BLUE ASH -- When diners walk into Dolsot Bistro in Blue Ash, owner-chef Sung Jun Oh wants them to feel like they’re entering a neighbor’s house.
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Oh has put a lot of heart into rebuilding the space. And starting Monday, he welcomes guests into his “house,” located in the space previously occupied by Brown Dog Café.
The restaurant's name, Dolsot, hints at the kind of food that will be served. (“Dolsot means stone bowl,” explained Oh, who also owns Sung Korean Bistro in downtown Cincinnati.)
Dolsot's food largely mirrors wholesome home-cooked meals typically served in a Korean household, and many of the dishes will be served in a stone bowl.
Bibimbap Highlight of Menu
Dolsot bibimbap will be featured prominently. Bibimbap is a traditional Korean all-in-one dish. It’s built with rice topped with an assortment of pre-cooked or raw vegetables, such as bean sprouts, pickled radish, spinach and carrots, then followed by protein like chicken, beef or even tofu. Finally, a sunny-side up egg goes on top.
The stone bowl arrives at the table sizzling hot. The bowl continues to cook the rice even as it makes its way to the diner, browning and crisping up the outer perimeters of the rice.
In addition to traditional bibimbap, look for modern variations such as seafood, eel, kimchi and pork belly, and Korean curry. Oh will create different sauces to pair with the bibimbap varieties, including the non-traditional creamy spicy gojuchang sauce.
There will be a healthy selection of noodles too, ranging from sweet potato to buckwheat varieties. Traditional Korean fare like kimchi jjigae (stew) and bulgogi (barbecue) will share menu space with more whimsical items like a kimchi hot dog and Korean barbecue tacos.
Oh hinted he might add old-school dishes to the menu once he gets the bistro running, such as samgyetang.
“It’s whole Cornish hen … stuffed with ginseng, dates, chestnuts and sticky rice,” he said. “You boil it for a long time, and the soup comes out in a stone bowl.”
Oh plans to serve beer and wine once his liquor license is approved. Meanwhile, he will add a few distinctly Korean teas to the soft drink list -- ginger, ginseng and roasted corn – that will be made from scratch in-house.
Oh Started Cooking Early
Dolsot Bistro will be Oh’s second restaurant; he opened Sung Korean Bistro in 2007.
“In our culture, men don’t cook,” Oh said. But when he was in his teens, both his parents fell seriously ill, leaving him little choice but to learn.
Oh further honed his cooking skills while serving his three mandatory years in the Korean army. As a cook, he foraged the DMZ (demilitarized zone) for fresh ingredients and found bountiful ingredients in the mountains, undisturbed, such as vegetables, mushrooms, fish and even wild boar.
The décor at Dolsot Bistro personifies Oh’s culture and showcases striking handcrafted work.
The bar visually anchors the space, with a new handcrafted bar top and front. Oh got a little help from fellow chef Jimmy Gibson, whom he has known for about 15 years.
“Sung and I installed the bar top together,” Gibson said. “I designed the bar front and distressed the wood from red cedar planks.”
Gibson also created artwork from old cutting boards left behind in the former Brown Dog Café kitchen. The Korean characters of Oh’s name, alongside his wife and daughter’s names, will be written on the boards.
The wall-mounted, rice paper window boxes are another personal touch. Oh got the rice paper in the Insadong neighborhood five years ago while visiting Korea.
“Those are real flowers and leaves, pressed onto the rice paper,” he said.
Together with the bar seats, Dolsot Bistro seats about 65. There’s currently no outdoor seating, but Oh plans to add some at a later date.
Opening: Monday, July 25, for dinner only. Call ahead to confirm.
Where: 5893 Pfeiffer Road, Blue Ash
Information: 513-832-1907; www.facebook.com/dolsotbistro
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 4:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday