Hoban Korean Restaurant (Eagan, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune South
December 31, 2003

Search the Internet for information on Korean cuisine and you invariably stumble across the proverb that you can eat as much Korean food as you want and not gain weight. We doubt that but we can report that Korean food is nutritious, balanced and low in calories.

Traditional Korean cooking includes a lot of fish and vegetables. Common seasonings are soy sauce, red pepper paste, soybean paste, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Rice comes with every meal.

Hoban Korean Restaurant in Eagan is an excellent introduction to the cuisine.

None of the appetizers were very interesting. Mandoo are fried dumplings; these were too greasy for our taste. Even the bin dae tuk, bean pancakes filled with scallions and seasonings, were greasier than we've seen elsewhere. Stick with the entrees and you'll be happier.

Your meal will be served with an array of tiny side dishes, called "ban chan" in Korean. These are all vegetables pickled in some way and served cold. Kim chee is the spiciest of these sides and is fermented Napa cabbage mixed with red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. Other ban chan dishes include a mild cabbage, spicy radish cubes, mild shredded radish, mung bean sprouts, mealy potato cubes and a delicious mixture of spinach and shredded carrots. If you finish any of the dishes, your server will be happy to bring more.

Bulgogi is probably the most accessible Korean dish. It's beef sliced thin and barbecued. Hoban's rendition is excellent. The meat is tender and the sauce is slightly sweet and flavorful. Kalbee is another barbecued dish, beef short ribs in sauce. Both come with onions and mushrooms.

If you are more adventurous, you can try the Hot Spicy Squid or the Hot Spicy Octopus. Both are stir-fried with vegetables and a sauce.

Bibimbob is a single-dish Korean meal. You get a bowl of rice topped with barbecued beef, vegetables and a fried egg. Mix it all together, add hot sauce to taste and enjoy. We suggest the dolsot bibimbob, which is served sizzling in a hot pot.

Korean cooking is known for its hearty soups. Jongul is more like a stew filled with meat, vegetables and noodles. We especially liked the seafood jongul, overflowing with seafood, vegetables, tofu and noodles. One of the dishes has "honey comb" on the menu. That means tripe -- beware.

We also liked the mandoo kook and tukmandoo kook, both mild soups and both much tastier ways to eat the Korean dumplings. The menu says that the jongul dishes are for two people but three could make a meal of them.

Hoban has a lot more to offer. And even though Korea is known for its spicy food, quite a bit of it is mild. On weekdays Hoban has a $6 lunch buffet, which is an easy way to get acquainted with Korean cuisine.

If You Go

Hoban Korean Restaurant
Location: 1989 Silver Bell Rd., Eagan.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; 12 to 9 p.m. Sunday. 651-688-3447.
Atmosphere: Family friendly.
Service: Friendly and fast.
Sound level: Pleasant.
Recommended dishes: Bulgoki, bibimbob, jongul.
Alcohol: Beer and wine only.
Prices: Lunch $6; dinner entrees $8 to $12.
Smoking: Smoking section.
Children: No special children's menu.

earlier review: Angelo's (St. Paul)
later review: Chicago Johnny's (Lakeville, MN)
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