I'll fully admit that even as the occasional food writer, I've never had a lick of traditional Korean food in my life. It's nothing personal, just a product of habit and the result of ignorantly thinking a city like Tampa just wouldn't be the place for a traditional Korean restaurant.
A simple Google search can tell anyone that the previous notion is far from false with One Family Korean Restaurant sitting right on top of the list. Better late than never, right?
You pull up to One Family in North Tampa and it's surrounded by a worn shopping center full of other Korean businesses. It's easy to miss, but worth a few frustrated pass-bys it might take to find it. Once inside, One Family feels and looks very much like an amalgamation of all the casual Asian dining restaurants in the area, nothing big and glamours, but nothing bland either.
Their menu comes packed full of traditional Korean dishes with names like Bulgogi, Galbi, Bimbim Bap, and Yook Gae Jang all with (thankfully) pictures and English descriptions beneath each.
I went with the Bulgogi, a classic Korean dish similar to a stir-fry composed of sliced, marinated, and roasted beef sauteed with spices, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Each entree like this comes with an ample side of sticky rice and five, count 'em, five different sides of cold Korean appetizers.
The Bulgogi really looks like a dish you'd find at any Chinese takeout place here in the states, but the sides are where it got really exotic to me. You get an assortment of kimchi, which is traditionally pickled cabbage with a whole slew of spices, in varieties including the classic, cucumber, and radish as well as seafood pancakes (seafood blended with veggies then deep fried) and lotus root braised with garlic.
Were they all good? Kind of. The classic kimchi was delicious and had a sourness that was a nice juxtaposition to the sweet heat of the Bulgogi. The other two were more of the same just with additional vegetable flesh and the same flavor. The seafood pancakes, as weird as they might sound, were a knockout and I could've taken or left the lotus.
The Bulgogi, oh the Bulgogi, though. What a treat. The beef is sliced so thin it curls almost like bacon in the pan and just melts in your mouth with each bite. Heap it upon a glob of sticky white rice, get some of those crunchy meat bits from the bottom of the pan, and you're in for a perfect storm of tastiness.
At $14.99, the whole feast can be a lot for us on a budget, but it's worth the splurge, especially if you're bent on trying and tasting new things. Overall, a very satisfactory experience at One Family Korean Restaurant.