Monday, April 13, 2009

Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City

The beauty of a Korean meal is the array of flavors and dishes.  A table might have spicy kimchi and tender vegetables, pickled radish and steamed egg, broiled meats and miso soup.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City makes my list because it pulls off that array of flavors in a single dish -- dolset bi bim bop (or "bob" as Bethany calls it).  The waitress brings a hot stone pot filled with rice, cooked vegetables, and some pieces of meat.  Bethany's is my new favorite because the meat is actual slices of kalbi rib meat and because the hot pot browns the rice, which becomes crisp against the soft vegetables and tender, charred beef.  With dollops of the spicy sauce, the bi bim bop becomes perfect.

(UPDATE:  Bethany Seafood Restaurant has changed its name by late 2010 to Kimko.)

Bethany is a strikingly anonymous restaurant -- at least in English.  It is hidden in the back of the Bethany 40 shopping center, and its English name appears just once outside the restaurant.  Everything else is in Korean -- although the menu is completely translated and the waitresses were fluent and happy to answer questions.

But Bethany is friendly, and the food was exceptional.  That dolset bi bim bop was better than the local gold standard Shin Chon Garden because it crisped the rice and used kalbi instead of shredded beef.  Shin Chon still serves a great meal and maybe even better panchan -- the half-dozen dishes that a Korean restaurant serves as appetizers/side dishes.  They run from kimchi to pickled vegetables to little salads of tofu or potato.  They're the variety that makes a Korean meal so entertaining, and Shin Chon serves tasty dishes that take real skill to season and prepare.

We only knew about Bethany because it is across the parking lot from Mirocjo, another Korean restaurant.  Our friends, who are Korean and Chinese, said that they liked the place across from Mirocjo, but they didn't know if it had an English name.  Inside, Bethany is casual, and it has the nice touch that all of the tables are separate by wood and glass dividers.  Everything is a little private.  Some tables even have buzzers to call your waitress.

The irony is that I assume that I have missed Bethany's best dishes.  Mrs. HowChow and I started with our basic Korean dishes to get a feel for the place.  Our waitress plied us with an appetizer of soaked rice and then another appetizer of steamed egg.  Then, we ate panchan, bi bim bop and a kimchi pancake.  Everything was delicious, and the complimentary dessert -- a cold cinnamon tea -- was spectacular.  We left stuffed and still carrying left-over pancake the size of a small pizza.

But it's the Bethany Seafood Restaurant, and I need to go back for the fish.  The waitress translated the Korean name as "Eel City Flounder Country," and there is both a sushi bar and a series of aquariums that show off how fresh your dinner can be.  I have my eye on a pan-fried squid and on a cod and claim stew.  "AJ K" on Yelp describes a live lobster sashimi as shocking, but delicious.  I'm not sure I'm up to live lobser, but I would love any recommendations if you have eaten at Bethany.

If you want to try Korean food, you can go to Bethany, Shin Chon or Mirocjo and get all your questions answered in English.  It helps to eat beef and spicy food, but Mrs. HowChow and I ordered a successful meal for my brother and sister-in-law before they went to adopt my cousin that was mostly vegetarian and mostly mild.

I always recommend that you start with a grilled meat -- either kalbi (rib) or bulgogi (sliced beef).  Then consider some options that seem very normal to an American palate: 1) the dolset bi bim bop described above (which can be served vegetarian and which people can spice individually if you don't mix the hot sauce into the serving bowl), 2) chapchae (a noodle dish that can come vegetarian and/or not spicy), 3) the Korean pancakes (savory pancakes with vegetables and/or seafood mixed into the batter) or 4) hwedupbap (sashimi fish served over a bed of rice and vegetables).  Wikipedia had a great list of Korean dishes.  The Cooking Korean Food blog has a recipe for hwedupbap, although it is different than I have seen served in restaurants.

If you want to check out Korean food, try this list of all of the Korean posts.  Or click here for an overview of Asian restaurants in Howard County.

Check out AJ K's review on Yelp -- in which he describes a live lobster sashimi that the father of one of his students ordered.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant
10176 Baltimore National Poke #116
Ellicott City, MD  21042

NEAR:  On the north side of Rte 40 west of Rte 29. It is west of the Enchanted Forest shopping area. If you're driving west, you pass Enchanted Forest, then a wooded area, then a former 84 Lumber.  Turn right after the 84 into the Bethany 40 shopping center.  The entrance of Bethany Seafood is on the side that faces the lumber yard at the back.  It is next to Bits & Bridles Saddlery.  There is actually a back entrance to Bethany that faces Mirocjo's parking lot, but you enter down a long hallway.  Don't let that turn you off.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Robin@ Good for the Palate said...

Nam Kang on Maryland Avenue in Baltimore has really tasty Bop, the rice is always crispy, and they serve some variety of barley tea for a palate cleanser at the end of the meal, which is sooo good.

Kristi said...

My friend and I read about Bethany Seafood on HowChow and decided to check it out. We were not disappointed! The food was excellent and the cinnamon tea that they gave us was delicious. I had the # 19 Bibim Bob with marinated ribs. The meat was flavorful and perfectly marinated. They were also very generous with their portions. My friend had the same dish and was equally pleased. We were so impressed with the food that I brought my family there when they came to visit. Everyone agreed about the quality and portions were excellent. The service was spotty at times but the waitresses were extremely nice.

Anonymous said...

HowChow, have you eaten here recently? I just want to know if you've been here multiple times and had a consistent experience. We went here tonight and were a little disappointed. Maybe things have changed from the time you wrote this post or maybe we hit them on an off night. From everything I read, I expected the service to be so so. There was only one person there who really spoke English but that was good enough for us. However, we were just one of two tables at the time. The rice porridge, steamed egg, and pancake appetizers were good. The panchan were excellent. Mushrooms, spinach, another green that no one knew the English name for, sliced fish cake thingies, and more. The miso soup was good, too. However, other than the rice porridge, everything came at once, including our main courses. The main courses were a let down. The seafood dolset bi bim bop was extremely oily and the rice never crisped on the bottom. There also wasn't much flavor other than the spicy sauce. I wish we could have the flavor and crispy rice of the H Mart seafood dolset bi bim bop with the perfectly cooked seafood of Bethany. Also, the dolset bi bim bop was topped with lettuce, similar to how it's done at Kim Bap Na Ra (Rt 40 East, close to Dunkin Donuts, across the street from Han Joong Kwan). We just don't like hot lettuce. The broiled eel with chef's special sauce was eel smothered in teriyaki sauce and thus the eel skin had lost any crispiness it may have once had. I wish we had known it was a "Japanese" dish because we wanted Korean food. Not bad, but definitely not worth $17.

HowChow said...

@ Anon -- I haven't eat at Bethany recently. I had really liked it, but I have been pulled to Shin Chon recently. I really love that place. And now I'm a little infatuated by some new finds -- the fried chicken at Rainpia and the new Honey Pig.

I appreciate the detailed post. I think that's terrific information for people, and I do need to try Bethany again.

chrissypt said...

I decided to try this restaurant after reading HowChow's comment on this place. My husband & I are Korean and my mom is an excellent cook. I also cook korean food, so my standards are quite high. We don't go out to eat korean food too much only cuz I can cook it at home. We were pleasantly surprised at Kimko Seafood Restaurant (I think the place must have changed names since HowChow's last visit). My husband ordered the hwedup bap (sashimi bibim bap), I ordered the kalbi, and I ordered udon for my little girls. The rice porridge, which was brought out as a courtesy appetizer was yummy! Reminded me of home. :D The ban chan (little dishes) ~ 8 kinds were plenty. Hint: Dip the vegetable pancake in some soy'll bring out the flavor a little more. FYI, so for those that go to a Korean restaurant anywhere.....ban chan is supposed to be eaten with the main meal, it's not something you eat as an appetizer. It's supposed to enhance the entire meal itself. So don't be surprised it comes out with the rest of the meal. The hwedup bap was very good and they didn't skimp out on the sashimi like a lot of other places. The kalbi was flavorful, although I must admit, mine is still better. haha :D The udon was just ok. Good for kids who like noodles, but I've had better.... but this place doesn't specialize in noodles anyways. The cinnamon ginger tea was excellent! My husband is not a fan of this (although I am) and he actually like it! Overall, I really liked this place and will definitely go back again. Thanks HowChow for letting me know of this place!

1ltkls said...

Tried this for takeout this weekend as a result of seeing this post and was not disappointed. My kalbi was as good as Shin Chon or better (and that was to go!) Sushi and rolls also as good as our former standby: Han Sung. Now we've got another option, even closer! They didn't charge extra for panchan (three half pints including kimchi, potato salad and some flat tan (tofu noodles(?))

Anonymous said...

Kimko is Japanese "sushi"- Korean Cuisine. They specialize in "hwea" which is like Korean sashimi. My family eats dinner here pretty often. Very friendly people and always encourage you to try things! Even though we order the Korean BBQ for the kids, it's very delicious and you can tell the meat is high quality compared to honey pig. I always recommend the spicy cod fish soup!

Oh! Also they just started a sushi lunch buffet. My friends have been raving about it! I'm definitely going to try it out ASAP!

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