At first we thought it was a mistake when our server brought eight appetizers to our table.
Dad and I hadn’t ordered them for lunch at Modoo, a Korean restaurant in Lynnwood, but we were told they came with our meals for free. We readily accepted them, though we were unsure of what was in front of us.
It didn’t matter — everything was delicious. Our favorites were takoyaki, a ball-shaped snack that’s a popular street food in Japan, fish cakes, and sweet potatoes and carrots drenched in house-made soy sauce; we later found out the array of side dishes are known as banchan in Korean cuisine.
That was the first of several surprises during our lunch. More were to come with our main dishes and desserts. By the end of our meal, we had decided that Modoo was our favorite restaurant so far this year.
Modoo, which opened Nov. 1, serves authentic Korean food from its location just off Highway 99, including bibimbap (a popular Korean dish of mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables), katsu (deep fried cutlet), bulgogi (sweet Korean barbecued beef), grilled mackerel and dumpling soup.
The aesthetics inside were pleasing. It had the look and feel of fine dining, with nicely arranged booths, tables and seating. But the atmosphere was relaxed, like a family restaurant.
My only gripe was the size of the menu. We were bombarded with nearly 70 options to choose from, which made ordering a tad difficult. Some people may view variety as a plus, but smaller menus often helps showcase the best things to try — especially if you’re not familiar with Korean cuisine.
I gravitated to the combo meals, which offers the chance to try different pairings of stew, bibimbap, halibut and bulgogi. I ordered a mixed soft tofu stew with beef bulgogi ($16.99). Dad opted for the dumpling soup ($12.99) from the soup/stew menu, which also includes cabbage galbi-tang (beef short rib and cabbage), pork hot pot (pork stew with potato and vegetables) and ox bone (ox bones and brisket).
The stew was made with beef, shrimp, octopus, green onions and tofu. I’d never eaten octopus before, and don’t particularly love seafood, but I liked this combination. I enjoyed the stew’s subtle heat, which reminded me of a Cajun-style soup.
The bulgogi consisted of onions, green onions, carrots and sesame seeds. It was flavorful, juicy and hearty, but didn’t rise above the bulgogi I’ve eaten in the past.
Dad was a fan of his dumpling soup, which came with rice cakes, eggs, green onions and pork-filled dumplings.
“It was nicely spiced and very flavorful,” he said. “The rice cakes were really good. They had a nice consistency.”
Finally, we ordered dessert. Modoo no longer makes the mochi ice cream listed on the menu. That left us one other option: snowflake shaved ice, also known as bingsu, which is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert.
It can be topped with chopped strawberries and mangos; we chose both for $9.99. We agreed it was one of our favorite desserts of all time.
In his usual “prisoner of the moment” way, Dad made a strong declaration.
“There’s something wrong with you if you don’t like this,” he said.
The ultra-fine, milky ice paired with the chopped fruits were a delicious combination. Our server told us the special blender used to make the shaved ice was imported from South Korea.
I felt refreshed afterward, ready to order another meal. Not a lot of desserts have that effect on me, but that’s what made it special.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Modoo, 18601 Highway 99 Suite 100, Lynnwood, is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 425-967-5360. More at www.modoorestaurant.com.