By Andrew Kim
Northwest Asian Weekly
Aptly named after a Korean mythical creature that brings good luck, prosperity, and serenity, Girin looks to introduce Pioneer Square to the world of Korean cuisine – sensory overload with rich smells, vibrant colors, robust textures, and of course, a pleasant experience for your taste buds. As a Korean who grew up on kimchee and rice, I’m always on the lookout for Korean restaurants but they seem to be lacking in the Seattle area. Once I heard that Girin had opened up, I grabbed my colleague and we went looking for a good meal.
Once we got inside, the tasteful wooden décor and the attentive wait staff make us forget the hustle and bustle of Stadium Place outside. As a nice surprise, the food is actually more traditionally Korean than the Asian fusion places that are popping up around town. There’s a time and place for Asian fusion, but sometimes you just want the real deal.
As you might expect with Korean cuisine, the meat is top-notch and well prepared. However, unlike other Korean BBQ restaurants, the cooking is done inside the kitchen. It takes away the fun of cooking the meat yourself but at least you can leave the restaurant without smelling like meat for the next week.
The real fun begins with the ssam – wrapping the meat with an assortment of greens and peppers, topping it all off with some rice and sauce. If this is unfamiliar to you, no worries, a kind and helpful wait staff is more than willing to show you the ropes.
In addition to the ssam, the side dishes (panchan), an assortment of pickled and spiced vegetables, are simple, crisp, and irresistibly delicious (don’t be shy about asking for more). Just like momma used to make.
It’s not all about meat. Let’s not forget the seafood either. Girin sources their oysters from Taylor’s Shellfish and man, are they fresh. The clam noodles that we got were also excellent – well-balanced – not too salty and the broth kept you dipping for more. The light and crunchy seafood panjeon (savory pancake) is highly recommended as it helped to offset the heavier dishes.
The sampling of the seafood makes me wonder about eating a meal at Girin without the ssam – a testament to the wide selection of other dishes and snacks that are sure to keep me coming back. The wide variety of dishes and the depth of preparation of each guarantees that you’ll leave with a happy and full belly (although your wallet might not feel the same way).
A word to the wise – we ordered a meat combo set and at the end of the meal, the waiter brought over a noodle dish that ends the meal and oh boy, it was a bit spicy. Delicious, but the ice cream for dessert was a welcome sight (and if you didn’t get a set combo, definitely order the ice cream. It is made in house and it’s fantastic).
The parking and the location make it a little difficult to locate but if you’re in the mood for some Korean cuisine, you could do far worse than grabbing a friend and grubbing on some ssam at Girin in Pioneer Square. (end)
Andrew Kim can be reached at email@example.com.