Classic Tables: Cho Sun Ok

Beef up at Chicago's oldest Korean restaurant

With three decades of experience behind it, Cho Sun Ok is the elder statesman of Chicago's Korean restaurants.

It's also one of the busiest, with only 11 tables and a near-constant line waiting to fill them.

Once you're seated, start with a chewy Korean pancake, laced with whole scallions and ribbons of squid ($10), or yukgaejang, a fiery soup of kimchi, shredded beef, bean sprouts and scrambled egg ($4).

Then it's time for the tabletop cooking. While the marinated bulgogi ($25) is superbly saucy, it's the unmarinated meat–chadol-gui ($25)–that defines the classic Cho Sun Oak experience. You sauté slices of marbled steak in the stone pan, dip them in a sweet soy sauce, salted sesame oil or both, and toss the beef with shredded scallions.

Once you've worked your way through the meat and the accompanying plates of cold vegetables and pickles (panchan), the second act begins: Into the pan goes rice and kimchi, which cooks until a golden-brown crust forms. Don't fail to pry this loose–as with the socarrat in paella, it offers the best bites.

Finish with a cold soup that, on a hot day, merits a trip of its own: mul-naeng myun, slightly sour beef consommé with thin, slippery buckwheat noodles, a hard-boiled egg, pickled cucumbers and radishes ($9). Season the broth with rice vinegar, mustard and chile paste; it cools and excites the palate at once. You just might fool yourself into thinking you aren't quite so full.

Cho Sun Ok, 4200 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-549-5555 or chosunokrestaurant.com