The Olive Bakery, specializing in Korean and Japanese pastries, has moved a few blocks to a new Lakewood home inside HMart, which opened in March on South Tacoma Way.
Olive Bakery specializes in dessert pastries. A first-time visitor should look for sweet potato filled buns and fried sesame balls filled with red beans. The bakery's new home looks more modern and has more seating compared to its former tiny storefront. Look for the bakery to the right of the front entrance of HMart, which joins three other Korean supermarkets in Lakewood - Paldo World, Boo Han Market and Asian Market. Want to go shopping? Read below for a snapshot of what the newly opened HMart offers, as well as summaries of all the other Korean grocery stores, as published in my Korean dining series last May.
KOREAN DINING TIP: Check back Friday for a lengthier report about new Korean restaurants on South Tacoma Way.
HMartWhere: 8720 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-314-5062Groceries: Where do I start? If you're looking for ingredients for any style of Asian cooking HMart should near the top of your to-visit list. The 43,000 square foot shopping market opened two months ago and has everything you could possibly need to make a Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese or Filipino dinner. Even if you don't cook, stop by. The wall of instant noodles is the largest selection I've ever seen, with instant udon, ramen and even instant pho. As for other groceries, you'll find an extensive fresh produce section as well as every kind of dry good you can imagine. The rice selection contained brands of Japanese and Korean rice I've not seen at competing stores. Sake and soju selections were sizable.Live seafood: I saw Dungeness crab for $8.98 a pound, Manila clams for $3.99 a pound.Wall of Korean chili paste: It almost defied description, the selection of hot Korean (gochujang) paste was so vast. An entire aisle of the red chili paste - an indispensable condiment and marinade for Korean home cooking - was available in a number of heat levels. Check out the picture to the right. If you've never tried gochujang, it's like a punchy miso that's fiery red.Fresh banchan: More than 20 choices, with some unusual finds, such as eggplant, seasoned sesame leaves, stewed lotus root and a half dozen others I never had seen. Find the banchan in plastic bins at the rear of the store. An attendant was dishing up banchan by the pound on my visit.Dining: A small cash-only window at the rear of HMart serves straightforward, economically priced favorites like bean paste stew ($5.99), bulgogi ($7.99) and seolleongtang beef bone soup ($6.50)Bakery: As mentioned above, Olive Bakery has relocated to HMart. Look for seating to the left of the cash register. Find dozens of pastries for sale - all a few bucks or less. Do try the sweet potato filled pastry and the fried sesame buns. I also spotted cream puffs, manju and mochi. I think the selection rivals that of Boulangerie, the bakery at Paldo World.
Pal Do WorldWhere: 9601 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-581-7800; open daily.Consider Pal Do World a comprehensive Korean shopping center with a food court, a sizable grocery and produce section, and ready-made food for home. (Also, clothing, housewares and a video store.)Groceries: Dried goods, frozen foods, produce, an extensive selection of the cuts of meat you’ll find in Korean restaurants (short ribs, ribeye, pork belly, etc.), and a large selection of kimchi in the refrigerated section near the produce.Live seafood: Tanks in the rear sell live fish and shrimp. Also, a frozen seafood section.Fresh banchan: Sometimes sold from bins near the front entrance.Bakery: Boulangerie Bakery, located to the left of the front entrance at Paldo, offers a broad selection of Japanese and Korean style pastries. Find fruit tarts, miniature cakes and other nibbles in the display case up front. Macarons, layered cakes and cream puffs round out the French offerings. Bakery cases hold fresh-baked pastries that run the gamut from sweet to savory. The bakery serves espresso, too.Dining: A food court with two restaurants. Peking Garden serves Chinese with a few Korean dishes (try the job-chae noodle dish, $9.95). Nak Won is a real-deal Korean cafeteria serving soups, bulgogi, kalbi and dumplings. If you get anything, make it dol sot bibimbap ($8.95), a hot stone bowl with rice, vegetables and bulgogi topped with a fried egg and dried seaweed. Use chopsticks to stir it up, adding spicy paste and six kinds of banchan (Korean side dishes). Bulgogi ($8.95) is tender ribeye strips seasoned with a sweet-salty marinade. Order at the counter; they’ll bring you banchan, soup and the main dish. There also is a tofu and walnut doughnut counter near the food court.
Asian MarketWhere: 11715 Bridgeport Way S.W., Lakewood; 253-582-1158; open daily.This small grocery store is hidden off Bridgeport, so use the Church’s Chicken sign in front of the market as your landmark. This is one of my favorite grocery stores to find Korean and other Asian ingredients because staffers – namely Angie Cho, daughter of the owners – are knowledgeable and explain Korean ingredients in depth.Banchan counter: While other Korean markets have a handful of banchan to take home and eat, Asian Market has a mega banchan deli counter. Anywhere between 30-40 banchan are for sale, from kimchi and sauteed greens with sesame oil, to pickled daikon, spicy anchovies and many other pickled vegetables. Sold by the pound, a small container will cost just a few dollars.Restaurant: To the right of the front entrance, Boon Shik Nara is frequently filled with soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and middle-age Korean women. The specialty is fast-style Korean food: soups, bulgogi, dumplings, noodles and bibimbap. Try the bargain-priced bulgogi combo lunches ($7.95-$8.95) that come in a compartmentalized tray (think: Bento box). We bit into spicy chicken with rice, Korean-style sushi, kimchi, shredded cabbage salad and soup. Dol sot bibimbap ($8.95) is one of the best in the area because of the delicious marinade on the meat.
Boo Han MarketWhere: 9122 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-588-7300; open daily.This small grocery store is a straightforward grocer with a wide selection of noodles, rice, sauces, seasonings, marinades, frozen fish, meats and prepared Korean food. This is the grocery for the serious home cook.Banchan: About a dozen varieties in take-out containers at the rear of the store.Produce: Sold in bulk bags for a fair price.Snacks and sweets: There are two snack food aisles, one with salty treats and cookies, another with packaged crunchy rice snacks. Desserts are in the freezer section, as well as on shelving at the front of the store.