It's an awkward arrival. Pulling up to a shabby Beaverton strip mall at dusk on a Saturday night, we expect to walk into a busy restaurant. It's totally empty. Called from the kitchen, our host seems confused. "Looking for the Korean restaurant?" he asks, leading us back out. "Next door."
No, this is the right place. The sign reads "KimSatGot Pocha," the Korean pub rumored to have great late-night food. Officially, it's been open for hours, but we came a little too early. The Pocha party goes until 2 am, and no one shows up before 10 pm. We take seats at the bar—more to ease service than for comfort—munching on sugar-coated mini-pretzels and ordering liberally from the menu of snacky small plates. "Way too much food," we're warned.
KimSatGot is the Korean version of the Japanese izakaya, late-night pubs serving food intended to pair with booze. As with its cousins in Portland proper—Wafu, Biwa, Shigezo—the menu in this dim, windowless room is matched to the drinks. KimSatGot sits near the Beaverton Transit Center, an area that's been called Little Korea, and caters to expats and service-industry types looking for late-night eats.
It's good food, but the sort of simple salty and sweet fare best enjoyed with drinks. This was not a problem. We ordered a soju cocktail ($15) and a big bottle of Hite beer ($6) to take the edge off that awkward entrance.
Soju, a Korean spirit, is distilled from barley, rice and other grains to be 20 percent alcohol, with a flavor somewhere between wheat vodka and a mild sake. The older generation, we're told, takes it straight and follows complex customs governing posture and drinking order. Youngsters and Westerners prefer it mixed with fruit concentrate. We order it with refrigerated mango pulp. The cocktail is served in a plastic carafe with two tiny plastic glasses—the shots sip like a Jamba Juice smoothie, but each one twists your lens slightly out of focus.
The food's arrival takes a bit, as the host is also the cook, waiter and owner, a veteran sushi chef who worked at restaurants from Beaverton to Vancouver before buying this place. "It's a one-man band," he tells us, unless things get busy enough to wake his wife at their home around the corner.
It's worth the wait. The spicy rice cake ($5) was a highlight, a plate of thick, pleasantly gummy rice noodles in a salty orange sauce on a bed of translucent sweet-potato noodles. The spicy pork bulgogi ($7) is decadent, as thin slices of meat are marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil and a variety of spices then grilled Korean-style. It's served in a big, sloppy pile, large enough to be shared by two and spicy enough to keep the Hite flowing. The seafood pancake ($7) was full of baby shrimp, scallions and tentacles, flavors that came through for my companion with a quick sprinkle of soy sauce.
Only the ramen ($5) was a disappointment, with unspringy noodles and a one-note sauce. I'll stick to Wafu. That is, unless it's after 11 pm, when my local izakaya closes just as the KimSatGot Pocha crowd starts showing up.
- Order this: Spicy rice cake ($5) and a big bottle of Hite ($6).
- Iâll pass: The chicken wings ($5) are small and light on flavor.
EAT: KimSatGot Pocha, 9955 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Suite 235, Beaverton, 746-5609. 5:30 pm-midnight Sunday-Monday, 5:30 pm-2 am Tuesday-Saturday. $ Inexpensive.