Located in a strip mall in Albany Park's Korean quarter, with shuttered windows detracting attention from its already unnoticeable fašade, Kangnam Restaurant hardly appears like a culinary attraction. Yet the restaurant draws its predominantly Korean clientele from all over the city.
Enormous exhaust fans loom over the wok in the center of each table, and sizzling smoke rises from the high-walled booths, which comfortably seat a family of five. The dining room, with its pastel colors and elementary-school ceiling tiles, is dated. Familiarity seems to be the essence of Kangnam; some patrons, presumably regulars, were met with open arms at the aquariums by the front door.
Everything comes in bowls, from the wok to the hot and sour dipping sauce to the sides of rice (white or brown) and vegetables. Rest assured: You can order everything mild and you'll even receive a fork upon request. Stick to the standard barbecued beef short ribs simmered in a special sauce or satisfy your yen for octopus or cow tongue. Among the many soups and stews, vegetarians will find the bean curd and vermicelli soups. Entrees cost an average $15. Call 30 minutes ahead for takeout.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Robert Duffer