Korean cuisine at Koreana

. February 21, 2017.

Toledo foodies flock to a hidden gem for authentic Korean cuisine —
family-owned-and-operated Koreana. Selecting your entreé at Koreana offers great variety. For those less adventurous, the restaurant offers familiar stir fries, fried rice and teriyaki dishes, as well as a large sushi menu.

What’s for dinner?

We ordered the more traditional beef bulgogi and tofu bibimbap, accompanied by savory and hearty Chap Chae, a stir-fried sweet potato noodle dish with vegetables.

The bibimbap, served in a heated stone bowl, is comprised of a bouquet of marinated vegetables, your choice of meat or tofu, and a fried egg, all served on a bed of rice with gochujang chili sauce on the side. My bibimbap arrived sizzling as the rice crisped in the bowl.

The beef bulgogi, served with rice and romaine lettuce for wrapping, is thinly-sliced ribeye coated in the sweet barbecue marinade. The beef could be eaten alone, or in lettuce wraps. Both the bibimbap and bulgogi are served with banchan, Korean side dishes. Served in small bowls, banchan is fundamental to Korean cuisine, including kimchis, seasoned vegetables and blanched or steamed spinach or sprouts, in addition to adventurous options, like bubbling egg custard,
dried silver fish.

At Koreana, the banchan is all made in-house. We enjoyed a cabbage kimchi, seasoned bean sprouts, soy-braised tofu, sesame-seasoned broccoli, soy and sesame spinach, and a sweet black bean dish. The blanchan, enjoyable alone for its soulful, unique taste, is a license to play with your food.

More than just kimchi

Even those new to Korean food, might be familiar with kimchi. The fermented vegetable dish, made spicy with cabbage, has had some crossover success with appearances on fusion menus. Although kimchi is delicious and versatile, Korean cuisine is worth exploring beyond the popular condiment. At Koreana, have the best of both worlds with traditional dishes that highlight kimchi as an ingredient.

My date and I started our meal with two appetizers featuring a traditional cabbage kimchi: mandu (deep fried dumplings stuffed with beef or kimchi) and kimchi pajeon (a pancake-like appetizer). The mandu was crispy, with each dumpling offering a toothy crunch, balanced by the tart, soft inside.

The pajeon was considerably less intimidating. My group agreed that a “kimchi pancake” sounded bizarre, but as we enjoy both dishes separately, we were curious to try to combination. Pajeon wasn’t like anything we imagined. The pancake is made with egg, wheat and rice flour, green onions and kimchi. Served warm and sliced like a pizza, the savory and comforting dish was “incredible” (a word we repeated until the plate was clean).

A final bite

Korean cuisine is an imaginative change. Coupled with Koreana’s elegant, sophisticated atmosphere, the food is energetic, with a variety of different tastes and textures.

To complement the whirlwind of flavors, we drank a bottle of the soju with our meal. The rice wine/liquor hits a mild 10 percent to 25 percent alcohol by volume, served with small glasses for sipping. The leisurely pace we enjoyed while dining enhanced the experience. We recommend you try Koreana soon.

Lunch: 11:30am-2:30pm, Tuesday-Friday.
Dinner: 4:30-10pm, Tuesday-Thursday.
4:30-10:30pm, Friday.
11:30am-10:30pm, Saturday.
12:30-9:30pm, Sunday.
1423 Bernath Pkwy. (off of Airport Hwy.),