This review was written on my personal blog shortly after Sung opened. Between the holidays and travel, I haven’t been back, but I plan on returning next week for their first wine dinner.
Last week– Wednesday, to be precise– the old Aioli space reopened as Sung Korean Bistro. If you’re remotely food-oriented in Cincinnati, you’ve heard of Riverside Korean in Covington, which really isn’t riverside (it’s 3 blocks north) but has some of the best Korean food most of us in Cincinnati have ever had. It’s one of those teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall places that only has ten tables (half of them with burners for Korean barbecue, the other half the shoeless, on-the-floor experience) but the food is totally worth the wait. The restaurant was recently sold, and Sung (the brother of the original owner, and chef owner/namesake of Sung) has opened his own restaurant on this side of the river. He’s done gorgeous things with the space, and it’s now very modern and Asian-influenced (though the running joke with the hostess, manager, and our waiter was ‘Watch your head!’ The lamps above the tables are a little low, and the hostess said, “It was installed by an Asian guy, and he didn’t take into account tall Americans when he installed them!”) and quite lovely.
According to interviews, Sung Oh opened the restaurant to “challenge” Korean cuisine. I should have remembered that and taken a closer look at the menu, because I didn’t find anything “fusion” or really “different” with the dishes my dining companion ordered, which were dishes I consider “standards” at Korean restaurants. This is not a bad thing, because the dishes were really quite fantastic. We started off with some vegetable dumplings– everyone likes dumplings, right?– which were crisply fried and served with a hot-sweet soy-based sauce for dipping. They were delicious and plated very attractively. I ordered the dak bulgogi, which is korean-style barbecue chicken. It wasn’t terribly hot (which is good, as I tend to not like my mouth on fire), but well seasoned and really quite delicious (the best bulgogi I’ve had in town). My friend ordered dolsot bibimbap, which he said was just like Riverside Korean’s, which is a good thing. It didn’t get quite the same sort of crispy rice crust Riverside’s did, but our waiter admitted that he’d only been exposed to Korean food as of Wednesday, so I’m guessing he just wasn’t up on the finer aspects of fond. An entirely forgivable offense, as the bite I had was quite tasty, and my friend said that this was “just what he was craving”. Most of the other dishes on the menu are traditionally Korean, and based on the dishes we had, I’ll bet you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Asian restaurants, particularly here, often have a wine list that consists of Sutter Home, Sake and plum wine, but Sung collaborated with the late Paul Ortiz on a wine list that is varied and interesting. I had a nice burgundy whose name I should have jotted down, as it was a great compliment to my entree.
Sung is a welcome addition to downtown– I can’t wait to come back and try a few more dishes!
Have you tried it? Comment here and let me know what you think.