The Dallas area has an abundance of Korean barbecue restaurants. What sets K’s House apart is its location, 10 miles southeast of any of the others, just across a bridge from downtown.
Located in a prime new corner of the Trinity Groves development, K’s House gives residents of the city center, West Dallas and Oak Cliff easy access to bulgogi, bibimbap and grilled short ribs.
But that location is both a blessing and a curse. K’s House, which seats more than 100 customers in its wide, tall dining room, unabashedly designs its recipes for Korean food newbies. The kitchen softens flavors, takes the bite out of kimchi and finds ways to adapt Korean ingredients to American formats. Depending on what you like, this is either a good trait or a bad one.
The enormous menu encompasses barbecue — which customers can grill themselves, or have a server grill for them — plus ramen, bibimbap, “street tacos,” sliders and salads. Across the board, flavors tend to be mild-mannered.
Generally speaking, the less work the K’s House kitchen does, the better the resulting dish. That means that the best bet here is to order a round of barbecue, whether by diving into premium meat platters — eight large scallops for $39, 10 ounces of pork jowl for $37 — or by ordering a set menu combo. The set combo brings sampling portions of three different meats for $30, plus slices of onion, a couple of mushrooms and sliced vegetables.
Gawk at the spectacular marbling on the salted boneless beef short ribs; they look like a meat dream. The spicy pork bulgogi is another big winner, and probably the only truly spicy item on the whole menu.
K’s House’s bibimbap is another clear success. With its skillful vegetable prep work and portion of marinated meat or tofu, bibimbap runs from $14 to $19 (depending on the protein) and is served with an abundance of fixings, including dried seaweed strips and a fried egg. The marinated chicken ($15) has wonderful sweet-soy flavor.
But sweet-soy is also the only flavoring in japchae, the dish of glass noodles and vegetables that is usually so hard to resist ($6 or included with set menu). K’s House seems to add barely any sesame oil and no ginger or scallions at all; the only vegetable is bell pepper.
An appetizer of thinly sliced beef naengchae tastes like good old deli roast beef, with a salad of curlicued green onions on top ($8). By contrast, the kimchi pork belly sliders feature mild kimchi and overcooked slices of pork, plus enough scallions to neutralize the other flavors ($10).
Like the sliders, the salads at K’s House are riffs on an American template. Our waiter recommended the brisket salad as his particular favorite. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised, but it turned out to be just well-done slices of brisket on a bed of lettuce ($10).
We didn’t think “octopus carpaccio” meant salad, but indeed it does. About a dozen coin-like slices of octopus get tossed with mixed greens, then drizzled with an eye-popping, tongue-perplexing amount of balsamic vinegar ($9).
Our crispy leek pancake was, critically, not crispy; the bottom of the pancake had apparently self-steamed during the cooking process, giving the finished product a gummy texture ($8). The same thing happened to a seafood pancake on a later visit, but the flavors were spot-on (also $8).
Owner Sammantha Kang used to work in Carrollton, where she ran Ssam BBQ, which is a beloved insider spot among Korean restaurateurs. Her new project appears to be targeted toward a different crowd.
K’s House may well make a good introduction to Korean food for novices. The staff, in particular, is unfailingly friendly; on all of our visits we were delighted by the employees’ enthusiasm. Do speak up, however, if you want to grill your own meat, because when the servers take over, everything gets cooked well-done.
Dallasites new to Korean cuisine can come here and build solid bibimbap bowls, enjoy grilling short ribs and sample less-famous but unchallenging dishes like beef naengchae. The cooking here is sufficient that they may never know what they’re missing.
But will those first-timers go on to enjoy “real” Korean food at other restaurants?
The soft-edged kimchi here is richly flavorful, but it’s unlike anything served on Royal Lane. Most of the “spicy” dishes, including the cucumber muchim, are gentle at best. Even the hot sauce, which diners can squirt onto their rice bowls, is very literally watered down.
K’s House could be a gateway for non-Koreans to learn to love bulgogi or soft tofu soup, which is coming later this fall. On the other hand, it might not be such a gateway. It might instead serve as a substitute, much as sweet bowls of pad Thai have helped conceal the real depth and complexity of Thai food from American audiences.
Hopefully, you’ve read enough by now to know whether K’s House is for you. If you already love gochujang and galbi jjim, there’s really no choice but to head up I-35 to a more richly flavored alternative like Koryo Kalbi, Dal Dong Nae or Ari.
But if you haven’t tried Korean food yet, despite the fact that the Dallas area has more than 100,000 Korean Americans and more than 75 Korean restaurants, then K’s House will be a welcoming steppingstone.
When you’re ready, you can move on to the really good stuff — somewhere else.
K’s House, 320 Singleton Blvd., Suite 100 (West Dallas/Trinity Groves). 214-238-2606. Open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; noon-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-9:30 p.m. Sunday.
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