Sizzle. Steam. Boil. You'll get plenty of this tasty triple threat at Choi's Korean Restaurant. Its Korean name? 최가네 쌈밥 (chwae ga ne ssam bap).
Choi's is located across the street from Lawrence Plaza where Jang Su Jang and Paris Baguette reside (featured in previous Kingdom Koreatown episodes). Its exterior and interior is far from fancy, but once you get a bite of the steamy pork wrapped in assorted greens, the whole world starts changing colors and shapes!
1pm. It is Martin Luther King Day. The restaurant is a little over half full. My mother and I debate on getting the Woo Guhji Galbi Tang (cabbage and rib soup) on the $9.99 USD Lunch Special menu.
After much inner battle, we order the Ssambap set for two people. Two bowls of Dwenjang Jjigae are included. You choose two types of meat. We go with the spicy pork and spicy squid. This restaurant is all about the spicy. Feisty fiesta in the mouth!
The Ssambap set comes with a tall basket of various leaves: red cabbage, seaweed, kale, baby kale, escarole, steamed cabbage, and lettuce. Take one leaf or layer multiple leaves to wrap your feisty piece of meat inside. Typically you'd also add white rice, a raw piece of garlic, and a dab of dwenjang paste. Be conservative with the size of your garlic. I always underestimate its potency and end up with tears. Happy tears, but tears nonetheless.
Let's not forget about the parade of banchan (Korean side dishes). The Ssambap will engross you with its sizzle and steam, but the group of eight side dishes next door cannot be ignored for too long.
As expected, the side dishes ranged on the sweet side. A common trait amongst the Korean restaurants in NorCal. However at Choi's, the side dishes have an additional layer of flavor: spicy! I break out in quality sweat from eating all this food.
On Yelp I read that the service at Choi's was a huge turn-off. Here's a little advice: smile and be sweet regardless of how the waitresses act. They'll warm up to you soon enough. Spicy food, spicy waitresses!
Choi's Korean Restaurant, we'll be back for your Woo Guhji Galbi Tang. You watch out. We'll be building up our tolerance for spice and eat up all your food! You have been warned. What a yummy threat.
Choi's Korean Restaurant
3530 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051