Best Korean Food: Asian soul food with a sheen

Sahn Maru

For the second year in a row, this Temescal Korean restaurant charmed us with its mix of grit and shine — authentically earthy soups and stews, cooked and served with meticulous polish. The dining room is spotless: wooden slab tables shellacked to a high gloss, stainless steel chopsticks like surgical instruments, and gingham cushions that channel Holly Hobbie. But girlyness stops at the menu, which lists dishes translated as “black goat stew” and “pollack spawn stew.” It sounds scary, and you can stick to safe dishes like kalbi and not leave disappointed, but try to make peace with the spawn. Our squeamishness drowned in a bowl of choo un tang, “mild loach stew with cabbage.” Sure, there were loach (aka mudfish) ground up in the bowl, but they cast no more than a rich, oily shadow to the surrounding chile broth, its thick tangle of mustard greens, and a topping of shiso — the deep taste of Asian soul food.

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