I called up my friends Alan and Eric (Eric has started reading this blog more and more lately) to suggest a night out. I remember Alan suggesting a trip to Nak Won (look at this amazing review), near our most recent excursion to Baltimore's mini-Koreatown, when we went to Jong Kak with another friend. Sadly, he didn't join us. He did not take to Korean food too well. In fact, he couldn't stop freaking out about our visit to Jong Kak. I mean that in a bad way. The rest of us loved it but he freaked out. To each his own. Alan had heard that Nak Won has excellent pajeon, and I was game to try it.
When we got into Nak Won, I noticed that it was perhaps the most sparsely decorated Korean restaurant I have seen here, save for some random soju posters and a pattern of bricks exposed in the wall resembling some little man running around with a bouquet of flowers. Eric was initially deterred by the simplistic English translations for only some of the menu items, and none for the rest. The easiest solution: ask the waitress what some of this stuff was. I wound up asking her what she would recommend. She said that the seafood pajeon was a favorite of the patrons, most of whom were young Korean-Americans, and almost all of whom were speaking English. That is unremarkable, except that I was surprised at the sheer lack of Korean being spoken in the restaurant. Most Korean places I've been in are aflutter with Korean conversations. Not Nak Won.
The barbeque was also highly recommended. So we got two orders of the BBQ ($20 each) to share amongst the three of us (I did suggest just one in case we over-ordered, but noooooooo), and one seafood pajeon (
$17 about $15), a large, thick, crispy Korean pancake that's about as large as a large pizza, and feeds as many people. In addition we got two bottles of crisp Hite (hi-tay) beer to share.
Everything was wonderful. The panchan was interesting and the waitress helped us by quizzing us to see if we could figure out what each bowl comprised (she didn't test us on the kimchee, which was fairly obvious). Among the more interesting and surprising ones were green beans in a shrimp paste sauce, gelatin slices topped with chili sauce, and slices of marinated fish cake with carrot slices.
The BBQ came immediately after that, raw and cooked at the table with a portable table top grill. All the beef was juicy and sweet, a grade-A certified vegan nightmare. There was more than enough, as I feared. Though that would turn into a plus.
Then came the pajeon, which was indeed crispy without being very greasy. I tried to tear off pieces with my chopsticks but eventually just gave up and dunked the whole thing in the chili soy sauce provided for the purpose. The individual flavors of the seafood sort of blended together, but I did see some octopus. It was a very tasty dish. And there was so much left over that I not only could not finish the soup that came out next (!) but I got to take the rest of the panchan, pajeon and BBQ home (Eric doesn't do leftovers).
The total came to $80 ($96 after tip). We weren't sure which was better, Nak Won or Jong Kak. Each has its pluses. I will say this: I would happily rush back to Nak Won for their pajeon anyday.