Best Restaurants 2016: Casual Korean

Portland’s Coolest New Restaurant: Han Oak

Salt-baked pork belly bo ssam to thumping ’80s hip-hop, Peter Cho’s casual Korean spot is the place to be right now.

By Benjamin Tepler October 10, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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We're calling it: Han Oak is the coolest restaurant of the moment. Hidden from view on NE 24th Avenue, it doubles as chef Peter Cho’s home—a grassy, scrappily assembled courtyard tangled with ivy and outfitted with a wood-burning furnace and movie projector. Three nights a week only, his casa is su casa.

The former right-hand man to New York food star April Bloomfield (the Spotted Pig), Cho has created a casual Korean hodgepodge. It’s a breath of fresh air for a cuisine that, here, exists most prominently (and stagnantly) in Beaverton. At night, under strung lights and thumping ’80s hip-hop, a barrage of seasonal banchan—miso-tofu-summer squash, classic daikon kimchi, salt-baked pork belly bo ssam, and gochujang-fried romanesco—descends from a cast of rotating veteran chefs-in-residence, united by Cho’s seat-of-the-pants ethos. Cho, meanwhile, stands in the corner wrapping tender, juicy pork and chive dumplings to order; you could launch an artisan empire with these things. At brunch, children tumble through the courtyard while in-the-know guests and curious passersby chopstick into beautiful trays of omurice (a kind of Japanese omelet stuffed with fried rice and covered in egg sauce) and mung bean pancake wedges, flattened with kimchi, pork, and scallion. Kimchi-juice micheladas and sac sac soda mimosas represent Asian fusion at its best. Cho might even join you for a drink. 

(We've got more on Han Oak's farm-fresh Korean brunch in our June 2016 review.)

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