Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hai Woon Dai Korean Restaurant

This is the food I grew up eating as a kid, from the age of 6 YO until college. The "perks" when your childhood best friend is Korean. I spent 3-4 nights a week in the kitchen of my surrogate mom, Ok Cha Kim. When she would hand me food and I asked what it was she would say “just eat” and I did. I never questioned Momma Kim because I knew I could be kicked out of her kitchen at any given time. She was the Korean “Gordon Ramsey”.

Thanks to Momma Kim, I knew what sushi was by the time I was 8 years old, chewed on dried octopus, ate raw stingray and became a kimchi aficionado. Her cucumber kimchi was so amazing that I attempted it for years without success. She taught me how to eat with chopsticks and even gave me my first official pair of chopsticks (not the wooden pull apart kind) and I practiced on cheap ramen noodles.

I have been eating at Hai Woon Dai (pronounced “Hay Woon Day”) for about 7-8 years, before I even conceived of my Meetup group, What the Pho!

The food is above reproach, the service fast and exceptional. THE BEST KOREAN in Nashville! I will stake my reputation on that. Assuming “Jean” is working when you visit, mention my name. You won’t get any freebies but I’m sure she will give you extra TLC.

Banchan: First there’s the banchan, small plates of condiments which include kimchi, cucumber kimchi, fish cake, seaweed salad, etc, etc. These are free and are replenished when you run out.
Banchan (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

Appetizers: I would highly recommend the “gyoza” which is vegetarian. I had never ordered until recently because I expected them to be like Japanese gyoza which I can take or leave. A Persian friend ordered them a few weeks ago and shared, I fell in love. Had the menu said “Yaki Mandu” I would have known what I was ordering. It’s like a little “empanda”. This is a staple on my visits now. 
Dolsot Bibimbap (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

The “Seafood Pancake”, I’m not a fan of squid (for dietary reasons) but this one is outrageously popular. It is HUGE and should be shared with about 8 people, unless you plan to make it your primary meal.

Entrées: The (BBQ) chicken bulgogi is some of the most tender chicken I've ever tasted. I also love the beef bulgogi which is thinly sliced and tender. I haven’t tried the pork version which my friend Pam swears by.

And bibimbap, this is a staple, it includes rice, beef, veggies and a fried egg. Order the dolsot bibimbap for the hot stone pot experience. Think of it as fried rice to the n'th degree.This brings back memories.

I am also a fan of the Japchae (sweet potato noodles stir fried in sesame oil with vegetables and beef), ask them to cut the noodles or you might be in for the fight of your life.
Japchae (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

One of my go to favorites is their “jjigae” which are their soups delivered at a rolling boil in a hot pot. They have several variations with seafood, meat and tofu. They are presented with a raw egg. As soon as the soup arrives, crack the egg and stir. Jjigae is one of my comfort foods when I’m sad or happy. Momma Kim never made me jjigae. But I ate a lot of bulgogi growing up and it was amazing.

Desserts: None offered. But you will be stuffed before you can finish all of the above. I don’t remember ever having desserts in Kim’s house.

Hai Woon Dai
Address: 2051 Antioch Pike, Nashville, TN 37013
Phone:(615) 333-9186
Hours: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm (closed Monday)

Moke ga
먹자 (Let’s eat!)

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