GRAND AVENUE, WEST OF 580 – April 2016
Hi Neighbors! This month we take a closer look at Jong Ga House, meeting the family that owns this authentic Korean restaurant in our neighborhood and appreciating the delicious food. – LZ.
Jong Ga House – Classic Korean Cuisine
For years I walked past Jong Ga House, the popular Korean restaurant at 372 Grand Avenue owned by Byung and Kyung Oh. I often observed clusters of Korean diners overflowing onto the sidewalk while waiting for their tables. But I was unfamiliar with Korean food beyond hearing cautions that Western palates may recoil at kimchi, a super spicy fermented Korean side dish made of Napa cabbage and other vegetables that is a staple of Korean dining. Last month, I saw the world premiere of Julia Cho’s “Aubergine” at Berkeley Rep Theatre. In her review in the Mercury News, Karen D’Souza called this play, “A comforting stew of family, food and memory [that] has an unexpectedly bracing bite” and it was wonderful. So I decided it was time to bravely try the foods at Jong Ga House -and they were delicious.
Jong Ga House is family owned and operated. Sixteen years ago, Byung and Kyung Oh were still living in Seoul when they discovered the Korean restaurant operating at this site and purchased it. They quickly relocated to Oakland, attracted by this opportunity, our Mediterranean climate, and Oakland’s proximity to their children who were in college in California. Their daughter, Ji Kim, has since earned her BA from SFSU; is married and sometimes works at the restaurant. Her brother is studying pharmacy in southern California.
In 2000, the new owners chose a very traditional name for their Korean restaurant. Jong Ga House means “Head of Family’s House”. Next they did some remodeling to enhance the restaurant’s Hanok (“traditional house”) interior design features. The interior looks much like a traditional Korean home. You’ll note the extensive use of wooden pillars, beams, and rafters, many windows and mock windows, clean lines, and the spare use of paintings or other wall hangings.
Most importantly, Kyung Oh wants all of her customers to receive attentive service and to enjoy a broad array of traditional Korean dishes. First time diners may be surprised at all of the free extras. All lunch entrée orders are preceded by 12 small servings of assorted appetizers (called banchan) and soup, plus Korean candies for dessert. All for free. My soup was a cold young radish kimchi noodle soup that put me in mind of a Korean gazpacho. At dinner, anticipate 16 banchan, soup, and a sweet rice drink for free. Each item will be refilled as much as you wish, but save room for the main course.
Kyung Oh is proud that Jong Ga House serves more variety than most Korean restaurants. Even so, many people choose her traditional bi bim bap, i.e., an order of beef (or pork, chicken, or mushroom), fresh seasoned vegetables, a fried egg and rice in a hot stone bowl. Mix with hot sauce. The rice at the bottom will be crispy for an extra texture. All-you-can-eat B-B-Q, with meat grilled at your table, is another popular choice. Guests order 3 items at a time, served with soup, then repeat, for $22.99 per person or $13.99 for children 12 and younger.
Main floor tables seat 1 to 12 guests and can easily combine to serve a group of 18. In addition, an elegant dining room upstairs serves groups up to 30. A small ante room near the door includes a flat screen t.v. to entertain people waiting for seats. There is also a t.v. tucked behind the bar in case you are waiting on one of the stools along the full bar. Bottom line: although carry-out ordering is available, this place is worth the wait.
Jong Ga House
372 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
Mon. – Sat. 11 AM – 11 PM
Sun. Noon – 11 PM
Dine In or Carry Out