Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday; closed Sunday
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Quincy has not lacked for Asian cuisine, its neighborhoods dotted with Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and Indian restaurants. But only recently has Korean barbecue joined the mix.
Korean Grille opened a year ago on busy Hancock Street. As a fan of Korean barbecue, I eagerly welcomed the arrival of this cuisine, in which diners usually cook marinated, thinly sliced meats themselves at the table, the sizzling and aromas up front for your enjoyment.
Sadly, there are no small grills built into the tables here; all the cooking takes place in the kitchen behind beaded curtains. But that’s easily overlooked when tasting the food.
Bulgogi ($17) is the best-known dish of Korean barbecue. It arrives here in a sizzling platter, the edges of the beef slightly charred and caramelized and the center juicy and tender. There’s a more affordable lunch box version ($10) that comes with noodles and vegetables. The beef is usually marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onion, and pear, but in a twist pineapple takes the place of pear to add subtle sweetness.
“That’s my mother’s recipe,” said Suk Grindle, owner and chef. She hails from Busan, a South Korean city she said is known for bold and spicy cuisine, with a focus on seafood.
Her Korean pancake ($8) makes an excellent starter, savory and more delicate and eggy than the flapjacks you might eat for breakfast. Pork, vegetables, and garlic chives are cooked into the thin layer, and slices are dipped in a sweet soy sauce.
The dumpling soup ($5) has freshly made dumplings filled with Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and glass noodles in a broth filled with vegetables. The dough is slightly thick and nicely chewy, and the filling is light and not overly hearty, leaving you room to enjoy the rest of the meal.
The menu also includes sushi, and deal seekers will find a 20 percent discount every Wednesday. The kimchi roll ($4) was all right, gingery with a spiciness that warms up at the end.
On the other hand, the American Dream ($14) — made with deep-fried shrimp, cucumber, crab, avocado, and eel — was a pleasure to eat. Each bite had the briny and sweet notes of seafood, with the creaminess of avocado and the crunchiness of the fried shrimp. It sounds like a lot going on in one bite, and it is, but the components come together beautifully.
“I think of what people like,” said the sushi chef, “Jacki” Chen Fang, when explaining what inspires his creativity. He spoke in Mandarin, which comes more easily than English to him.
Fang socializes with customers, boisterously calling out off-the-menu items, combinations that have struck his fancy, and then seeking your verdict. His origins are in Hong Kong, and he trained in Tokyo.
Less nuanced were the Korean-style chicken wings ($8), dominated by a sugary sauce that demanded a stack of napkins. A little heat crept up at the end, though I wished there had been some other flavor to counter and balance the sweet.
I was disappointed that they ran out of barbecued pork belly ($32 for two people), and opted instead for the japchae ($13). There was no disappointment there. The glass noodles are made of sweet-potato starch, but don’t taste like the vegetable, and they were stir-fried with beef and vegetables. The carrots, peppers, zucchini, and greens were cooked to a perfect blend of crisp and tender, and the slippery noodles and beef in soy sauce and sesame oil were very satisfying.
The kal bi tang ($14), a soup of short ribs, radishes, noodles, and egg in a beef broth, was a feat to eat. The meat fell off the wide bones, but attempts to eat it neatly were futile. The flavors aren’t so bold here, but the short ribs are tender.
Korean meals come with an array of small side dishes collectively called banchan. There were blanched green beans, bean sprouts, kimchi, and black beans marinated in soy sauce and brown sugar. Pickled dishes — eggplant, cucumber, and cabbage with Brussels sprouts — were vinegary and mildly spicy.
Whether it was heat or the acidity of vinegar, these side dishes were not bland. Watch out for the anchovies with hot peppers — they seared my tongue and burned for the next several minutes.
The dessert menu, composed only of mochi ice cream or fruit cocktail, looked uninspired, so I skipped it.
Service is attentive. The sushi bar seats four, and the small and attractive space seats 20 more. Paper lanterns and parasols hang above the sushi bar, and seaside paintings for sale by a local artist adorn the walls.
Grindle has worked in other Korean restaurants in Greater Boston, but saw a void to fill on the South Shore.
“There was no Korean restaurant in Quincy,” she said. “If I wanted to eat barbecue, I had to go somewhere else.”