Behind the Menu: Min-Ga tantalizes with its can't-go-wrong Korean cuisine

Gary Seman Jr.
The Columbus Dispatch
La kalbi and banchan (petite side plates) at Ming-Ga Korean Restaurant.

Min-Ga Korean Restaurant has had a longstanding history on the Northwest Side, serving a wide variety of ethnic dishes that are both familiar and perhaps exotic for the dining public.

For the already initiated, the la kalbi ($22.95) is familiar, bone-in beef ribs that are marinated several hours in a special sweetened spice rub and cooked on a flat-top stove. They’re presented on a sizzling platter with white onion, filling the air with pleasant aromas.

“You can’t go wrong with this,” said Joo Lee, current owner of the restaurant, which has been a neighborhood staple for more than 20 years.

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The la kalbi, as with many dishes, are served with banchan, little side plates that include kimchee, spice-rubbed cucumbers, spinach, fish cakes and marinated bean sprouts.

Korean cuisine also is widely known for bulgogi, another marinated-meat dish that also is cooked on the flat-top grill. The spicy pork version ($16.95) gets some heat with the addition of cayenne pepper.

Stone pot bibimbap and banchan (petite sides) at Ming-Ga Korean Restaurant

Stone pot bibimbap ($13.95) offers an interesting way to eat a meal. Served with small pieces of marinated beef, the hot bowl is layered with rice, bean sprouts, carrots, spinach and topped with a raw egg. The trick is to keep stirring the contents, allowing the rice to get crispy, egg to cook and meld the various flavors.

Ubiquitous gochujang, a red-pepper paste, is served on the side.

“The first time people eat it is probably the best time for them,” Lee said.

Min-Ga has a wide array of noodle dishes, such as japchae ($12.95), a stir-fry that uses clear noodles made from sweet-potato flour, beef or tofu, egg, carrots, mushroom and onions in a dark pan sauce that seems to holds everything together.

Zha jiang myun ($13.95) has thin, chewy noodles tossed in dark black bean sauce, whose darkness belies a mild, earthy taste. The plate is served with slice pork, yellow onion and crispy cucumber.

For those looking for a dish popular among Koreans, naeng myun ($13.95) is a chilled noodle soup, although broth is optional, with sweet-and-sour sauce, pear or apple, eggs, cucumber and shredded brisket.

“A lot of people like to eat that in the summertime,” Lee said.

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One version of the savory Korean pancake ($14.95), 12 inches round, offers spicy kimchee, a variety of seafood — shrimp, calamari and mussels — with a seasoned soy sauce on the side.

Although Korean cuisine might not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese, it is distinct and worthy of closer inspection for those who have yet to sample the food, Lee said.

“You have to try it,” Lee said. “I’ve met so many people who haven’t tried it. Each dish has a lot of flavor to it.”

Min-Ga Korean Restaurant

Where: 800 Bethel Road, Northwest Side

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Contact: 614-457-7331,