Mckenzie Glynn
by Phil Amara

Sorabol

7901 SE Powell 771-5842

Why hasn't Korean food caught on yet? Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese all have secured a place in the hearts of the hungry. All have identifiable dishes: sushi, dim sum, pad thai, and pho, respectively. Korea brings kimchi to the table, sure. But there's much more than that ever-present, spicy side dish. At Sorabol, good things await the curious.

Walk through the door, and you might as well be in Seoul, Pusan, or Kyongju (once the ancient city of Sorabol). Your waitress probably knows more Korean than English. Don't let the language barrier concern you. The staff is friendly and patient. The menu is in English and Hangul (Korean alphabet), and you can always point to your order if you experience a bout of bashfulness.

Korean food is as distinct as any cuisine. Try one of these delicious and popular dishes, if you can't decide:

Bulgogi (bull-go-gee): Thin-sliced, marinated rib eye pan-grilled with green onion and served with rice. ($14.95, dinner order.)

Kalbi (cal-bee): Sometimes listed as gal-bee, these are beef short ribs marinated in soy sauce, grilled, and served on the bone. ($12.95, dinner order)

Bibim Bop: Bop means rice. Loosely translated: "mixed rice." Shredded beef, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and rice are topped with a fried egg. It arrives in a bowl for you to mix. The lunch special is $5.95. It's worth the $8.95 to get the traditional hot stone bowl. Let it sit a bit before you mix the contents. The rice that lines the bowl gets nice 'n crispy. Awww, yeah.

Chop (or cheop): Side dishes that accompany your meal and take you beyond kimchi. Crispy, sugared seaweed, slices of daikon, white kimchi (more "vinegar" than hot), spinach, wakame (soft seaweed used in Japanese miso soup), sweet, chilled black beans... the rotating list is colorful and nearly endless.

If you're out with a large group, choose one of Sorabol's eight yakiniku tables where you do the cooking yourself. Nothing like Southern slathered/rubbed ribs, Korean barbecue is about grilling thin slices of meat to your own exacting specifications. Practice your chopstick grilling while you're at it.

Once you get these mainstays under your belt, cruise the menu. Try the kook (soup). Add duk to your kook: Slices of opaque rice cake similar to Japanese mochi. Enhance your duk kook with mandu: Boiled Korean dumplings like Japanese gyoza. (Soups range from $7.95 to $9.95, including salad and rice.) Koon mandu are the same dumplings, but pan-fried and served as an appetizer for $8.95.

While Be Won--the excellent restaurant in Celadon's old space on NW 23rd--admirably seeks to teach affluent honkies about Korean culture through food, Sorabol is a neighborhood spot by Koreans, for Koreans... and anyone else lucky enough to walk the unbeaten path.