'Are we in the right place?" That must be the first reaction of anyone coming here for Korean food, because if you're not in on the secret, this looks like noththing more than a low-budget Trader Vic's, loaded with imitation South Seas bric-a-brac and plastic flowers. When you're seated, if you're Caucasian you automatically get a big, glossy orange "Polynesian" menu. If you ask for Korean food, the original menu is whisked away and replaced by a plain little Korean list. It's the speakeasy syndrome. Whatever you do, perservere, because hidden behind all the Hawaiian trappings is a first-class Korean restaurant, serving some outstanding food. And once the owner/manager/hostess/chef knows you're interested in Korean cooking, she's unusually accommodating in explaining things and helping you order.
Start with bean-dai-dack, a fried appetizer pancake, feather- light, made of bean sprouts, egg, scallions, ground meat and kim chee, with a hot soy-scallion-sesame sauce on the side. This is what egg foo yung ought to be and seldom is. Or try yang num doo bu, a big platter of bean curd that's airy as a souffl,e, served in a mildly hot sauce. The bulgogi is excellent, beef at its best, and the portion generous. Bi bim bab is outstanding here, a lively intermingling of sweet, hot, soft and crisp. Jae yuk, listed as an appetizer, is actually an entree-size portion of mildly spicy, charcoal-broiled pork.
Man doo gook combines big, hearty dumplings, strips of flank steak and bits of home-made bean curd in a mild soup entree that should have wide appeal. The short ribs in the kal bee tang are big and meaty, and the smooth, rich broth is reminiscent of the frankly fatty (and thus delicious) brews your grandmother may have made. Noodle dishes are actually soups, either hot or cold, with meat, chicken and hard-boiled egg, all permeated with the pungency of sesame oil. The least interesting dish is the fish, in a sauce that's uncharacteristically flat.
Don't miss ordering na mool on the side, a mixed platter of six cold vegetables in the lightest of sauces, a delightful counterpoint to the other dishes. At the end, you'll be brought a fresh sliced orange, a sensible palate-clearing finish.