With entrées one gets a fine bowl of white miso soup and seven to eight banchan, the small Korean side dishes. I especially liked the tiny dried fish, eggplant in a mild red-pepper sauce, a refreshing dishlet of warm zucchini that was not pickled, yellowish bean sprouts that were pickled, and a fresh, cucumber-based kimchee/pickle. More familiar were hot napa-cabbage kimchee and regular bean sprouts.
The wonderful eel-teriyaki entrée comes with carrots, broccoli, and onions. It was served on an unheated sizzling platter — a fine idea in my book, as the hot platters provide great aroma, but overcook and burn what touches them.
Moving into the unusual parts of the menu, we had octopus stir-fry on vermicelli with scallions and carrots ($13.99) — spicy but lacking in real Korean fire. Similarly, gobchang gui ($13.99), a dish of beef and pork tripe with vegetables, is the kind of thing that works best with lots of hot pepper, but ours was weak enough to let through a liver-like flavor on the pork chitterlings, and a meaty flavor on the beef tripe. These aren't the off-flavors tripe-lovers go after — when you order odd parts, you're seeking excitement.
The wine list includes beers and all the flavored Korean wines, from herbal to pomegranate, plus several brands of soju, straight or mixed. Water is served in recycled plastic soju bottles that are left on the table — a great plan. There are no desserts, the better to sell soju watermelons, I suppose.
The atmosphere in Myung Dong 1st Avenue is the key to the concept, but I'm not sure a Korean dive bar is portable, or will cross over to the non-Asian-American party crowd. The décor and sound are generic hip-hop.
Service, on an early evening before the crowd arrived, was excellent. Servers in WILL WORK FOR SOJU shirts have a team spirit. For some bar-hoppers, Myung Dong will be an exotic stop, or even a hang. For dining out, you won't get anything awful, but there is better Korean food around the corner at Buk Kyung II, and better Japanese food all over Brighton Avenue.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.