I was getting jaded, thinking I had visited about all Spokane’s restaurants. Then along comes a tantalizing breath of fresh air. Actually, the air at Too Yong was pungent with garlic and exotic aromas.
This Korean restaurant is the kind of place that you might drive by dozens of times without noticing. It’s off Market on Garland in a small brown building that looks a bit beat up.
Inside, though, the dining room is bright and clean. The simple atmosphere is pure diner with Naugahyde-like booths and Formica tabletops. Yet, each table is adorned with a small vase of fresh flowers.
Service was attentive and informative, as the waitress made menu suggestions and explained each of the traditional Korean side dishes served with the meal.
The menu at Too Yong is expansive, considering the size of the place. It offers a selection of Chinese-type dishes such as fried rice and sweet-and-sour entrees, as well as a few American favorites (a burger and a BLT). And there are lots of meals with Korean roots including broiled mackerel, beef hocks and bones in a spicy broth, the cuttle squid tempura and tok bo ki, which is rice dumplings in a pepper sauce.
The owner and cook, Yong Fraley, grew up in South Korea and opened the restaurant a little more than a year ago. She prepares each meal to order, so getting fed can take some time.
All the dishes I sampled were yummy, distinguished by fresh ingredients and a spectrum of pleasantly unusual flavors and textures.
The egg rolls were smaller than most, but packed with a mixture of beef and pork and small bits of vegetables. They were crunchy, not greasy.
The Kal Bi is a marinated beef short rib that resembled a pork steak, but tasted leaner. The sauce the meat was cooked in was similar to teriyaki seasoning, but without the cloying sweetness. I liked this dish, especially when I mixed it with a bite of kim chee, the traditional fiery Korean pickled cabbage. (In Korea, the side dishes are eaten separately with a bite of rice.)
A noodle dish called chop chae also was bathed in a tasty sauce. The clear cellophane rice noodles made this dish memorable. The noodles looked a bit like gummy worms and had a slippery quality to them. That made them a good conduit for the bold sauce.
The tamest dish, a chicken-broccoli stir-fry, was nicely seasoned with the vegetables cooked tender-crisp in a light sauce.
I will definitely return to sample the unfamiliar fare, including the 14 meal-sized soups.
Prices at Too Yong range from $5.95 for some of the appetizers to $10.50 for a seafood dish. Lunch specials are $5 to $6.
The restaurant, which is open Monday through Saturday, is located at 2710 E. Garland. Call 489-8543 for take-out orders.
Another delicious discovery
There’s a lovely little bistro called Capers that recently opened in Coeur d’Alene.
The restaurant’s name - taken from tiny pickled flower buds - seems particularly apt for the lineup of flavorful salads and pasta dishes with Mediterranean leanings. With its sunny yellow walls, the inviting dining rooms reflect that warm weather theme, too.
After being seated, diners are invited to peek into the pristine display case at the daily salads and specials.
I’m often disappointed when ordering out of a deli case because the food rarely tastes as good as it looks. That’s not true at Capers, where the salads were vividly seasoned with fresh herbs and interesting spices. Plates come garnished with a fragrant sprig of fresh rosemary.
For lunch, I tried a salad trio ($6.95) with a romaine-based Greek salad with a tangy feta dressing, a brilliant-looking sweet roasted red pepper salad and a nicely done panzanilla. That classic Italian bread salad had just the right amount of dressing (too much turns it to mush) and was dotted with lots of tiny capers and a huge one. (The briny grape-sized bite was actually a caper berry and I must congratulate the kitchen for incorporating that striking edible ornament.)
More substantial meals include a pasta with a zesty tomato and sausage-spiked sauce, another pasta dish tossed with pesto, steamed green beans and tiny red potatoes and a grilled chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts.
At dinner, a couple of dishes including a Greek shrimp with feta are added to the lineup along with a selection of specials that might include lamb shanks with creamy garlic polenta or a salmon ceviche with a mango relish.
Tempting desserts and breads are made fresh daily. I relished a poached pear sitting in a syrupy pool of caramel. There was also cheesecake and tiramisu available.
Capers is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. It’s located at 315 Walnut. Call (208) 664-9036 for reservations or directions. Everything is available to-go, making it a great place for picnic supplies.
Copper River arrives
Monarch Fisheries in Coeur d’Alene is first at the finish line in the Copper River salmon derby.
The fish market-restaurant will have this prized seafood on its menu tomorrow night. It will also be on sale in the adjoining market.
The season opened just Thursday night and Monarch got a jump on the competition by chartering a plane out of Alaska with a couple of Seattle restaurants, Ray’s Boathouse for one.
For reservations, call (208) 765-6744.
More stuff from CdA
Cousin’s Steakhouse has been remade into Scotty’s Sports Grill. It’s the same owner, similar menu with steaks, burgers, ribs and sandwiches. But the atmosphere has changed to accommodate a big-screen (a 10-footer, no less) television and lots of other TVs to catch all the sporting events. Scotty’s is located at 1038 Northwest Blvd.
Paul Bunyan’s Pak-Out, also on Northwest Boulevard, has a completely new look. Now you can sit inside and sip one of their outstanding shakes.
Mad Mary’s has relocated. The Thai restaurant has moved into the more high-profile space at 1414 Northwest Blvd., in the old Pine’s restaurant. (In fact, that sign is still up, so don’t be fooled.) There are plans to offer a buffet dinner soon.
Papino’s Italian Cuisine - famous for it homemade ravioli and eggplant parmesan - has moved to expanded quarters at the Sunset Mall on Highway 95, heading toward Sandpoint. A few new items including a crab cannelloni and seafood fettucine have been added to the lineup of traditional Italian dishes at this family-owned restaurant. Specials are featured on the weekend.
Papino’s is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. For reservations, call (208) 765-2348.
Calling all resorts
When the weather turns warm, plenty of Inland Northwesterners look to chill out at the lake. But that doesn’t mean you have rough it.
We’re putting together a guide to full-service restaurants at the area’s lake resorts.
To be included, please mail or fax - (509) 459-5098 - your menu by next Tuesday morning.
Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at email@example.com or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Terrific taters Idaho is famous for potatoes and The Whistle Stop Cafe in Sandpoint is famous for its hash browns. What makes these fried taters special is their fluffy texture. Shredded with little bits of skin still on, they are light, not greasy. You can almost convince yourself they’re good for you. It’s the garnish, however, that makes these spuds truly unique. I’ll bet there’s nowhere else in the world that serves a doughnut hole on the side. Beats the heck out of a clump of limp parsley.