Bewon serves well-sauced fare, soberly
Housed in an overlookable strip mall off Plymouth Road near the US 23 onramp, Bewon (3574 Plymouth) belongs to a niche genre of low-key Korean restaurants with interiors resembling rural American diners. The restaurant’s walls, hand painted with a subdued Cotswolds botanical motif, create a wholesome mise en scène for homey Korean cuisine.
My Seoul-born dining companion lived in Korea for a dozen years and explained that the “won” suffix in the restaurant’s name referred to the Korean word for “garden,” which seemed to justify the impressionistic murals. He also assured me that Bewon’s fare was suited to enhance a meal characterized by prodigious drinking.
And though the only drinks we imbibed at lunch were several mugs of herbaceous barley tea, imagining how a few carafes of warm soju might interact with the food we ordered is a tangent that warrants further exploration, preferably after a long week, rather than during a weekday lunch.
Speaking Korean, my dining companion ordered the Dukboki ($7.95) and assured them that his abjectly un-Korean friend (i.e. this reviewer) could handle the dish’s spice. The Dukboki arrived as a collection of tubular chewy rice cakes topped with shaved root veggies resting in a warm pool of picante gochujang chili paste inflected with nutty sesame oil.
The Soon Tofu soup ($10.95) roiled with heat as the server placed its stone bowl on the plexiglass topping the tablecloth. Soft tofu clouds blanketed the soup’s coral-hued broth, which boasted a marine flavor traceable to the shell-on clams and shrimp treasures simmering beneath.
A usual precursor to Korean main courses, our server presented a variety of bahn chan foods in circular ceramic dishes the size of drink coasters. These entreé prologues included jade seaweed salad sprinkled with sesame seeds, delightfully acerbic strips of pickled daikon, crunchy chilled kimchi, rectangles of textured pancake dotted with soy sauce and sweet potato cubes.
My dining companion described the plate of Kimchi Sam-Gyup Sal ($13.95) as drinking food common in Korean dens of iniquity but somewhat obscure for American-based Korean restaurant menus. Twice as wide as strips of American bacon, the dish’s pork belly edges were crisped, while the center of the cut had a texture typical of fine craft jerky. Tenderized by the dish’s heat, the hot kimchi complemented the pork belly with a supple vegetality.
Now visualize how the residual sugars in a crisp beer would tease more heat from these Dukboki’s spicy gochujang. Or how soju might complement the Kimchi Sam-Gyup Sal’s lingering pork belly oil with a palate-cleansing splash of an alcohol-based beverage.
My dining companion assured me that the dishes we ordered comprised an array of Korean drinking food, but because our visit was a weekday lunch, my dining companion and I recognized the enjoyment of each of the dishes in the absence of alcohol. Though Bewon does not serve alcohol, the fare is a welcome addition for any local epicurean.
3574 Plymouth Rd. Ann Arbor | 734-332-1004
Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm, Sun Closed