Min-Ga Korean Restaurant has a long history in the Northwest side, serving a variety of ethnic dishes familiar and possibly exotic to common diners.
For the truly uninitiated, the Laklape ($22.95) are familiar beef ribs that are marinated for hours in a special seasoning-sweetened rub and cooked on the stovetop. Served on a spicy dish with white onions, they fill the air with a pleasant aroma.
You can’t go wrong with this one, said Joe Lee, the current owner of the restaurant, which has been a prime neighborhood for more than 20 years.
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Laklape, as with many dishes, is served with banchan, which are small side dishes that include kimchi, spiced cucumber, spinach, fish cake, and soaked bean sprouts.
Korean cuisine is also widely known as bulgogi, which is another spiced meat dish that is also cooked on a flat grill. The spicy pork version ($16.95) gets some heat with the addition of cayenne pepper.
Stone pot bibimbap ($13.95) offers a fun way to grab a meal. Served with small pieces of marinated beef, the hot pot is covered with a bed of rice, bean sprouts, carrots, spinach and topped with a raw egg. The trick is to keep stirring the contents, allow the rice to become crispy, cook the eggs and mix in the different flavors.
The ubiquitous gochujang, a paste of red pepper, is served on the side.
“Maybe the first time people eat is their best time,” he told me.
Min-Ga has a wide variety of pasta dishes, such as japchae ($12.95), which is a stir-fry that uses clear noodles made with sweet potato flour, beef or tofu, eggs, carrots, mushrooms, and onions in a dark skillet sauce. It seems to hold everything together.
Zha jiang myun ($13.95) has thin noodles pressed into a dark black bean sauce, the darkness of which contrasts with the mildly earthy taste. Served with pork chops, yellow onions and crunchy cucumbers.
For those looking for a popular dish among Koreans, naeng myun ($13.95) is a chilled noodle soup, although the broth is optional, with sweet and sour sauce, pears or apples, eggs, cucumbers, and shredded breast meat.
“A lot of people like to eat that in the summer,” he told me.
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One version of the delicious Korean pancake ($14.95), 12-inch round, serves spicy kimchi and a variety of seafood—shrimp, calamari, and mussels—with seasoned soy sauce on the side.
Lee said that although Korean cuisine may not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese, it is distinct and worthy of closer scrutiny for those who haven’t tasted the food yet.
“You have to try it,” he told me. “I have met a lot of people who have not tried it. Every dish has a lot of flavor.”
Minja korean restaurant
where: 800 Bethel Road, Northwest Side
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Contact: 614-457-7331, https://www.min-gakoreanrestaurant.com/