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Hanilkwan Bulgogi

Where the bulgogi is a thing of beauty

The Beef Bulgogi at Hanilkwan Bulogi -- eat this! Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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ANNOUNCER: This week, Jackie and Dutch head to South Tacoma, a South Sound area known for authentic Asian cuisine. Hanilkwan falls right into that category and serves up a broad variety of Korean dishes amounting to nothing less than a tasty feast.

DUTCH: If you have been here before, you should know that gone are the hot plates at each table and the endless plates of marinated meats, noodles, vegetables and bottles of varied sauce. Hanilkwan has changed the format here to 100 percent table service with dishes like spicy chicken kalbi, gobchang bokeum, dankasu, and mulmandu.

JACKIE: The vibe here is slick and modern with a few booths lining the walls and several tables placed throughout the center of the dining room. There are so many tasty options we had a hard time settling on just one. The spicy chicken sounded right up my alley and delivered an approachable heat but reminded me of those times I've mixed the ketchup, sesame seeds and spicy mustard that accompany Chinese BBQ pork, rather than the chili pepper heat I was craving.

DUTCH: Each meal begins with several plates of banchan that includes kimchee, kkakdugi, and cheongpomuk all of which are essentially a version of a pickled, spicy cold dish. Other traditional side dishes include Korean potato salad (gamja saelleodeu), and seaweed. If you are a fan of Korean food, the banchan offers a journey through nearly all the palates.

JACKIE: Banchan is the highlight of every visit. It's the perfect amount of flavorful fun every time, and I'm a glutton for it. I could just munch on it for hours if it were acceptable. Gimme a banchan all-you-can-eat buffet. I'm there.

DUTCH: For the main course, I went with one of the combination meals for two which in addition to a choice of soups (which is brought out on a hot plate), spicy crab, mackerel, and beef bulgogi as well as several other. Korean crab is served raw, which could take some getting used to the texture if it's your first visit. The mackerel is served as a whole or half fillet, and is saltier than most of the Northwest seafood common in the South Sound, but when mixed with rice and any one of the side sauces, it is one of the tastiest things you may ever eat. Without question, the best dish here is the bulgogi. It is brought to the table still sizzling and rich with onions and garlic. If you eat nothing else -- eat this!

JACKIE: Gah, their beef bulgogi is a thing of beauty. If you opted to visit for this dish alone, you won't be disappointed.

HANILKWAN BULOGI, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily, 3615 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood, 253.212.9241

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