If you're the type that enjoys visiting bigger cities for the variety of international restaurants (beyond sushi or enchiladas), we have great news for you: Stonebowl Korean Restaurant has opened in south Asheville. It's interesting enough that, with the opening of the Korean-Mexican food truck El Kimchi, we now have two options for Korean food. Even more exciting is that the place is quite good.
Stonebowl is owned by Kristina Im and Rita Chen, recent transplants to Asheville from Brooklyn. The restaurant focuses on traditional and authentic Korean dishes, thankfully eschewing the pan-Asian route — for the most part.
There's bo ssam (a generous portion of pork butt served with an array of accompaniments); bibimbap (a rice bowl with vegetables, fried egg and spicy sauce); and bulgogi (grilled marinated beef served sizzling on a platter with lettuce for wrapping, rice, garlic and a pungent sauce — do remember to throw your garlic cloves on the hot plate, too). There's Korean mackerel and goon man du, delicious little handmade dumplings filled with meat and served with a spicy sauce. Though we’re tickled over adventurous dishes like gom tang (oxtail and beef-intestine soup), there are vegetarian options.
Dinner prices range from $3 appetizer dishes up to $39 for the hae mul jungol, a stew pot for two full of shellfish with sweet potato noodles and vegetables. The sizzling Korean stone bowls that give the restaurant its name come in eight varieties, from tofu and vegetable to bulgogi, and one with grilled eel. All bowls are $15. The dishes on the truncated lunch menu are $9. And listen up: the restaurant doesn’t have an alcohol license yet, but it’s coming.
Everything is served with banchan, the traditional offerings of tiny dishes like seaweed and watercress and kimchi, Korean food's staple sidekick. Note that the kimchi is made fresh at the restaurant and will vary in funkiness until Stonebowl finds its rhythm. The kimchi we tried on our visit was lacking the fermented, sour punch that defines it, and one of the owners did admit that it was only two-days old; the unexpected crowds over the weekend had diminished the supply. How many times have you had a restaurateur apologize for too much freshness? Tip: if you like your food spicy, say so.
Stonebowl Korean is located at 1987 Hendersonville Road in Arden. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. for lunch, and from 5 until 10 p.m. for dinner. Call 676-2172 for more information.
— Send your food news and tips to Mackensy Lunsford at email@example.com.