King's Fine Korean: great for groups


King's bowl of "mixed up rice" or bibimbap.

Try to make a reservation for, say 30, and most restaurateurs will laugh at you. But not the team at King's Fine Korean.

If you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul, King's might not the first place that might come to mind, due to its outer-ring digs, but Fridley's not really so far (I once biked there and back for dinner). In any case, it's worth the trek beyond 694, as King's is among the best places for Korean food in the Twin Cities.

I was there recently for a friend's surprise birthday dinner, taking over three enormous tables the King's crew had set aside in the middle of the restaurant. (The first friend to arrive thought it quite funny to watch reservation-less couples stand in the entryway, waiting for available seats, while he sat, alone, at our table for 30).

My end of the table started out with an order of the kimchi jeon, a spicy pancake made with chopped cabbage and wondered about the prevalence of those little paper covers over the spoons, trying to think if we'd seen them at other restaurants around town of if they were a decorative/sanitary accessory unique to King's.

Prepping the galbi at King's.

In any case, those who were looking for a meat fix went for either the galbi (marinated beef short ribs) or the bulgogi (thin-sliced barbeque beef), which, in hindsight, probably might have made more sense to share since both are giant plates of meat and nothing more. The less-carnivorous went for the dolsot bibimbap, a mix of rice and thin-sliced vegetables and meat with a raw egg cracked on top (you mix it into the hot rice to cook it). It costs an extra dollar or two to have the dish served in the hot stone bowl, but if you like the way the rice crisps against the edges of the pot as much as I do, it's worth paying a little extra.

Everything I tried tasted good, but it didn't quite compare to the excellent kimchi jijigae, a fiery, sinus-clearing soup I'd had the last time I was at King's. In any case, by the time we'd finished our meals, the rest of the patrons had mostly cleared out and the restaurant transtitioned into our own private karaoke bar. While the staff closed down the kitchen and cleaned up the dining room, we spent an hour or so entertaining them (for better or worse) with everything from GNR's "Paradise City" to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."