How do you say smorgasbord in Korean?
A smorgasbord is exactly what we had at Ka Won Korean Restaurant when we ordered Modum Gui BBQ combo ($53.99).
First, let’s talk about what Korean barbecue is. Korean barbecue is a fun way to enjoy a meal with friends. When you order barbecue, the waiter turns on the tabletop grill to heat up while your food is being put together.
There is a giant fan overhead and you have to be careful to not bump the gas line feeding your grill under the table.
First they bring out your 10 banchans. Banchans are small side dishes with different types of condiments.
Some that we had were sauteed greens in sesame oil, kimchi, cucumber kimchi, mini potatoes with preserved beef in a pungent sauce and thin slices of tempeh with sauce. The other dishes were vegetables that I couldn’t quite identify. I loved most of them and some of them were kind of blah.
Next, we had a large red leaf lettuce salad dressed in a mixture of chili garlic paste and sesame oil. I really enjoyed the salad. It was not nearly as hot as what you would think a salad dressed in chili paste would be. The Koreans really do the cool and spicy thing well.
Next, the waiter came with a huge platter of meats that made my eye bulge. I could not believe how much meat we ordered. There was three large beef steaks with good marbling, a squid steak and a plate full of thin-cut pork belly strips.
I realized that this was a four-person meal.
The waiter also brought an extra-tall bottle of OB golden lager with two chilled glasses, two bowls of rice, a small dish with light sesame oil and a small three-part dish with sliced jalapenos, raw garlic slices and a spicy sauce made with, I think, chili paste, garlic and fish sauce.
Our waiter did most of the grilling for us. I am not sure if it was because we seemed clueless when we ordered our food.
After the steaks were grilled to medium well, he cut them into thin slices and dipped one slice each in our sesame oil and the put them on our plate to try. I loved the flavor of sesame oil on the steaks.
Here is the deal with the meats. There is no salt or soy sauce on the meat or on the table. You are supposed to season each bite with the chili paste, sesame oil or some of your banchan condiments, something my husband fully embraced. He had a lot of fun putting a little of this or that on each piece of meat.
I thoroughly enjoyed the steak; it was tender, juicy and had the right about of fat. I really liked dipping my steak in the chili fish sauce sauce.
I didn’t enjoy the pork belly as much as I thought I would. The waiter told us that it should be cooked well done and fully browned. I seemed to have a hard time getting it to cook correctly. Some of the meaty parts would end up black and the fat didn’t seem to brown at all.
Luckily, there was squid still to grill. After the squid is grilled, it rolls up into a tube, despite the crosshatches already cut into it to prevent rolling.
I just cut the tube into thin little strips, perfect to add to my rice with some kimchi.
When I thought I could not eat any more, to our surprise there were two more dishes served to us, miso tofu soup and steamed eggs. Both were served in a bubbling earthenware pot.
The miso soup had zucchini, tofu, jalapenos, garlic, peanuts and little bits of pork for flavor. It was surprisingly mild in flavor.
I would love to eat this when I am under the weather. Very tasty, but we had to take most of it with us because we were too full to finish it.
The steamed egg was something of a revelation to us. I had never had eggs that were steamed. It seemed like a gentle way to cook them without making them rubbery. Chopped green onion added a light onion flavor.
I will make this at home as soon as I can find out how.
Ka Won is a fantastic place for a dining adventure. Some things I loved and some not so much, but I will definitely go back.
There are many items on the menu, including soup, stir-fries and noodle dishes, that are not grilled at your table.
Some things to consider when you go:
•If you order the combo grilled/barbecue meals, even if the menu says it is for two people, it’s enough to feed the family.
If you have small kids, the barbecue menu may not be safe for curious little hands.
The place gets really busy so show up early if you want a table with a grill.
Ka Won Korean Restaurant
15004 Highway 99, Suite A, Lynnwood; 425-787-6484.
Speciality: Korean barbecue.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.