One Pot wants to distinguishes itself from the hot-pot wave
March 21, 2018
Save for a couple of upscale restaurants in the city, the quest for quality Korean food in the Seattle area has typically meant a trip north to Lynnwood or a drive south to Federal Way. But now, for those who want to stay local and not spend a lot of money, One Pot offers a new option.
One Pot opened in January in the 12th Avenue space long-occupied by Canton Noodle House. On the fringe of Chinatown (where it turns into Little Saigon), the building comes with a bonus: its own parking lot, a welcome convenience for customers nowadays. Inside, the restaurant has a clean, contemporary feel, complete with induction burners that are built into the tables.
These burners allow diners to control their orders of chongol—the one-pot stew meals that comprise the majority of the menu. Owner Paul Liu, who immigrated to the United States from Seoul in 1980, originally wanted to open a dedicated gamjatang restaurant, similar to what’s found in Korea, but realized he needed to add other stews to draw in more diners. The pork bone and potato-filled gamjatang remains his top recommendation, though there are also other options like soondubu, kalbi-tang, duk mandu-guk (with rice cakes and dumplings), and “army stew.”
My favorite was the bulgogi stew, with marinated ribeye that cooks quickly in the broth. Stews come with a simple side of bibimbap on a plate and a couple of small bowls of kimchi. Liu points out that the wide array of banchan that comes to American tables is not typical of service in Korea. He also finds himself educating people that his concept is not hot-pot with customizable ingredients and an interactive cooking experience, but instead a “one pot” of predetermined ingredients that cooks further at the table.
Liu sees great potential in his restaurant and the Chinatown-International District in general. “Chinatown used to be a place to go at night,” he recalls, and he’s hoping restaurants like his make that happen again. New cuisine choices, he believes, will be a contributing factor.
“People’s taste buds change,” he explains, noting the evolution of Chinese food in the area, especially the introduction of regional cuisines beyond Cantonese that are coming to the ID.
As Liu works on other Korean restaurant concepts, he notes that diners are becoming more discerning about both food and service. “Traditional Korean restaurants usually throw the food down on a plate and call it a day,” he says. He wants One Pot to be different, and understands that’s necessary to compete with the new wave of restaurants coming in. “I want to do a restaurant that I would be happy to go to,” he asserts.
He’s happy with the response to his restaurant so far, and according to the early raves and reviews, One Pot’s customers seem to be happy as well.