Hidden Gem: Korean Ssam Bar

Written by Molly Russo

Time to try something new...

We are always on the lookout for new and interesting places in and around downtown, and this week, I got the chance to visit Korean Ssam Bar, located just north of downtown on US 301.  If you enjoy Asian cuisine, you simply must stop at this small family-owned Korean restaurant!

With only about a dozen tables, Korean Ssam Bar is cozy.  Immediately upon walking in, the smell of delicious Asian food hit my nose, and the big "SUSHI" sign piqued my interest.  About half the tables were still full, even though I was walking in at 8:15pm for dinner, and throughout the course of our meal, there were probably just as many carry-outs as there were in-house diners.  (The restaurant has a great carry-out and food-delivery business.  You can find them on Grub Hub or Bite Squad if you want it brought right to you!)

Yes, we did pig out a bit.

Kimchi Seafood Pancake - yummmm!

Seeing as our dinner was kicking off kind of late, my two dinner partners and I literally ordered everything that looked good: we started with a seaweed salad, edamame, and one of their specialties, the Kimchi Seafood Pancake.  A skeptic of all but my safe-bet edamame (which, of the three ironically was my least favorite, simply because of its simplicity in relation to the other appetizers we tried), I sampled both the others hesitantly, only to be utterly blown away by the deep flavor.  The seaweed salad bore a consistency that I wasn't used to, but I adjusted quickly and thoroughly enjoyed.  As a gluten-free person, I shouldn't have even tried the kimchi pancake, but it came out looking like an Asian version of cornbread and smelling so sweet with a soy-based sauce for dipping that I just HAD to try it.  The pancake was subtly sweet and light, but had a toasty flavor that complemented the cooked-in kimchi and seafood perfectly.  It was absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend it.  (There is a non-seafood version of the Kimchi Pancake too!)

Generous portions, beautiful presentation

For dinner, the two ladies at the table each enjoyed a version of the Bibimbop Rice Bowl, which we were told by our server would have extra flavor due to being cooked in a stone pot.  The presentation was beautiful: a fried egg and your protein of choice (I had beef, my friend, tofu) poised atop slivered zucchini, carrots, and bean sprouts, which were served on a pile of rice.  The server brought over a Korean hot sauce and recommended we drizzle the sauce, then stir the whole beautiful pot up.  There was enough for both of us to have leftovers as lunch the next day, and both fresh and reheated, the Stone Pot Bibimbop was flavorful and mouth-watering.

The third person in our party ordered Beef Bulgogi, which was seasoned beef served with 4 sides: bean sprouts, spicy bean sprouts, daikon radish, and spicy kimchi.  We all picked at the sides, which they graciously refilled several times, and my partner finished his entire plate of beef, sharing one succulent bite with me.  We both would recommend this dish!

We finished our meal with mochi ice cream, which was smooth & creamy mango and strawberry ice creams wrapped in mochi and served artfully with chocolate sticks and a drizzle of fudge.  It was another beautifully-presented dish, decadent and interesting in flavor.  If you are not turned off by the glutinous nature of mochi, you should certainly give this a try!

Do we recommend it?

In short, I was blown away by this small hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant located in a strip mall on North 301.  The food was amazing and the service was impeccable, with the entire staff assisting each other in keeping glasses full, side dishes refilled, and making sure we had everything we need.  Next time you're looking for an adventurous meal, take the short drive to Korean Ssam Bar!

Korean Ssam Bar | 1303 N. Washington Blvd | Open for Lunch 11-2:30 and Dinner 5-9