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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Northwest Portland
1203 NW 23rd Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 464-9222
BeWon Korean
Korean gone underground and upscale

BeWon was King Tae Jong’s secret royal garden, a favorite escape for outdoor feasts and celebrations. Down a stairway from bustling Trendy-Third Street and tucked under another floor, this BeWon is also something of a quiet, festive hideaway. The setting is cool and modern, the tables covered with crisp white linens, and the service is some of the most knowledgeable and professional in the city. And, unlike at those divier Korean joints along 82nd Avenue, there’s no smoke here to cling to your clothes.

While there is a standard menu, the most fun is the han jung shik, a seven-course tasting meal offered at an incredibly low price (but at least two people at the table must order it). In a total departure from the Korean-restaurant norm, some refreshingly astute wine pairings are available for a little extra, and the prices on these mostly small-production bottles are also ridiculously low.

You’ll start the tasting menu with hobak-juk, a bright-orange rice porridge made with three different pumpkins—it’s thick and slightly sweet; and samsak gyu-ja-chae, a little salad of three julienned vegetables with mustard dressing, a great, refreshing contrast. Next is gujeolpan, crêpes that you fill with shiitake and black mushrooms, cucumber, carrot, chopped hard-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and minced beef. Each of these things is an explosive delicacy. Japchae, stir-fried sweet potato noodles, are completely addictive, earthy and not at all sugary, with a few mushrooms and other vegetables adding texture and depth.

We like most of the mains, but the best are daeji bulgogi (spicy pork with onions and scallions), galbi (tender, melting short ribs), and go-deung-uh (broiled mackerel caked in sea salt). A bowl of boiling chi-ge (tofu bean curd stew) is also placed in the middle of the table, surrounded by nine seasonal banchan dishes and rice, making something of a vivid artist’s palette. You might be treated to sautéed spinach, fermented black beans, dried squid in chili sauce, thinly sliced dark mushrooms, kimchi, mung bean sprouts, and so on. Your grandmother will be so pleased to see that you’re eating enough.

A couple of light digestif courses cap the meal, with barley tea and dduk, a mellow, slightly sticky rice cake that grows on you as you eat it.

Ordering à la carte certainly isn’t a bad idea, and the usual suspects are all here, but BeWon’s bargain prix-fixe is the optimal way to try the full spectrum of Korean cooking. It’s an experience like no other in town.

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