In Search of a Korean Kitchen

I kept hearing that some of the best Korean food in the Bay Area is in the South Bay, specifically San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara. In fact, I think most of the restaurants actually lie along El Camino Real.  Korean restaurants, for some reason, have traditionally been the one type of restaurant that I usually go with a Korean and have them order for me. Granted, I’ve been often enough now that I know what I want to order, but sometimes it’s just easier when you don’t have to think about what you want to eat. Unfortunately, since moving back to the Bay Area, I haven’t really found any good Korean restaurants and I started thinking that I wasn’t going with Koreans so I wasn’t picking the right places.  As usual, I went researching on Yelp and discovered a highly recommended 4 star place called Choi’s Kitchen.

As with every Korean restaurant, every meal comes with a variety of banchan (side dishes), and in this case it was nine different ones that are completely on the house. My favorite is the odeng aka fish cake, but the usual ones were included like kim chee, pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, and bean sprouts.  The side dishes are often just “whatevers”, but I actually like them here. Overall, they were well done and taste good.

We also ordered the Kalbi which wasn’t bad.  Taste-wise it was pretty typical for most kalbi that I’ve had at other restaurants, but I did think this meat was pretty tender and easy to eat.  It had the smokey, charcoal taste that you’d come to expect from Korean BBQ meat.  My main critique about the dish is not necessarily specific to this dish, but Korean BBQ meat dishes in general. I still think the price for Korean BBQ is not commiserate with the portion size.  Granted, it wasn’t like the two of us could come close to finishing off the kalbi, but I still think for $17, they should give you a little more meat.

The Jap Chae (stir-fried glass noodles) was a little disappointing. I love noodles… all sorts of noodles, so next to ja jiang mien, this is probably my next favorite Korean noodle dish.  Unfortunately, these noodles were kind of flat and flavorless. I liked that they had some beef mixed in where as most other preparations are vegetable only. Unfortunately, it just didn’t have enough taste. On the flip side, it was a really huge plate of noodles. In fact, I think there was enough for 2 people for 3 meals.

Lastly, we also had the Haemul Pajun which is a pancake made of squid, onions, vegetables and onions. Yelpers really rave about this, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with them, because this probably is the best Haemul Pajun I’ve ever had. There is something about the batter that is very well seasoned. It really tastes delicious. The squid pieces are cut up small enough so even though the squid tends to be chewy, you don’t notice it too much in this dish. Best part (as it should be) is that they give you huge, healthy serving of pancake for $13, so much so that we ended up bringing this home and had enough to fill us up for a second meal.

Overall, this is a pretty good Korean restaurant. I definitely need to bring some Korean friends to get their confirmation, but even if they don’t like it, I still will come back. Hehe! The Haemul Pajun is hands down the best dish at Choi’s Kitchen, and pretty much the best Haemul Pajun I’ve ever had. The banchan is another highlight and the other dishes are pretty solid. Definitely a go-to Korean restaurant for the South Bay.  Although I complained a lot about the individual portions of each dish, for some reason, we always tend to order a lot of food and end up with leftovers for 1 or 2 meals afterwards.  I look forward to coming back again.

Choi’s Kitchen
3530 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051

PAFO Ratings for Choi’s Kitchen:
Price 3 stars
Ambiance 2 stars
Food 3 ½ stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars

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