4600 SW Watson Ave., Beaverton, 646-9382.
[SEOUL FOOD] Much like how a mezze can give you a good sense of the quality of a Lebanese restaurant, you can tell a lot about a Korean restaurant by their soft tofu soup. Nakwon's soondubu chigae is emblematic of the rest of the menu: perfectly balanced in flavor and exactly what you thought you wanted when you ordered it. The vegetarian version ($10) displays the depth of proper seasoning without being too salty, the heat provided by the red pepper powder—a slow, fortifying burn that buoys the earthiness of the shiitake mushrooms floating within. Koreans love their meat, and you'd be remiss not to partake in a classic like their beef bulgogi, paper-thin slices of grilled, marinated rib-eye ($14). Move out of your comfort zone, though and you may stumble upon a gem like the manduguk ($12), a dumpling soup with large chunks of boiled brisket and clear potato-starch noodles. If your intent is to explore the breadth and depth of Nakwon's menu, plan on making multiple trips or bring friends, since it is extensive, the portions generous and the steady supply of banchan side dishes means you fill up quickly. Actually, the banchan is so abundant and filling, a side of rice is all you would need for a proper meal.
Ideal meal: Start with the soft tofu soup, get any of the grilled meats and loosen your belt.
Best deal: The banchan is gratis, which already adds to the ridiculous value.
Pro tip: Want to impress your dining companions? Order anything with the clear noodles and then brag about how you're dining on a non-Newtonian substance. That's right, dangmyeon is made from potato-starch Oobleck.
11 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-2:30 pm and 5-8:30 pm Friday-Saturday. $$.