Last week we brought news that a new Korean restaurant, Soban, had opened in May in Aurora. The eatery comes to Colorado from Los Angeles, where it wowed many fans of Korean cuisine — including restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. We stopped by Soban again this week to sample a few dishes and determine for ourselves if the restaurant had brought anything new to Aurora's Korean restaurant scene.
Korean restaurants generally provide complimentary appetizers called banchan that range from simple American-style potato salad to fermented kimchi to dried shrimp or anchovies. Dishes vary according to the season and the kitchen's preferences; Soban turns out more than a dozen at once. Highlights include soft omelet slices similar to Japanese tamago, dried anchovies with pickled jalapeño slices, roasted yam cubes in sweet syrup, and two kinds of kimchi.
Soban's specialty is seafood, including a marinated raw-crab dish called ganjang gejang, which Gold recommended in his 2015 list of 101 best restaurants in Los Angeles. We skipped the crab due to its hefty $35 price tag (but we'll certainly give it a go next time) and opted instead for eundaegu jorim, a spicy black-cod dish that Gold also praised. Big cross sections of braised fish snuggled up against two kinds of root vegetable (daikon and sweet potato, most likely) as well as slivers of firm orange squash and a tangle of onions.
More familiar Korean beef dumplings called son mandu (or mon du, as Soban's menu has them) came unadorned but for a soy-based dipping sauce. And our fish soup (there are many to choose from: cod, monkfish, cod roe, pollack and croaker) arrived bubbling in a hot stoneware bowl with hidden head-on shrimp and juicy mussels just beneath the surface.
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The restaurant is still in transition from its move from California, so not all dishes are listed on the menu (we missed out on hanchi mulhoe — a cold cuttlefish soup), while others have been penciled in on temporary tape labels.
If you go, order a bottle or two of sochu, the easy-drinking Korean rice wine that clocks in somewhere between sake and a dry vodka martini on the scale of clear booze. Oh, and like many Korean restaurants, Soban has service buzzers at each table — with separate buttons for the bar and the waitstaff. They're left over from the space's previous incarnation as K-Pub, and our server explained that the buttons all activate the same bell — which can be heard throughout the dining room (yes, we tried).