Since the '80s tech boom changed the demographics of Beaverton, the suburb has slowly become Portland's only home for Korean food. And for the past 23 years since transforming the family bakery into a full-service restaurant, chef Tao Ok Lee has presided not only over Nak Won restaurant, but also K-Town.
At Nak Won, Lee cooks every dish herself with the individual attentiveness usually reserved for home cooks. All the classic dishes are solid here, whether a dolsot bibimbap with rice lightly kissed by stone-pot char, the rich comforts of chili-doused tteokbokki rice cakes, or a spicy octopus stir-fry tinged red with sweet-hot flavors from the wok. Choose something that looks good on the picture-heavy menu and it will taste as good as it looks.
But often it's the little details that set Nak Won above everyone else. Seafood pancakes, for instance, are a staple in Korean food, and Nak Won's are as stellar as they come, but their oft-ignored green onion-only cousin is revelatory here. The lack of extra moisture from the seafood allows the pancake to retain its crusty crunch longer, and a few splashes of the super-salty dipping sauce that accompanies it makes for some phenomenal mouthfuls. Nak Won also sports the only gamja (mashed potato salad) banchan really worth eating in town—tangy, sweet and salty.
Nak Won, 4600 Watson Ave., Beaverton, 503-646-9382. 11:30 am-2 pm Monday-Saturday, 5-8:30 pm Monday-Thursday, 5-8 pm Friday-Saturday. $$.
Pro tip: Bring friends. Though your meal will start with an array of lovely (and complimentary) banchan sides, from gamja to pungent kimchi and deep-marinated spinach, the $13-$20 menu is most rewarding in sampler form, which is only possible in large groups. In particular, don't miss the scallion haemul pancake or the kimchi samgyupsal, a spicy kimchi and pork-belly stir-fry.