Mr. Wok in Boise is one of a handful of Korean restaurants in the Treasure Valley. Korean food is known for two things—-their love of BBQ and their love of ban chan, which are basically appetizers/side dishes. Korean BBQ is cooked a few different ways at different restaurants. At Mr. Wok, they grill the food in the kitchen and bring it to you on a sizzling platter. The meat is coated in a delicious BBQ sauce and served with rice. Not unlike American BBQ, the sauce is a little sweet, a little sour and can be mild or hot. It is a way of cooking that is well worth trying if you would like to see what BBQ is like on the other side of the ocean.
Shortly after you sit down in Mr. Wok’s tastefully decorated dining room, your ban chan is served. Seven small dishes are presented, containing items such as a tender Korean pancake, spicy kimchi, pickled eggs, pickled cucumbers and more. Some people eat them as appetizers while others will eat them along with the main course—it’s all your choice. The Korean pancake is especially delicious, filled with slivers of green onion and very tasty. The kimchi and the cucumbers give a nice kick to the meal, two contrasting types of vegetables that really do build the appetite. Kimchi of course is the Korean fermented cabbage, of which there are infinite types made. One taste and you’ll be hooked on it with its spicy, tart flavor.
Main courses at Mr. Wok in Boise are broken into several areas. The most popular are the grilled meats, while others include soups and stews; and Mr. Wok also has a choice of combination meals where you can get both a soup and a grilled meat, or teriyaki and another meat which is an excellent way to go. The servers at Mr. Wok are helpful and happy to guide you through which dishes to try. The bulgogi is a very popular dish, sliced thin pieces of beef or pork grilled with onions and coated in a delectable BBQ sauce. It is served on a hot platter, so hot that the sauce literally sizzles when they bring it. The beef comes in a nice mild sauce while the pork is served spicy.
Another popular dish is the galbi. The beef version is the traditional thin-sliced short ribs while the pork is a combination of sliced pork and a nice pork rib. Both are good choices and very satisfying if you are someone who loves to chew on a bone. The pork rib especially was nice and tender, cooked very similarly to a nice rib at an American BBQ place. The beef ribs were meaty and prefect to bite on or off the bone. At Mr. Wok in Boise, the meats were tender and extremely flavorful.
Since Korea is a northern country which has cold winters, Korean cuisine places an emphasis on soups and stews. The soon tofu soups are very good and make a nice combination meal. The seafood soup was delicious, fresh clams and shrimp floating in a somewhat spicy broth, excellent for a cold day. The kimchi chigae is a substantial stew, a good choice for those who want to warm up with something spicy on a cold day.
Korea’s signature dish is called bibimbap, which is literally mixed rice with meat and vegetables. Mr. Wok has two versions, the regular bibimbap and also the hot stone pot bibimbap, where an egg is put in the hot bowl and is cook right in the pot. With both versions, the ingredients are laid out on top of the rice and it is up to you to mix them together as you wish. This is Korean comfort food at its best.
Besides meat, there are fish and seafood choices for those who prefer. For vegetarians, there are tofu selections also. For those who are not so adventurous as to to try Korean cuisine but still want to join in with everyone at Mr. Wok, they also have several non-Korean popular dishes such as a wide selection of Japanese Teriyaki or Chinese Sweet and Sour and Orange Chicken, plus the popular Japanese Ramen noodle soup. Gyoza dumplings, egg rolls and other Asian dishes are also available to enjoy.
Mr. Wok is a nice place to go if you want to try something different. Judging from the crowd that I saw on my visits, it is popular with Koreans and non-Koreans alike. For something that’s different, it is a great place to try and see an interesting cuisine. And if you know Korean food already, you’ll be very happy at Mr. Wok in Boise.
650 S. Vista Ave.
Boise, ID 83705
Photo gallery follows. All photos by Ed Simon for The Boise Beat.