Last month I went to a Yelp event at Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen in Troy, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how amazing the food was. Not only does this place have a great social mission, with an emphasis on supporting immigrants and refugees, but it also sources much of its ingredients from local farms. And on top of all that, the food is incredible.
Before this year, I really didn’t have much experience with Korean food. I could recognize a few of the staple dishes if I saw them on a menu, but I never really knew how to pronounce them, or what they were made of. I have been to a few local places that have a mix of Asian cuisines (like Kinnaree, which has Japanese, Thai, and Korean), but I mostly tend to steer toward more familiar dishes. I’ve also tried the Korean plates at Troy Kitchen, but that’s more of a simple, street-food type of cuisine that isn’t particularly intimidating. And despite multiple attempts to try kimchi, I’m not sure that I’ll ever convince myself to enjoy it.
But I know there’s still a lot about Korean food that I don’t know. One of the great things about the Yelp event was that we got to sample a few dishes and hear directly from Sunhee’s owner about the history and preparation of each one. It gave me just enough of a comfort level with the menu to go back again and order lots of new dishes.
One of my favorites is the bibimbap rice bowl, which at Sunhee’s has a base of purple rice, topped with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. I like to add a fried egg for some extra protein and richness from the yolk (other options are beef or tofu). The dish has a mild sesame oil flavor, and you get a side of spicy sauce to add in to your desired heat level. The key to this dish is to mix everything up into one delicious jumble of rice and fresh vegetable deliciousness.
We also tried the scallion pancake appetizer, which comes with big chunks of seafood mixed throughout.
The batter is egg-based and light, and the pieces of scallion added some crunch. Although I enjoyed the flavors in this dish, and thought it was seasoned with the perfect level of saltiness, our pancake was too heavy with oil. I might skip this one next time.
Lastly, we tried another appetizer dish (which turned out to be large enough to be a full entree) – the japchae noodles. These thin sweet potato noodles are served with sauteed vegetables, big meaty mushrooms, and a mildly sweet, soy-based sauce. They were served warm, and had a really interesting, slightly chewy texture.
Sunhee’s really emphasizes the quality of their produce and their direct sourcing from a family farm and other local vendors, and I was happy to see that this quality was readily apparent in the dishes. Everything tasted fresh and flavorful, and I loved the little details like a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top of most dishes. The portions were big (we might have over ordered by several appetizers), but the bill was still more than affordable.
It’s worth pointing out that the service is very casual. You order at the counter, pick an available seat, and then wait for your food to be brought out. There’s also an interesting section of the restaurant near the cash register where you can browse through shelves of Korean snacks. The vibe is very laid-back and friendly – a great place to eat a leisurely meal with a group of friends where you can sample lots of different dishes.
Final Rating: 8/10. Sunhee’s gets points for a menu that is full of vegetable-centric dishes and vibrant local produce. The flavors are clean and bold, and there is enough variety to provide a good introduction to Korean food for those like me that are somewhat unfamiliar. The savory flavors and the generous portion sizes make this a great place for late night comfort food or a casual dinner spot. I’m hoping to return soon to try the last few dishes on the menu that I haven’t gotten around to yet, and to spend some time at the newly opened bar.
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