I attended the soft opening of Stone Korean Kitchen earlier this year, because one of the owners and the head chef is a good friend of Sdho’s. So she came up with a whole posse of people to support their friend, Terry, in his culinary effort. To be perfectly honest, the soft opening was very soft. It really didn’t go so well. Pdho expressed serious concern for the Terry and his owners. From the service to the food, there was a lot of room for improvement which I thought was noticeably apparent. Now… several months later, the restaurant has made some great strides and seems to be chugging along just fine. The food is leaps and bounds better, and that is really key to any restaurant but particularly for those in the Financial District/Embarcadero area where the light traffic after business hours makes it a hard draw for customers.
One of my favorite Korean dishes is the seafood pancake, and although this take on the pa jun is maybe not as “authentic” per se, I still really liked it. I think the best part was that instead of or in addition (I can’t exactly recall) to squid/octopus, they put shrimp. It’s no secret that I love shrimp so it just really made me love these little pancakes even more. I’m not sure how to describe the pancake dough itself. It was a little denser (kind of like a real pancake), but it tasted like they put some seasoning into the batter. I think with some other pancakes they leave all the flavor to the seafood, onions and whatever all ingredients they put in the actual pancake.
This is the one dish that for some reason, I never liked before, but lately, I’ve had it at a few places, and I’ve grown to like it more and more. I really think this is Chef Terry’s best dish. It was quite evident that all the ingredients in this dish were of the freshest and highest quality, and I really think that is what helps the dish stand out. Although I don’t think I’ve ever had corn in bi bim bap, I really loved the addition of this to the vegetable medley. As Chef Terry eventually confirmed, the corn definitely didn’t come out of the can. It tasted like it was cut right off the cob, and the mushrooms were filled with juicy flavor. It comes served in a piping hot stone bowl which is key to getting that rich crunchy and crispy. I really feel like it was a modern a la California cuisine take on the traditional Korean dish.
The Kalbi was solid. It had that charcoal bbq taste which is always very tasty, but I really liked that they did most of the work for you and took off all the meat off the bones. It made it much easier to eat. I probably could have used a little more meat, but I think that is true with most Korean BBQ places.
The Kim Chee Fried Rice was probably the least appetizing dish of the meal, although by this point, we were pretty full so it’s not like we made much of a dent in the stone bowl. Not sure if it was intentional, but the rice was really mushy and it was a little too wet for my liking. The flavors were fine, so after taking it home and re-frying it, it tasted better. I’m thinking that maybe if they served the Kim Chee Fried Rice in a scalding hot bowl the same way they do with the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap, it would give that crunchy texture and add an new dimension to the dish. Yum!
Overall, the restaurant has come a long way. Unlike the typical Korean restaurant, the freshness and quality of the ingredients are the highlights of the menu and really took dishes like Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap to a whole new level. The location is in the Embarcadero Four directly facing Justin Herman Plaza. On one hand, you would think this would be prime location, but I guess Terry commented that it’s kind of awkward at the same time, being that it is kind of hidden in the corner. I think the food is pretty solid and is a nice addition to the evening dining scene for this area. They started out as lunch only and have slowly expanded hours. They started serving dinner and most recently, opening on the weekends, and on this most recent outing, the restaurant was pretty happening. It is also pretty reasonably priced given it’s location, so it makes for a good choice in my book especially when I”m trying to find a good restaurant in the area that is open late enough after work and won’t cost me and arm and a leg for a simple meal.
Stone Korean Kitchen
Four Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111
PAFO Ratings for Stone Korean Kitchen:
Price 2½ stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars