Kim Bob Na Ra is a casual Korean joint on Rte 40 offering comfort food for people who want something closer to a cafe than a white-tablecloth restaurant.
This is a terrific place for lunch or a weeknight dinner. It's also another option for people trying to explore some Korean food. When you walk in, the walls are covered with hangul letters. But the menu has some English, and you can prepare yourself to eat well.
As Kevin Rhee wrote in 2011, Kim Bob Na Ra's menu is a type of Korean cuisine called bunsik, a relatively nebulous category that covers quick food for a low price:
The staples of this category are kimbap (rice, vegetables, and other things wrapped in seaweed), topoki (chewy rice blocks in spicy gochujang sauce), and odeng (seafood "sausages"). Your safest bet here is kimbap. PLEASE, don't call it korean sushi. It drives me nuts. Yes, I am asking you to not say it for my benefit, and mine alone.As Kevin said, the kimbap is a roll wrapped with seaweed. So it's a cousin to sushi, but the seaweed is about all they share They're all cooked ingredients, and they're thicker and more mixed -- beef, egg, spinach, fake crab and carrot in a single roll. Kimchi, spinach, egg, carrot and maybe sesame leaf in another.
These are hearty bites that make the most of mixed ingredients. You get a bunch of flavors in each bite, and they're a mix of meat and veg, fresh and pickled, crunchy and soft. Kimbap feels more akin to a Vietnamese summer roll or a tiny burrito than a raw fish roll. The kimchi is mellowing than the stuff that I buy in the fridge at Lotte. I think that's because it has been simmered to bring down the spice.
Beyond the kim bap, we started with steamed dumplings. They were good. We made a little dipping sauce by mixing soy sauce and vinegar from the jars on the table. Nothing is that spicy, and we stuffed two stomachs for $20 with those three dishes and the small plates of banchan that they put out at the start. That makes this an ideal place to try something new.
My recommendation is that you check for dishes on Yelp or on Kyle's 2011 post about his trips to Kim Bob Na Ra. Kyle found soup that he liked, along with a stir-fried pork dish.
My other recommendation is that you save room for dessert. A few doors down from Kim Bob Na Ra is the new Shilla bakery, where you can find all kinds of sweets and coffee for dessert. Try "dessert in a cup" with the sweet potato latte. Try anything with red bean, especially the red bean donuts.
If you want more about Korean food in Howard County, you can always click for my short-list of "Rte 40 Tour" posts or for all my posts about Korean cuisine. But you should also see Dan A's Yelp list of Ellicott City Korean restaurants.
Kim Bob Na Ra
9339 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042
NEAR: Kim Bob Na Ra is on Rte 40 west of Rte 29. It's on the south side in a shopping center with Shilla Bakery and Jason's Wine & Spirits.