It garnered a Michelin star only a year after opening its doors in 2021. That same year, it was also named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by the Robb Report; one of the “50 Favorite Restaurants” by the New York Times; a “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire; and highlighted in Eater’s “Best New Restaurants.”
When it comes to the Korean charcoal barbecue restaurant, San Ho Won in San Francisco, the hype is not only real, but richly deserved, as I found out when I dined last month.
Then again, one would hardly expect anything less from Chef-Owner Corey Lee, who also operates Monsieur Benjamin and whose flagship San Francisco restaurant, Benu, has glittered with three Michelin stars for years. San How Won is a collaboration between him and Chef Jeong-In Hwang, who moved from Korea to San Francisco in 2016 to first work at Benu.
Sure, you’ve probably had your fill of Korean barbecue over the years. But none like this, with an unmistakable clarity and purity of flavor. Nothing tastes muddled, nothing gets lost. Instead, every bite is exuberant.
Indeed, pretty much everything is made in-house, down to the binchotan that fuels the fiery grills. Take a seat at the bar encircling the kitchen for a view of the action. Or if you gather with a group and plan ahead to book the private room, you’ll really get a show when one of the cooks expertly sears your meat on a separate grill in the corner.
My appetite for red meat comes nowhere close to that of my husband, aka Meat Boy.
But admittedly, I have a weak spot for beef Wellington.
Maybe it’s the retro vibe, the stately tradition, or celebratory nature that ropes me in.
So, I couldn’t pass up a chance of partaking recently when I was invited in as a guest of downtown San Mateo’s Porterhouse, where fittingly, Wellington Wednesdays are de rigueur each week.
Dry-aged beef is a specialty here, as you can tell from the moment you walk through the doors and spy the dry-aging refrigerators loaded with hefty cuts of mid-West beef.
Hamdi “Bruno” Ugur has owned this classic, old-school steakhouse since 1987, and you’ll see him greeting guests at tables nightly. Hospitality runs in the family, as his son, Steve Ugur, is not only the director of butchering at Porterhouse, but co-owns Pausa in San Mateo, and the just-opened Sekoya Lounge & Kitchen in Palo Alto.
Nowadays, there are many restaurants where you can enjoy a Wagyu steak. But at Gozu in San Francisco, you can sink your teeth into smoky skewers that spotlight both familiar and unusual specific cuts of the prized Japanese beef.
When Chef-Owner Marc Zimmerman opened his hearth-centered restaurant in 2019, it was thought to be the only restaurant in the United States to directly import from Japan full cuts of top-grade A5 Wagyu. That amounts to a whopping 750 pounds in one shot.
That gives him the ability to use nearly every part of the outrageously marbled beef, often in audacious ways, including burning the bones as charcoal and fermenting lean cuts to make shoyu.
You can experience it for yourself with a $125 four-course menu or a $225 tasting menu. Or opt for the a la carte Stickbar menu that allows you to try individual skewers, priced from $14 to $55, depending on the cut.
Consider this devilishly good dish the savory equivalent of a “dump cake.”
Instead of a boxed cake mix dumped over canned fruit in a pan, “Slow-Cooked Beef Ribs in Korean BBQ Sauce” is basically beefy ribs plopped into a pan with a robust mix of minced garlic, ketchup, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and Korean fermented pepper paste known as gochujang.
There’s no need to sear the beef ribs beforehand, either. Just lay them in the sauce in the pan, slide into the oven, and practically forget about it for the next 6 hours.
The beef will emerge so tender that it falls off the bone, and the meat juices will have melded into the sauce, making it even more delectable.
This super simple recipe is from “RecipeTin Eats Dinner” (Countryman Press, 2022), of which I received a review copy.