I was wondering if you could run an article on the Korean restaurants around South Tacoma Way. ... There are a lot of restaurants, but we don't know which ones to go to, or even what to order other than Kalbi beef and kimchee. We went to one that seemed to be more of a bar than a restaurant, and another that served some kind of broth and the servers were really surprised to see "gringos" or whatever the equivalent term is in Korean.
I took this reader's e-mail as a reminder: There's a sizeable Korean population in the South Sound. The other day, I set out on a reporting-and-eating mission. I promptly wished I knew how to read Korean. Most of the signs in Tacoma's International District are in Korean; not a lot of English translations.
Heading south on Pacific Highway, I saw "GRAND OPENING" accompanied by another familiar word – Hof – plus something even more familiar: a beer mug. I pulled into Mo Mo Hof's parking lot and inquired about the menu.
"Chicken and beer," said the guy mopping the floor.
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I asked him if he had a menu I could take with me. He shook his head and said the place had only been open since Wednesday. I told him I'd be back. When I returned with chicken and beer on my mind, my waitresses came to the table clutching the menu to her chest.
"Your first time here? Let me explain our menu to you," she said. "It's all in Korean. No more Chinese food. No more teriyaki."
She said fried chicken is what "most Americans like."
I asked her what else is on the menu. "Barbecued chicken," she said. "But fried chicken is what most Americans like. Can I get you fried chicken?"
"What do most Koreans like?" I inquired.
"Spicy sausage stir fry," she replied.
"I'll have that."
I enjoyed the spicy sausage stir fry (tri-colored peppers, cabbage, green onions in a fiery sauce with Korean sausage) and the barbecued chicken, which was more than chicken: two skewers of grilled breast meat chunks, smothered in a tangy, sticky sauce; two skewers of gizzards (!) in the same sauce; a skewer of mussels and peppers; and a skewer of pineapple, peppers, and asparagus wrapped in bacon.
The sausage stir fry was $11.99; there was enough food for three people. The barbecued skewers were $7.99; and that was a half order. There were other things on the menu – I saw what looked to be beef and bok choy on another table – but our server didn't tell us about them. (Beer is limited to Hite, a Korean brew, and the usual American suspects: Bud, MGD, Coors…)
The only non-Asian customers in the restaurant were me and guy who was talked into ordering fried chicken to-go. A sign on the wall said "Welcome" (in English), but me and my half-Mexican, half-Japanese dining companion didn't feel that way. I wish it were otherwise.
Despite feeling like a stranger in a strange land, I had fun at Mo Mo Hof, a brightly painted room divided into warrens and booths, where food was served on table-top grills and Korean pop music had the familiar beat of Latin pop.
I'll be back ...
Mo Mo Hof: 10727 Pacific Highway SW, Lakewood, 253-582-6405