Nestled above the hectic, market–like ground floor of Philadelphia’s sits Dae Bak, a Korean eatery that opened its doors back in April. Dae Bak (which literally means “awesome” in Korean) is a hip but homey addition to an area already cluttered with restaurants. Once you make it onto the second floor of the Square and into the restaurant, warm color–changing lights reflect off of each wall, K–Pop softly plays over the buzz of conversation, and two giant TVs broadcast sports games, giving Dae Bak a laid–back, welcoming, yet cool vibe.
The menu holds a healthy array of traditional dishes. Two of the most popular orders on the menu are the LA galbi, a beef dish, and jeyuk, a spicy marinated pork. The LA galbi is the same type of prime rib that would be served at a Korean BBQ joint, but made with a special in–house seasoning. The jeyuk can be served three different ways: just the meat, in a hot stone pot, or with kimchi—and I decided to go with the kimchi jeyuk for my meal.
But before I discuss the main course, I have to mention the impressive assortment of seven side dishes that come with each meal. A staple to a Korean meal are side dishes, and Dae Bak delivers. The side dish menu is different every day, though a few customer favorites remain constant. On this particular day, the menu offered zucchini, fishcake, potato salad, potato in a sweet sauce, eggplant, and squid. The side dishes, some sweet, others cold and refreshing, and some salty, were a great break from the main course.
Moving back to the main course: the kimchi jeyuk was a perfect blend of spice and flavor. The spice of the meat and the slight sour flavor of the kimchi worked together to produce a savory, fulfilling flavor. The dish is served with white rice and tofu on the side, and the more familiar flavors equalize out the kimchi jeyuk perfectly. Similarly, the refreshing sweet potato and zucchini side dishes offset this spicy dish. Someone might find the fishcake and squid side dishes a bit on the saltier side, but both are wonderfully flavorful nonetheless.
Korean food is meant to be shared, and it’s apparent from the large portion sizes at Dae Bak. The massive kimchi jeyuk is $19.99 and could feed 2–3 people. Great side dishes, and carefully seasoned shareable plates make Dae Bak not only a great place to have a meal, but a great place to enjoy with other people.