By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 02, 2004 at 5:47 AM

{image1}If the Hongs get their way, Milwaukeeans will soon be as familiar with dishes like dolsot bibimbab as they are chop suey.

Unok Hong, with the help of her husband Song Tae, will open Korean restaurant Han Kuk Kwan in the former Izumi's space, 2178 N. Prospect Ave. The couple is waiting for a liquor license and hopes to open around February 10.

In the mean time, they are remodeling the cozy eatery, and although structurally it will be similar to Izumi's, they are completely changing the aesthetic with new paint, ceiling and furniture.

Han Kuk Kwan is currently Milwaukee's only option for Korean cuisine, but according to Song Tae, there was another Korean restaurant on Layton Avenue about eight years ago that has since closed.

"I think people will like Korean food because it is a very natural, healthy food," says Song Tae.

There are many variations of Korean food and almost all of them are extremely low in fat. Song Tae assures that vegetarians, meat eaters and seafood lovers alike will find something appealing on the menu and that the meat used in his restaurant's recipes will be very lean.

Traditionally, Korean food is spicy but diners can request a milder meal. Seasonings such as garlic, ginger, sesame, mustard, vinegar, wine, soy sauce and bean paste are signature to this type of Asian cooking.

Song Tae recommends bulkokie, which he describes as "beef marinated in a tasty sauce" (the "tasty sauce" is made from sesame oil, onions, garlic and soy sauce) and the afore-mentioned dolsot bibimbab, made in a special stone cooker that steams rice with a variety of vegetables.

Soup (called guk or tang) is served at every Korean meal and is made with meat, vegetables, fish, seaweed and occasionally, clams.

Han Kuk Kwan dinners will range from $9.95-$17.95 -- a little less expensive than Japanese but a bit more than Chinese -- and lunches will cost around $6.95.

The restaurant will also feature a full bar, specializing in Korean beverages such as OB (Oriental Brewing Company) beer and soju, Korean rice wine.

Unok, a stay-at-home mom and wife for most of her life, decided to open the restaurant after her youngest son started Marquette last fall. Song Tae and Unok have been married for 26 years and moved here from Seoul, Korea in 1979.

"The living conditions are better here and the U.S. has better opportunity," says Song Tae.

Han Kuk Kwan will be open for lunch, Monday-Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner hours are Monday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sundays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.