Marinated beef kimbap, also known as Korean sushi
Don’t let anyone tell you the pandemic has scared everyone away from the restaurant business. Against the odds, we’re still seeing new restaurant openings happen in 2021. One of them even persuaded me to drive up to Rancho Penasquitos.
12812 Rancho Penasquitos Blvd Suite Q, San Diego
Myung Ka Korean Food opened in January, within a commercial center just off the 15 freeway. It doesn’t have any outdoor seating, so it’s opened as an all takeout and delivery restaurant for the time being.
I ordered ahead, and it was a little eerie stepping through the shop’s empty interior to reach the pick-up counter. It’s a walk I’ve made through dozens of restaurants at this point, but there are usually tables and chairs stacked up against a wall or something. Here, there was nothing. I can’t even be sure the owners have committed to buying furniture yet.
A Myung Ka lunchbox featuring grilled chicken and a multitude of side dishes
I’m usually down to drive twenty minutes for good bulgogi, and in this case I was all the more motivated, because I was after a kimbap made with the marinated and grilled beef.
Kimbap is otherwise known as Korean sushi, except rather than raw fish, sheets of seaweed and rice are rolled around a base of cooked meat. Mine featured bulgogi with a bit of egg, carrots, cucumber, and pickled daikon radish ($10). It’s the best way I can think of to enjoyed cold meat, and would be reason enough to give Myung Ka a try. With beef, or versions made with spicy grilled pork ($9), or with a combination of Spam, Japanese sausage, and fish cakes ($7).
Spicy seafood soup loaded with vegetables and sea creatures
However, there’s more to Myung Ka than just kimbap rolls. Especially around lunchtime, thanks to a spate of lunchbox specials. These beg another comparison to Japanese cuisine, being analogous to bento boxes. Around a choice of bulgogi, pork, fried shrimp, or grilled chicken, each box gets rounded out with rice, salad, a small bowl of soup, and assorted banchan.
My grilled chicken box featured sesame noodles, savory pancake, omelet, a fried dumpling, and a single fried shrimp. I found it a convenient and relatively affordable way to get a well-rounded lunch. It gets extra points for not resorting to potatoes, beans, or macaroni as a side dish.
Other highlights include a variety of steamed dumplings, jjajangmyung black bean noodles ($10), bone-in short rib soup ($16), and my wife’s favorite: spicy seafood soup ($12). Swimming around in there were blue crab, mussels, clams, shrimp, and squid. This spicy food lover found the restaurant’s medium spice rating to be the perfect level to go with such a rich combination of flavors, though it’s worth noting Myung Ka also offers spicy and extra spicy. Which qualifies this place as a hot new opening of 2021.