photo credit: Nate Watters
Good comfort food packs a punch when the weather blows. A Korean meal at 손맛 By Tae, however, takes this a step further and slaps a rainy day in its sorry, soggy face.
If you recognize the name, that’s because 손맛 By Tae used to be a sushi counter that served excellent hand rolls before they closed in early 2021. Now, they’ve reopened in a brand new Beacon Hill space, but you won’t find any raw fish here. In fact, version 2.0 prioritizes hot food by way of two important tools: fire and a glass food warmer.
Fire sounds obvious, but 손맛 By Tae works a flame with the precision of glass blowers and medieval dragons, as evidenced by perfectly seared hamburg steak, chicken that’s flawlessly tender in the middle yet crisp on the outside, and a gingery grill-marked pork loin with caramelized onions. We also love the supporting characters on those rice bowls, from tangy homemade kimchi to napa slaw tossed in a sweet dressing that we’d eat by the bucketful. And fire also is undoubtedly important for simmering sujebi, a kimchi stew with braised chicken thigh and chewy hand cut noodle mounds that plump up with spicy broth.
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The other key tool that 손맛 By Tae uses is a glass food warmer, which is on display at the bar and houses foil-wrapped snacks like pinto burritos, shredded mozzarella-topped burgers, and spam and yellow american sliders slick with creamy scallion mayo. Sure, we don’t know exactly how long they’ve all been sitting there, but it doesn’t matter—the indirect steam is what makes the ingredients in these cheesy packages mingle, melty, and magnificent. Who knew that the same lightbulb-powered apparatus that keeps nachos hot ‘n gloopy at the movie theater also produces such nuanced treasures? Think about it over an ice-cold Manhattan.
If a gray, rumbling sky is suggesting that you’re better off staying home, 손맛 By Tae challenges that with teal walls, classic films playing in the background, and a buzzing atmosphere of people sipping soup at the bar with soju sodas, or friends clinking burgers together like glasses of bubbly. If more people knew that that’s what a Seattle rainy day is really like, nobody would complain about it ever again.
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The menu periodically changes, but those changes are typically minor—here’s what you’ll probably see.
Tim’s Jalapeño Chips & Onion Dip
A paper tray full of the evergreen state’s best potato chips alongside a chilled creamy french onion dip is never a bad idea. Do it if you’re feeling snacky.
These are known to sell out within an hour and a half of opening, and for good reason. Featuring merely a slab of Spam, mayo fancied up with chopped scallions, american cheese, and a sweet bun, it’s a pretty simple slider that you might not expect much excitement from. But when the glass warming case gets all of the ingredients steamed and gooey, they complement each other perfectly. Not ordering at least one is objectively wrong, so do the right thing.
Bean & Cheese Burrito
Another delicious foil-embraced snack from the case, stuffed with starchy pintos, an ideal quantity of cheese spackle to suspend the beans, blistered green peppers, and a side of smoky hot sauce for dipping a.k.a. plunging because it’s so damn good.
The biggest $8 burger we’ve ever seen is also one of the best, complete with a flame-broiled char, a bubblegum-pink middle, shredded mozzarella, and tangy special sauce on a toasted sesame roll. One of these beasts with some chips and dip would be a terrific dinner if you’re not in the mood for silverware.
The kimchi broth in this stew is tangy with heat, but the best part about the soup base is how the other items in the bowl soak in all of that fermented flavor, from tender braised chicken thigh to chewy hand-torn noodle pieces that become infused with the good stuff. If it’s on the menu on a cold night, you want it.
We’re not sure how it’s possible, but this wildly tender chicken leg almost cuts like halibut. It’s extremely soft while still obviously being cooked to temperature. There’s a sauce on top that tastes a bit like sake—warm with a bite—along with rice, a sweet napa cabbage slaw, kimchi, pickled radish, and a dollop of hot sauce.
As much as we love the chicken, By Tae’s hamburg steak is the best rice plate in the house. The ball of flame-smooched meat is a stunning medium, and there’s a sweet and savory sauce ladled over the top with even more crumbled meat.
Golly, the pork loin is great too, loaded with gingery caramelized onions that melt on each bite. While we’re bigger fans of the chicken and beef, you can’t go wrong with this either.