Food & Drink

How One Man Is Making an Obscure Korean Liquor Seattle's Next Big Thing

Published On 02/06/2017 Published On 02/06/2017
Korean Liquor
Naomi Tomky/Thrillist
Naomi Tomky/Thrillist
Naomi Tomky/Thrillist
Naomi Tomky/Thrillist
Naomi Tomky/Thrillist
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1. Girin Steakhouse & Ssam Bar 501 Stadium Pl S, Seattle, WA 98104 (Pioneer Square)

Helmed by whole-butchery-trained chef Brandon Kirksey, this Seattle-based Korean steakhouse takes meat very seriously. The trendy Pioneer Square eatery features a street-facing glass-encased meat locker with fleshy pink flanks hanging in rows from the ceiling, a wood-framed open kitchen, and delicate floor cushions for cross-legged dining (while there's traditional seating, as well). The majority of the menu items are modern derivatives of traditional Korean dishes, like the popular Girin rendition of yukwhe (Korean beef tartare), prepared with thinly sliced NY strip loin, cured in Asian pear-infused sesame oil, and topped with a quail egg. The drink roster is an equally impressive amalgam of niche Korean spirits, offering various iterations of makgeolli (a small-batch Korean liquor made from rice and wheat), soju, and sake, along with house cocktails crafted with things like ginseng and Korean chili.

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2. Umi Sake House 2230 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 (Belltown)

On any given night at Umi, you're likely to find Seattle locals sitting cross-legged on wide cushions, sipping St. Germaine and Hibiscus-Sake cocktails while talking politics over Izakaya-style snacks. The pan-Asian fare ranges from remarkably fresh sushi and sashimi to cooked small plates like lobster tempura, but the beverage catalog is truly the restaurant's standout feature. Beyond the impressive list of sake, there are separate menus for house cocktails and champagne-based mixed drinks.

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3. Momiji 1522 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122 (Capitol Hill)

From the sushi impresario behind Umi and Kushi bar, this modernist Asian-style seafood eatery is something of a zen hideaway for frequenters of Capitol Hill. The Oasis-like courtyard, home to a greenery-framed Kyoto-style rock garden, is situated between the venue's two distinct sections: the bar and the dining room. The bar is dramatically lit with crimson walls, tin ceilings, and throngs of cocktail-toting Washingtonians, sipping on some of the spot's signature sake cocktails (think apple-sake with honey and brandy). The dining room, by contrast, is much brighter, with heavy cherrywood tables, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a bustling open kitchen. Here, patrons chatter over traditional Yakisoba noodle bowls, plates of grilled soy-glazed squid, and rows of inventive house sushi rolls, while ceramic pots of steaming sake serve as centerpieces on most tables.

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