For a few years, Koreana had an unfortunate location on Reynolds Rd next to Hush Showgirls. Imagine eating out on your anniversary, within 10 yards of sex-crazed men fixing for women and booze, the club’s consistent boom of bass radiating the restaurant’s walls. There are the innumerable potential customers who’d rather get a Kroger’s rotisserie chicken for dinner than to be as close to a strip club.
Compounding this problem, an “Internet Cafe” to the right of Hush Showgirls, attracting the worst case scenario: poor, sexually aggressive drunk men. The owners closed shop and re-opened on Airport Highway, across from TGI Fridays, in a lot where Koreana is the main attraction. Believe me, they’ve expanded and spent a lot on renovations.
Whereas the previous location emanated local diner, today’s Koreana is a serious attempt at fine dining. The décor is entirely darkened; walls, chairs, tables, sofas, bar stools all black or chocolate brown. The tables are sturdy, reminiscent of oak, and the chairs feature armrests. A new edition is the sushi bar, and up a few steep stairs a full drinking bar. There’s also a beautiful conference-style back lounge, elegant and private, perfect for large parties.
This is not the atmosphere that makes a customer in shorts feel cool. It’s a combination of medieval, classical, and old school. Wear a button down shirt, slacks or khakis, even a tie, but dress-up or you’ll feel awkward.
The menu has changed. Choose from sushi appetizers like seaweed or calamari salad. Sixteen house rolls featuring the Papasan Roll – smoked salmon, kaiware, mango, peppered tuna, asparagus, eel, honey wasabi. Consider the traditional sushi fare as nigiri or sashimi, or a lunch box with an assortment of small tastes.
For every salad with an unappetizing dressing and the two pieces of sushi resembling artificial ornaments, fall in love with crisp dumplings and sweetly marinated short-rib. The cost for lunch is over ten dollars, and I was starving by the time I got home. But despite misgivings, the meal tasted authentically Korean.
I have friends who swear by Koreana, who have developed a refined taste for Korean cuisine. These friends know what to order, what tastes most like a dish they had in Korea. For the veteran diner, Koreana is still legit, only with an entirely different atmosphere to dine in.