Man v. Food: Koreana
Koreana’s Japanese Cuisine is truly an intriguing asset to Decorah. Situated on Water Street next to Donlon Health Mart, it offers a unique alternative to its more American neighbor, T-Bocks. A modest menu in the window lists dishes such as Squid Salad, “Monkey Brain,” Salmon Teriyaki, as well as sushi dishes cleverly entitled the Viking Roll, the Heart Attack Roll and the Oh-My-God!
Nika and Hyang Lee, the owners of Cho Sun restaurant, created this delicious sushi café; having visited Cho Sun as well, I can say that Koreana is definitely more than an extension.
Simply walking inside offered me an authentic glimpse of the modern Japanese (at least, Western-style) dining experience. Elaborately decorated, the restaurant is split into sections separated by shelving units. It reminded me of those shoji screens, or room dividers, except that they contained bonsai trees and intricate figurines.
Surrounded by some sculptures and bamboo-style greenery, I felt particularly far away from Luther. There are also some not-so-PG paintings on the walls, but the atmosphere was far from uncomfortable. People talked and laughed nearby as they enjoyed a lunch seemingly from an upscale, West Coast sushi house.
Now, on to the food. Being a college student and having absorbed the extent of my surroundings, I felt particularly limited financially. But the menu was more than generous in its selection of reasonably-priced dishes. I decided to order an appetizer of fresh edamame (immature soy beans) and a Chinese/Tsingtao beer (they were out of Japanese beer). Immediately I was brought water and some miso soup (soy broth thickened with miso, seaweed, scallions and silkened tofu). After that I saw my server very rarely. There were a few times when she brought out food, but her expression suggested that I had done something preposterous. Had I been holding my chopsticks incorrectly? Probably.
At some point I received my entree. I had ordered a “Lunch Box,” which is served with three pieces of the daily special roll, orange chicken, rice, tempura and choice of soup or salad. I decided to splurge and get the beef teriyaki Lunch Box for $8.95, though the chicken teriyaki, for example, was only $7.95. (No dollar store trip for me.) And let me tell you, that was a lot of food. I left with the distinct impression that the rice had expanded in my stomach: a not entirely-unpleasant sensation. I only had to sit and digest for a few minutes before my check arrived.
Koreana is one of those places you go to on a whim, preferably with friends. It offers something different, something not that expensive (an hour of work study, say), and something that you won’t regret eating.
If sushi isn’t your thing (it’s not mine), then there are plenty of other delectable options. My edamame was crisp and salty, my soup was interesting and my Lunch Box was both sweet and savory. The orange chicken in particular was zesty, chewy and definitely made from chicken. The beef teriyaki was rich and garlicy, and it took me back to stir-fry days in the Caf. Nay, it superceded them.
I will most definitely be going back to Koreana, not so much for the service as for the exquisite Japanese food. Admittedly, I don’t have much to compare it to. But I do know that it’s good to get out of the Luther bubble every now and then and do (in this case, eat) something unique. Out of five pieces of Nori (edible seaweed), I give Koreana four pieces of Nori.