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Discerning Diner

Discerning Diner: Korealicious serves up delicious dishes in Lemoyne

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If you haven’t visited Korealicious in the State Street Plaza in Lemoyne recently, you may be surprised to learn that it was sold three years ago to new owners.

My husband and I arrived around dinner time last Friday and were greeted by a woman with a beautiful smile, whom I later learned was owner Michelle Warner. Michelle, who hails from Korea, attends to customers at the front of the house. She is joined by her husband, Stephen, who does the accounting, and daughters Steph and Bretagne, who run the kitchen.

The front room has seating for those awaiting takeout, with an adjacent room containing about a dozen-and-a-half tables for indoor dining. When we arrived around 6 p.m., customers began pouring in, and before we left, much of the room was filled.

The manageable menu makes it easy to decide what to eat without taking a long time to pour over a long list of dishes. Korealicious offers traditional Korean specialties like bulgogi, described as thin-sliced marinated beef. A fragrant dolsot bibimbap is listed on the menu as “colorful sauteed vegetables with bulgogi, an egg on top of rice, with gochujang,” a chili paste made in-house. The dolsot, or stone bowl, is heated over a flame so that the ancient dish known as bibimbap arrives at the table sizzling, tempting the other diners to crane their necks to get a glimpse of the entrée.

Also on the menu are various stir fries with a choice of protein. An intriguing entrée known as japchae is described as “sweet potato noodles stir fried with vegetables and bulgogi.” And the pork belly entree served with lettuce wraps gets raves from customers who have taken the time to write reviews on Yelp.

Rounding out the menu are “soups and stews” like the hearty sounding Ginseng Chicken Soup described as a “whole chicken stuffed with herbs and rice,” and yukgaejang, a spicy brisket stew with shiitake, sweet potato noodles, egg and onion.

I decided on the yangnyeom chicken, described on the menu as deep-fried chicken smothered in house made sweet and sticky sauce, served with rice and side dishes ($17). My husband chose the chicken stir fry served in a spicy sauce ($17).

As we waited, I had time to observe the details of the room, which is decorated simply with pictures of Korean scenes, a string of lights that hang from the ceiling and folding screens depicting Asian landscapes. A “Wall of Honor” celebrates the military who served in the Korean War, and Korealicious offers free meals for those military members who served in that war.

The family acts as a team, with the kitchen doing the serving, so it wasn’t long before we were presented with our piping hot entrees, which came with small sides of kimchi, pickled radish and crisp cucumbers sprinkled with a spicy “dust.” All matched well with the entrees and were very good.

If you like sweet and spicy like I do, you’ll love the yangnyeom chicken. I ordered mine mildly spicy and enjoyed every bit of it — and even heated some up to tantalize my taste buds the next day. The truly crave-worthy boneless chicken nuggets are topped with sesame seeds and garnished with scallions. The boneless chicken nuggets are covered in a candied, crunchy coating that marries well with the spicy, savory flavors of the chicken.

My husband also thoroughly enjoyed his entrée and recommended returning in the future. He ordered his stir fry with lettuce wraps and ssamjang, a thick condiment comprised of Korean soybean and chili paste for an extra $3. This is known at Korealicious as a “full set.” He described the dish as extremely savory, but well balanced, with a manageable level of spice, and so good with the lettuce wrap that he barely touched the rice that was served alongside.

Those who have yet to try mochi, a glutinous rice flour that can be made into a type of frozen dessert, really should do so. The mochi at Korealicious comes in plump balls that are flat on the bottom and remind people of ice cream, although the gummy little orbs are far less sweet. Customers can order mochi in flavors like matcha, cake batter and salted caramel for a mere $2 — at that price, they’re certainly worth a try.

When I experience places like Korealicious, I’m always thankful for small, family-run restaurants and am once again reminded that they need our support to continue. I hope others will learn of these places and spread the word to let them know how much we enjoy having them around.

Korealicious is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30-7:30, with take-out only for lunch and take-out and dine-in for dinner.

Please note, though, that Korealicious closed for vacation on Aug. 31. It will reopen on Oct. 7.

Next up: Hamilton Restaurant in Carlisle

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