Korea House is the kind of place where the dining experience begins in the parking lot.
Outside, the vehicle spaces are in the shadows of a giant billboard and large salon. But as soon as you step out of the car, you smell the sweet meats cooking in the kitchen — even above 13th Street Bar-B-Q’s smokers right across the street.
It’s a utilitarian place. Korea House’s walls are white. A few pictures hang as decoration. A rerun of the Alabama football game played on the television, and most of the tables were filled with workers and couples on a weekday afternoon.
The server will answer any question you have about unfamiliar menu items. I left my meal almost entirely in her hands. All I told her was that I wanted one of their combination lunch plates because I wanted to sample as much as I could. She recommended the pork and chicken.
Mike Haskey, the Ledger-Enquirer’s video extraordinaire, ordered from the starter menu. He selected fried mandu (pork dumplings) and kimbap — think Korean sushi. Korea House’s take on the dish featured cooked beef and veggies on the inside.
Shortly after placing our order, four sides came to our table — bean sprouts, kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables, such as cabbage), fish cake and sweet and sour cucumbers.
The cucumbers were crunchy and the kind of side dish you just keep eating. The best of the four was the fish cakes that were cut into skinny strips. The look and texture sort of resembled soft pasta noodles, and the fish tasted sweet with just a bit of saltiness. They were so good that Haskey got an extra order before leaving.
The main courses came to the table about ten minutes later. My eyeballs were as big as a milk saucer when the server put down my plate. The combination came with a house salad, japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), kimbap, mandu and two scoops of rice. The chicken and pork sat off to the side of the large, crowded dish.
They’ve branded themselves on social media as Yummy BBQ Korea House, and rightfully so.
The pork was chopped small, and the meat was covered in a spicy, paste-like sauce that slowly built to a burn in the back of my throat as I ate more. I was initially confused if this was the pork or the chicken because I hadn’t had pork prepared like this before.
The chicken was the best thing on the plate. A delicious sweet sauce clung to the bigger strips, and each bite was tender. When I go again, the chicken will certainly be back on my plate.
The thickness and crispiness of the mandu dough impressed me. The salad, which I usually ignore because the lettuce is brown or the dressing doesn’t sit well with me, was one of the first things I finished. The tangy dressing kept me going back. The noodles and rice helped round out the meal.
I took my leftovers back to the office in a container. That is probably the biggest surprise of the entire trip. I almost never have leftovers. I have a pretty voracious appetite, yet Korea House defeated me. When it was all over, I spent about $12 before the tip.
This is the kind of place you go for affordable, large portions or if you’re introducing a friend to Korean food for the first or second time. You’ll leave happy.
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What is Foodie Friday?
Foodie Friday is a bi-weekly series by the Ledger Enquirer that highlights the robust and diverse food and restaurant scene in Columbus. Reporter Nick Wooten is a Columbus transplant whose goal is to try a little bit of everything the Columbus area has to offer. We choose restaurants at random, pay for the meals and don’t tell managers about our visit until the meal is over, or we go anonymous. If you have a suggestion for a Foodie Friday profile, email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yummy BBQ Korea House
5507 Veterans Parkway, Columbus
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.