Ever since Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s popular restaurant Revel, hit the streets of Fremont, people always ask me, ”Are there other restaurants out there like this place?” I tell them to check out Chan.
Both restaurants achieve a modern aesthetic. Revel has got a hip casual contemporary feel that matches the vibe of the Center of the Universe, while Chan achieves a cool dark Zen vibe that makes me forget I am just steps away from the urban density of the Pike Place Market.
Revel always woos me with their killer cocktails and Chan has a similar effect. It is hard not to notice the eight jars of soju adorning the walls of the bar as you walk into the restaurant.
It is heart-wrenching difficult deciding between all of the flavors of the distilled vodka-like rice liquor such as the pineapple cinnamon, mint, and ginger. You can drink soju straight or mix it in a cocktail.
Owner and chef Heong Soon Park (who goes by Park), who moved to the States from Korea 10 years ago, reminds me of Rachel Yang’s sweet and earnest younger brother. When I compliment Park on a dish, he modestly smiles and says, “I will try to make it even better next time.”
Although both spots are Korean-themed, Revel is a riff off the traditional Korean dishes, while Chan’s stays a little bit truer to authenticity. Take the quintessential bibimbap, a rice bowl consisting of a potpourri of mixed veggies and meat, topped with an organic fried egg. Revel spins off into variations of the rice bowl with its tuna bowl and short rib bowl, while the version at Chan stays true to the traditional dish in structure and form. Park sources many ingredients locally. In fact, he gets a lot of his vegetables just steps away from the vendors at the Pike Place Market.
If you are more of a modernist when it comes to Asian eats, Chan can roll like that too with accessible dishes such as the kimchi paella served with Spanish chorizo, bulgogi (spicy beef) sliders, and chili caramel glazed chicken wings.
The menu is segmented into three sections: a traditional menu, a more Americanized one, and a hybrid. One thing I love about Revel is the uniqueness of eating internationally-themed dishes such as Asian dumpling filled with chickpeas and Middle Easter spices, but sometimes I crave a good ol’ fashioned tofu soup. Park has got that covered. As someone who has mastered the craft of Korean cuisine, his dishes have a consistent theme of tasting balanced so they are not exorbitantly spicy to the point where your mouth is burning and all you can taste is the sweet-spicy red gochujang sauce that commonly accompanies Korean food. But the dishes definitely have just the right amount of that signature kick I adore with Korean cuisine.
One of my favorite menu items is the seafood pancake, another popular Korean dish. Executed perfectly, the chef’s technique is just as good as the Korean restaurants up North, but Park’s rendition is tastier with plump and juicy oysters thrown into the mix along with fresh out of the sea-tasting bay shrimp.
Tip: If you frequent the value-friendly and portion-friendly Korean restaurants up North, steer away from the a la carte menu, where dishes range from $7-$14. Chan won’t be able to compete with the sheer mass of food you get at those restaurants because “stuffing your face” is not what he is going for. The portion sizes on the a la carte menu aren’t bird-like, but they are not hefty either.
Instead, I would order one of the $30 tasting menus which consists of 7-8 dishes. Even the burliest of compatriots will not leave hungry. We had to resort to taking home leftovers because of the sheer quantity.
Why choose Chan over one of the family-friendly Korean restaurants up North?
1) Because sometimes you crave sleek ambiance to go along with your banchan (pickled vegetables).
2) You want the fried egg that tops your rice bowl to originate from an organic local source and have the comfort of knowing the meat for your spicy bulgogi comes from a grass-fed cow.
3) You don’t feel like leaving Seattle proper to get some good Korean eats. You would rather spend your time checking out the Sculpture Park, strolling through the Pike Place Market or hitting up Barneys and Nordstrom for some retail therapy. They are all an easy walking distance away from Chan.