BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT (1999)
Don't look for Korean barbecue, and skip past the menu pages of Chinese selections. Jang Won specializes in bang-up North Korean comfort food, noodle dishes and rice casseroles laced with tangy sauces and studded with tender meats and vegetables. Here resides possibly the best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities, a sassy number named sam sun cham pong, thick with two-foot-long strands of chewy homemade noodles, chile-spiked broth, mussels, octopus, shrimp, and those weirdly spongy sea cucumbers. In cha jang mein, the same noodles are coated with black bean sauce freshened by cucumber and onion. Smart snackers savor the free pan chan appetizers, but the wise add on crunchy sour crab (actually fried soft-shell crab) and ton man doo (steamed dumplings). If you're feeling especially frisky, ask your server about the Korean liquors: the sweetly ricey ma gar ri and ba gar, which resembles a caraway-flavored sake. Pretty soon, fuzzy and full, you'll appreciate the way the Korean trappings seem to conceal a former Pannekoeken House. It will all make a certain, perfect sense.