol until the time we payed the bill the experience was a joy. In fact, we were trying to figure out when we could return as soon as we left. I give it 5 out of 5 kimchi pots.