If you asked what my top 10 favorite takeout meals were during the 2020 lockdown, I can confidently count all three of my San Ho Won takeouts among them. While the world was seemingly falling apart, these meals alone at home gave me such quiet comfort and joy. And now that I’ve experienced the recently opened San Ho Won as it was intended at the restaurant itself, they have also topped my favorite meals of 2021.
San Ho Won is the more “casual” Korean BBQ restaurant from Chefs Corey Lee and Jeong-In Hwang of Benu. I put casual in quotes, because while the format, price point, and dishes are more accessible than Benu, the attention to detail and quality of both food and service are still very much reflective of their Michelin three-star pedigree.
Given how much I enjoyed the takeout previews, I was beyond excited when the restaurant finally opened for indoor dining after many delays. It seemed like the Bay Area felt the same, as reservations were (and still are) booked immediately upon release. When I booked back in early November, midnight was the magic hour for new availability. I fell asleep early that night, but randomly woke up at 3:30am, and to my luck snagged a reservation a month out for when my Mom would be visiting.
The day of the dinner, I had built up so much anticipation that I was almost scared I would be let down! Upon entering the restaurant, I eagerly took in the understated, airy interior and the soothing feel of the light wood booths contrasted with dark hues. I knew I was in for a treat.
The menu is sizable and features comforting Korean dishes with a modern and elevated take. We opted for the House Menu, which had fillet and short rib charcoal BBQ, along with a few smaller courses. Barley tea and banchan kicked off the meal. Next were appetizers of Galbi Mandu and an incredibly fluffy Savory Egg Soufflé carefully spooned into bowls tableside with an anchovy broth.
For the BBQ, the Jebi Churi (prime beef neck fillet) arrived first, along with a few sauces, pickles, and ssam wraps. The fillet was incredibly tender, perfectly seasoned and cooked. I had to stop myself from finishing the entire portion before the Galbi (prime beef short rib) came out! And as much as I enjoyed the Jebi Churi, the Galbi was on another level. Hands down the best galbi I’ve tried.
At this point I was getting full and basking in food happiness, but I was in for another treat. The Kimchi Jjigae Pozole was a fusion dish I didn’t know I needed in my life. I even raved to my mom about the texture of the hominy. The vegetable bibimbap was the one forgettable course of the night – not bad at all, but not on the level of the others.
Dessert was a duo of soft serves – Banana Milk Nutella and Roasted Buckwheat Honey. A delightfully sweet ending. I also must mention the excellent and extremely polite service, which felt on par with Benu. I have my next reservation coming up and eagerly look forward to trying more of the menu!
And my three takeout preview menus that bought me so comfort last year.