AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – If you want to know how authentic a Korean restaurant is, check on who eats there.
The clientele at Korea, 15 N. Canfield-Niles Road in Austintown, includes many Korean nationals living in the area while they work in the Ultium Cells plant that is under construction in Lordstown.
The restaurant is owned by Jin-Kyung Lin, who uses the traditional recipes and ingredients of Korea. Lin moved here three months ago from Los Angeles, where she also operated a restaurant.
Korea is the first restaurant specializing in that nation’s cuisine to open in the Mahoning Valley in recent memory. Its menu is concise but covers all the staples. Of course, there is bulgogi and kimchee, the two foods for which Korea is best known.
There are also soups, noodle dishes, braised beef rib, spicy octopus, spicy squid, pork belly, hot pot and some chicken dishes.
The meat-based entrees are in the $25 range.
The restaurant also has a small bar that features Korean beer.
Jonathan Kim works for a Korean hospitality company that procures housing, food and transportation serv-ices for the Ultium Cells contingent that is living in the Mahoning Valley. On a recent visit, he pointed out what makes Korean food unique among Asian cuisines.
“The Korean tradition of food is that it is spicy and there are many kinds of soup,” said Kim, serving as a spokesman for Lin.
It differs from Chinese food in one significant way.
“Chinese recipes are usually fried in oil,” Kim said. “[Korean food] is usually mixed with sugar, chili powder, sesame oil, and then meat, vegetables or tofu, like a salad.”
Bulgogi, for example, is thinly sliced strips of beef prepared with onions and in a brown sauce.
“The sauce is a big part of it,” Kim said. “We’re very proud of our sauce.”
Korea is open six days a week, with a daily luncheon buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is closed Sunday.