Any restaurant opening is rough, but none seemed rougher than that of Kalbi Grill Express in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.
Nine days after the Korean barbecue restaurant opened last June, owner and chef Hyekyong Lee plowed through the entrance of the restaurant when her car accelerated out of control. The restaurant closed for four months for repairs, finally reopening in October.
And Kalbi appears to be, ahem, accelerating happily toward becoming a go-to neighborhood spot.
The menu: Meat lovers should steer toward the grill for kalbi (beef short ribs marinated in soy, $14), bulgogi (thinly sliced beef, $11) or pork in gochujang, a spicy pepper paste ($11).
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Bibimbap, a rice bowl loaded with vegetables and topped with an egg, comes with your choice of meat, seafood, tofu or extra veggies ($9-10).
And diners shouldn’t overlook the soondubu ($9-10), a spicy red Korean stew of soft-tofu pillows and a poached egg, served from the kitchen at a roiling boil.
With most items, diners can choose three sides from a selection of different kimchees and vegetables.
Brown rice can be substituted for the white rice, and vegan and gluten-free options are available.
What to write home about: The bibimbap, served sizzling hot in an earthenware pot, comes laden with sauteed sprouts, pickled radish and cucumber, mushrooms, grated carrot and a soft egg. A brush of sesame oil on the bottom of the pan helps the rice crisp up beautifully, and a few squirts of gochujang hot sauce amp up the spice.
What to skip: As with all bibimbap meant to be served warm, Kalbi’s takeout version suffers without the hot stone bowl to crisp the rice.
The setting: A restaurant with few frills that caters as much to takeout orders as sit-down guests.
Summing up: An order of kalbi ribs ($14), spicy pork bibimbap ($10) and veggie soondubu ($9) came to $33 before tax and tip, and served two.
Katrina Barlow: 206-464-3251 or firstname.lastname@example.org