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Han Sung, Ellicott City - Chef Choong Mo Kang and GM Su Cha Kang's Korean-Japanese on Saint Johns Lane

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On a whim (or, it could have been a $20 Wednesday) I headed to Han Sung with Erin, several Baltimore chowhounds (BaltoEllen, Britboy, Dzoey, Crowsonguy) friends and spouses to check it out. This is a small, spare, home-style storefront, with friendly staff and lively families scattered around.

There were eight Korean dinner entrees listed in English, and about six others only in Korean. The rest of the menu is Japanese. Since the waitstaff speaks very little English, we communicated as best we could that we would like them to bring out a selection of typical Korean dishes for all of us to share, and a couple of soups as well. As a result of the language barrier, and the fact that all the dishes pretty much arrived at once after the soups, without time for explanations, we're not entirely sure what everything was, but it all sure was tasty!

This is not a place to compare to what you will find in New York's Koreatown, the panchan are a half-dozen simple preparations, there are no grills, and the dishes generally lack the complexity or fire one would find elsewhere. Highlights included the two soups - Man Doo Gook? - a mild ground meat and ginger dumpling soup with rice threads, and a spicier soup that seemed to have tongue and tendon included. Also, the Pa Jon (Hae mool?) was fabulous- a huge crispy rice flour pancake stuffed with scallion and shrimp. There was a moderaltely spicy squid dish that really was tender and fresh. The pork and bulgoki dishes were not typical brazier style, but also very flavorful and tender. Not sure about the fish - possibly salted deep fried croaker? was more bones than meat - tough going. Bibimbap was home-style comfort food, but we had to ask for the redbean paste that usually accompanies it. By the time we realized we were not going to be served the hwae du bop we were too stuffed to ask for it. We saw it on other tables and it looked wonderful.

Total damage was an amazing $16 per, before drinks and tip. All in all, a good adventure into the hinterlands.

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I'd never before been to Han Sung, but it has always had a special place in my heart as the oldest post in the Baltimore Restaurants and Dining Forum.

I stopped in earlier this week, and since it was before the dinner hour, the restaurant was empty except for two other people. Han Sung is Korean-owned, but has a fairly even split between Korean and Japanese dishes. On the wall is a little blurb about it from the Baltimore Sun, written on June 25, 1998, so the restaurant has been here for awhile under the same ownership.

The staff was as nice as they could be, and even though I wasn't terribly hungry, I got something to go for later. I originally ordered a HanSung Special which was raw flounder with "special sauce," but Chef Kang told me that because of the hurricane (this was towards the end of it), deliveries were awry, and so there was no flounder.

Asking him if there was any fresh fish available, he said "tuna, salmon, yellowtail" and I nodded my head with approval. I'm something of a salmon slut, and I think of salmon in much the same way as a college student thinks of pizza (even when it's bad ...). Then he asked me if I liked octopus and skate (raw skate is your tip-off that this is Korean-owned), and I said sure, and so with some trepidation, I got my takeout order of Sasimi [sic] ($10.95). In Annandale, it's usually a terrible idea to order sushi at a Korean restaurant because it's almost always lame, frozen fish that's not kept well at all, but when I arrived at my final destination, I opened the container, and was delighted to see an artfully arranged platter of very nice looking fish. Of course they weren't swimming the day before, but this is definitely above-average sashimi, bordering on being quite good, and better than most anything I've had recently in Annandale (which admittedly isn't much).

Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, octopus, and an elaborate presentation of skate, all of it well-worth enjoying, and the octopus a particular standout. The picture says it all (albeit in mediocre quality): 12 medium-small pieces for $10.95. I'd happily get this again, and wish I had Han Sung nearby as a lunch option.


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