Busan: pure delight for gourmet gluttons

January 11, 1991|By Lynn Williams | Lynn Williams,Sun Restaurant Critic

Busan

Where: 2101 Maryland Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Credit Cards: AE.

Features: Korean and Japanese dishes.

Non-smoking section: yes.

Call: 727-2929.

*** Busan is an adventure for gourmet globe-trotters -- people who enjoy traveling to distant lands, if only through their taste buds. It's also a glutton's dream. If your idea of bliss is sitting at a restaurant table for hours, as dish after delectable dish is set before you, this is your place.

Named after the owner-chef's hometown in Korea, Busan features a good selection of Korean and Japanese specialties, including some rarely seen eel dishes. (Oh tempura! Oh morays!) But instead of ordering from the menu or the sushi bar, customers can also choose, for a $30 flat fee, to eat whatever the chef is preparing that night. And to eat and eat. We thought we were merely in for a multicourse meal. But it eventually became clear that as long as we were willing to keep eating, the waiter would keep bringing us new dishes to try.

The first course consisted of four platters. A salad plate held lively squid salad spiced like kimchee, a slippery, seaweedy green vegetable with a decided ocean tang, and a mild, pleasant bean sprout salad. (I'm sure all of these have suitably exotic names, but our communications with our Korean waiter were pretty rudimentary.) Others contained pieces of sauteed salmon lots of bones but a marvelous flavor); terrific "Korean-style sashimi" in which the fish was mixed with a variety of vegetables in a spicy red sauce with sesame seeds, topped with dollops of flying fish roe; and a conventional salad with Russian dressing. This last remained mostly uneaten -- we wanted to save room for more ethnic offerings.

Next came a large platter of beautiful Japanese-style sashimi -- flower-like slices of fresh raw salmon, mackerel, red snapper and flounder. More fish followed -- firm white chunks that practically fell off the bone, in a peppery sauce with fresh ginger. This one was so good that our chopsticks sought out every morsel. And then came sushi, including a couple of hand-rolls containing flounder and avocado.

The next course, the waiter announced, would be "steak." It was -- well-cooked beef in brown gravy with peas, accompanied by a salad of shredded cabbage topped with more brown gravy and peas. After all that fish, we presumably should have been primed for some beef, but this was dull diner stuff.

Our last course raised our spirits again with strips of calamari, green beans and king crab in a fragile, crisp tempura batter. Lovely.

This bounty was served at a leisurely pace, so that we did not get as stuffed as we probably should have. The dining room was simple and cheerful, and the diners a noisy, convivial bunch. And they were mostly of Asian descent -- always a good sign for taste-trippers who prize authenticity as well as adventure.

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