As you may or may not have read, my last post highlighted some great spots I tried last year that I’d return to at the drop of a hat. But to ring in 2016, I’ve been trying as many new places as I can and having pretty good luck discovering some new restaurant staples.
So far, I am eager to get back to Korea Palace in Sterling Heights. While I’ve easily passed this location without a second thought, this unassuming storefront is not at all what it seems from the outside.
When I first stepped inside, I was immediately drawn to the booths. I believe all of them include stovetops built into the tables, providing the ultimate, hands-on Korean barbecue experience. Unfortunately, something must have gone wrong with the stove situation the night I visited, because our waiter stated that it would be better for our food to be cooked in the kitchen.
Despite this petit faux pas, the presentation and taste far exceeded my expectations. I figured the Bibimbap would be as authentic as I could get in the U.S., so I opted for this special dish which comes sizzling hot in a small cast-iron pot. It’s essentially a stir-fry with your choice of protein and an over-easy egg on top. I opted for the bulgogi on mine, which is thinly sliced, well-seasoned strips of beef.
The bulgogi was extremely tender, and the rice was a soothing shade of lavender (don’t worry, it didn’t taste like lavender). I loved the texture of the runny egg yolk mixed in, and I was not shy about adding plenty of hot sauce.
My dining counterpart, who happens to be a dear friend of mine, had ventured to Korea Palace a handful of times and knew the bulgogi barbecue meal was the way to go. Her dish came with appetizers of kimchi, other pickled vegetables, bean sprouts, and a few additional odds and ends. Thankfully, she allowed me to indulge, which of course I did without hesitation.
Unlike the bulgogi in my Bibimbap, hers was brushed with a tangy, semi-sweet BBQ marinade. It had just the right combination of salty and sweet flavors, and was perfectly sautéed with onions, carrots, and green onions.
Aside from the great food, the service is very quick and efficient — but don’t expect any small talk. If there are people waiting for tables, which often happens due to the restaurant’s quaint size, don’t be surprised if the waitstaff not-so-subtly hints for you to make your exit once you’ve paid your bill. I didn’t mind too much, because we were able to enjoy our meal at a leisurely pace without much interruption.
Korea Palace has experienced much success, having been voted the best Korean spot in the annual contest held by Detroit’s own Hour Magazine, “Hour Detroit Best of Detroit,” and are hoping to hold onto that title in 2016.
With their quality of food, expansive menu, and not to mention, their relaxed atmosphere, Korea Palace definitely has my vote.