Korean in St. Louis

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    Everest Café & Bar
    At Everest you'll find a mix of exotic Nepalese, Korean and Indian dishes prepared with only fresh, healthy ingredients hand-selected by chef Dr. Devi States. The menu is veg friendly and chock-full of organic vegetables: This is very much a health-conscious place, which means no processed foods or butter or heavy creams. Choose from the simple pleasures of mo-mos (steamed pork dumplings from Tibet) to the complex interplays of meat, vegetables and spices that fill daal, bhat, tarkari ra saag (a complete Nepalese meal: rice, meat, vegetables, pickled mango, a lemon wedge and a slice of cucumber). Everest also offers a lunch buffet every day but Monday, and with food this healthy, there's no reason not go back through for a second helping.
    Everest Cafe & Bar-Downtown
    Namaste. Greetings and welcome to lunch. Everest's return to the downtown area, now located in the former Union Trust Building on Olive Street just west of Seventh Street, provides patrons with a quick, filling and healthy midday meal. Open from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, Everest does have a full menu with appetizers, soups and salads, and several vegetarian and meat entrees, but their typical diner swarms to the buffet line, which offers the opportunity for Nepalese, Indian and Korean food to tastefully share a plate. Around seven different dishes are available, with typical vegetable options such as korma and kimchi keeping warm next to chicken and noodle trays. White or Nepalese-style fried rice are offered, along with steaming hot naan and a ladle of garlicky, aromatic daal to complement your meal. Diners can also make donations to the Himalayan Family Healthcare Project, dedicated to serving the healthcare needs of the people of Nepal.
    Before you rush to write off a fusion restaurant that serves Creole and Korean fare, eat a Fleur de Lilies. Sink your teeth into its glorious “Waygu Bulgolgi Burger,” a thick patty of juicy beef, its richness cut only by the mouth-watering sweet-soy marinade generously spiked with garlic, ginger and chili. Nosh on its luscious, blackened salmon that tastes as if it has been poached in Creole barbecue butter. Devour the pineapple glazed duck or the fusion spring rolls or the bread pudding with cream cheese ice cream. And while you’re at it, munch on some mighty fine sushi. Owners Misha K. Sampson and Alexis Kim’s eclectic, fusion fare may sound like an odd mix, but it’s so wonderful, it will make a believe out of even the most ardent doubter.
    Ginger Bistro
    This cavernous restaurant in the Delmar Loop describes its cuisine as "pioneering Asian fusion." Fans of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine will likely describe the dishes as defanged. Few dishes provide much flavor, let alone the vast array of vibrant flavors that any one of the aforementioned cuisines have to offer. Fortunately, Ginger Bistro is located only a short walk or drive from restaurants that serve the genuine article.
    Hangook Kwan
    Also known as Korea House, the restaurant offers everything from basic kun man doo (dumplings) and bulgoki (Korean barbecued beef) to more exotic stuff such as elaborate soup dishes based on tripe and intestines. There's also plenty of pan chan, a selection of side dishes in small round bowls, including bean sprouts lightly dressed in sesame oil; lightly sauced seaweed; the ubiquitous kimchee, pickled cabbage liberally dosed with hot red pepper; and a preparation of dried squid with overtones of ham or bacon.
    Izakaya Ren
    An izakaya is a specific type of Japanese restaurant that serves, for lack of a better term, bar snacks. (A tapas bar is a common comparison.) Izakaya Ren splits the difference between izakaya cuisine and the American concept of a sushi bar. You can order nigiri sushi, sashimi and maki as well as tempura and other familiar dishes, but branch out with the selection of skewered meats and fare like tako wasabi (cold, spiced octopus) or fried mackerel with a sake-based dipping sauce.
    Joo Joo
    Joo Joo, in the space formerly occupied by Billy Sherman's Deli, cooks up traditional Korean fare with a side of karaoke. Menu items include bibimbap, bulgogi and Korean barbecue, with simmered beef bone marrow used in most entrées. Joo Joo also offers free unlimited side dishes with every entrée. For those looking to belt out a few, Joo Joo offers private karaoke rooms.
    Kim Cheese
    Located inside a former Dairy Queen in Chesterfield, Kim Cheese follows the Korean-Mexican fusion trend that started in Los Angeles and swept the nation. You can order tacos with Korean barbecue meat (rib-eye steak, pork or chicken), topped with tomato, onion, corn and cheese. Burritos come stuffed with either steak or chicken; both have fried rice, studded with hunks of scrambled egg. The most intriguing dishes might be the “burgers,” which are actually rib-eye steak sandwiches with cheese and pungent kim chi. Don’t neglect to add a side order of the french fries, which are terrific.
    Mizu
    Mizu fits nicely into the Washington Avenue loft district's trendy aesthetic: spacious and sleek without seeming hipper than thou. The extensive menu includes nigiri sushi, sashimi and rolls both traditional and Americanized. The nigiri sushi ranges from good to very good. Best is toro, fatty tuna belly that's worth the expense. There are numerous appetizers (including a sushified version of the jalapeño popper), and non-sushi entrées like chicken or steak teriyaki. The menu also features a couple of Korean dishes; particularly tasty is a generous portion of savory-sweet barbecue beef ribs.
    O! Wing Plus
    Forget trendy "fusion" cuisine. O! Wing Plus is the most legit fusion restaurant around: America's favorite bar snack, hot wings, combined with the flavors of Korea and Southeast Asia. Sauce for the wings include "O's Original," a blend of brown sugar-red chile; and the tart, hot "Thai Chile Lime." The "Beast Mode" sauce is the hottest, but for the best balance of spice and flavor, go for the honey-laden "Hot Mama." The fried chicken is also excellent.
    Seoul Garden
    A lengthy menu and the steady patronage of a Korean-speaking clientele mark this spot near Northwest Plaza as an excellent choice for standards such as bulgogi and more exotic selections like yuk hoe, the Korean equivalent of steak tartare. All entrées come with the complimentary Korean appetizers called banchan. Unlike its sister in Creve Coeur, however, you won’t be able to cook your own meat at this Seoul Garden; blame the fire department for that. The all-you-can-eat option remains popular, although your whole table must sign on to qualify. Beer and wine only. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon on Sunday.
    Seoul Taco takes its inspiration from Kogi, the SoCal operation acclaimed as the granddaddy of latter-day food trucks. Like Kogi’s, Seoul Taco’s menu presents a mashup of Korean barbecue and Mexican street food. The “spicy pork” taco brings corn tortillas filled with meat that exudes the aggressive heat of Korean chile paste. Bulgogi beef in your taco or quesadilla offers a gentle sweetness much different from carne asada, its south-of-the-border analogue. Rice bowls with the meat of your choice plus a fried egg are also available.
    Shu Feng Restaurant
    Shu Feng is a restaurant located in University City serving Chinese and Korean food. At this University City spot, you can enjoy excellent renditions of your favorite Chinese dishes, including a wonderfully fiery hot braised pork and the rare hot-and-sour soup that is, in fact, both hot and sour. But Shu Feng also offers a selection of intriguing Taiwanese soups and curries, including roast eel rice. As if that weren't enough of an attempt at bringing about world peace, Shu Feng has Korean dishes as well. Can't we all get along here? At Shu Feng we certainly can — and, at lunch, we can get along for much less and with two tasty crab rangoon (or one egg roll) to boot.
    The owners of Tani Sushi Bistro in Clayton have opened one of the cornerstone restaurants of the new Mercantile Exchange development downtown. Like Tani, Takaya New Asian offers nigiri sushi, sashimi and over-the-top Americanized rolls. (The “Oh My God” roll comes to your table engulfed in flames.) Unlike Tani, though, Takaya fails as a restaurant in nearly every respect. Much of the menu features dubious takes on the already played-out Asian-fusion trend. There are sliders with bulgolgi beef, and fried cheese sticks classed up with a light tempura breading. The sushi is sloppily prepared, only one of several missteps from a careless kitchen that might mar your meal.
    U-City Grill
    Who's up for corned beef and bibimbap? When you just can't decide whether you want bacon and eggs or steamed veggies and rice, satisfy both cravings at what just might be the world's only combination Korean restaurant/greasy spoon. Mr. and Mrs. Sim, the elderly couple who own the joint, stick to a bare-bones menu: Breakfast is eggs, potatoes and meat (bacon, sausage, ham or corned beef); lunch is grilled cheese or a BLT; and the Korean fare includes the aforementioned bibimbap (veggies and rice) or bulgoki (marinated beef over veggies and rice). But it's all hot, satisfying, damn cheap and made right in front of you, so just shut up and eat.

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