Kimchi and KFC
Open since 2012, Saraga International Grocery on Morse Road is the closest thing Columbus has to the United Nations, offering the city's immigrant communities a place to shop for authentic staples. It's also a launchpad for restaurants serving global fare. Momo Ghar, Phuntso Lama's Nepalese dumpling shop, famously got its start there (and remains at Saraga today) before becoming a sensation. Lucky for us, a new international gem opened in the grocery early last year.
To find Bulgogi Korean Restaurant, you enter the grocery's doors, weave through its bustling produce section and pass pallets of rice and several aisles of sauces and noodles from around the globe. Take a right at the eyebrow-threading salon, and you'll discover a tidy and unassuming restaurant serving simple and excellent Korean food.
More complex, cutting-edge restaurants have opened in the past year, but I'd challenge you to find a friendlier or more consistent one. Bulgogi, named after the Korean marinated beef dish, is not a restaurant with a Bible-sized menu or one that adds pan-Asian dishes just to appeal to American palates. Instead, owner Jenifer Jin applies restraint to her menu, and it works beautifully.
Go for the sundubu jjigae, a bright-orange tofu and seafood soup featuring gochugaru, a spicy and smoky red pepper blend. The soup arrives at the table piping hot and comes paired with rice and small ramekins of banchan (Korean side dishes). Its warming broth and silky tofu are restorative.
The japchae bop is another flavorful favorite. Sweet potato vermicelli-style noodles are stir-fried with carrot, onion, spinach, carrot, shiitake and a protein. It's a simple dish that I've craved ever since trying it for the first time.
But Bulgogi's cult-favorite dish may be the yangnyeom dak or Korean fried chicken—KFC for short. Jin added the dish to her menu after the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, when KFC gained global attention. Jin's version deserves recognition as well. The juicy chicken is fried twice, giving it a perfectly crunchy crust that can stand up under one of Bulgogi's three excellent, sticky sauces. It is, indeed, finger-licking good.