The succession of Korean restaurants on the Asian strip in
University City has always held an element of intrigue.
Shu Feng came some 20 years ago with a mostly Chinese menu,
appending a few Korean items almost as an afterthought. That
restaurant closed, reopened, closed again and reopened under
different ownership with a primarily Taiwanese accent to its
The original owner, Insoo Jung, later opened a restaurant called
In Soo a few doors down, giving Korean and Chinese cuisines equal
space on the menu. Jung sold In Soo about a year ago to new owners,
who changed the name to Asian Kitchen several months ago.
When we first visited Asian Kitchen, the short menu listed
entirely Korean items, with no appetizer section at all. And
despite having a special list of anju — dishes meant to be consumed
with alcoholic beverages — the place didn’t have a liquor
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On a return visit, the restaurant had started a transition to a
longer menu — and it had finally been granted its liquor license,
allowing it to offer Hite Korean beer and many other beers, as well
as soju, the potent Korean grain beverage.
Ordering from the shorter menu had induced us to expand our
horizons with spicy belt fish ($12.99), a long, thin, scary-looking
fish not commonly found on local menus. A Korean staff member
wandered over to ask whether we’d had this dish before and to warn
us that it was unusual, potent and required boning. All of those
warnings were valid: The sauce was quite spicy and somewhat fishy,
probably an acquired taste for many Western diners but still an
interesting addition to our flavor bank.
Several dishes are available as “barbecue,” which translates to
a fajitalike experience of fish or meat served sizzling with onions
on a small cast-iron oval. The best-known of these is probably
bulgoki ($13.99), here served as a generous portion of very thinly
sliced marinated beef sirloin.
More interesting was the sehwoo bulgoki ($12.99), about a dozen
shell-off medium shrimp with a mildly spicy marinade seared on.
From the rice and noodle section, we tried the chap chae
($9.99), long, thin, clear noodles with a lightly cooked and still
very colorful mixture of carrots, mushrooms and green and white
onions. Beef was listed as an ingredient, but it was integrated as
minced bits, adding flavor but not a whole lot of bulk.
We also ordered one of the four available hot pots, haemul
jeongol (seafood hot pot, $35.99), which included greenlip mussels,
small shell-on crab, shrimp, monkfish, tofu and thick noodles in a
broth brought to a boil on a tabletop gas “Luxury Ninja Burner.”
The broth intensified the longer it cooked, and while most of the
seafood ingredients seemed to be previously frozen, the cooking
method minimized the initial wave of fishy flavor.
The mandu ($8.99) and haemul pajun ($12.99) that we’d missed on
our first visit were fair, but the pork filling in the order of 10
mandu was relatively bland.
All meals include the charming Korean custom of panchan, an
extensive selection of small bowls containing side dishes designed
to be shared among the whole table. Asian Kitchen brought out
marinated bean sprouts, cod cakes, traditional cabbage kimchee,
spiced and marinated radish, spinach and tofu, sesame-oiled
broccoli, and a zucchini-and-shiitake mixture.
The atmosphere at Asian Kitchen is pleasant but spare, and while
the Korean TV programming adds an air of authenticity, the staff
should probably keep an eye out for when medical documentaries come
on during dinnertime.
If you’re still reasonably unfamiliar with Korean food, let the
staff guide you on your first visit. If you’re a veteran, Asian
Kitchen is a pleasant, family-run addition to the relatively short
list of local choices for Korean food.
8423 Olive Boulevard • 314-989-9377 • Menu: Traditional
Korean • Smoking: No • Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Wednesday-Monday