Paju, a little Korean spot in Queen Anne, looks simple. The walls are a plain shade of oatmeal. The lighting is bright. The concrete floor has a huge crack in it. Instead of an actual bar, there’s a portable two-tap kegerator. It seems like the last place you’d have an extraordinary night.
But the experience at Paju is, in fact, exceptional—from your first bite of crunchy chicken wings to the friendly servers holding the door open for you on your way out.
Paju’s food makes us feel like we’re living in a country ballad—suddenly, it’s easy to love again, everything pairs well with a cold beer, and we can’t help but get emotional over the small details. Things like bulgogi with crispy quinoa and a subtle hint of truffle oil, and squid ink fried rice topped with bacon and a smoked quail egg that we daydream about whenever we hear Shania Twain’s, “You’re Still The One.” Paju doesn’t need any flashy decorations in the dining room or cocktails in ritzy glassware to keep us coming back—they just need to keep making phenomenal food.
You’ll want to come with a group so you can try as many things on the menu as possible, though the soy garlic-coated wings are so great that we also endorse exclusively filling your table with those. While some plates have smaller portions, everything (for the most part) is under $21—including gochujang-infused beef tartare, salmon carpaccio with lemon dashi and kimchi caviar, and a crispy seafood pancake with Japanese mayo, sweet tonkatsu sauce, and a fistful of bonito flakes.
Plus, Paju now takes reservations, so it’s never been easier to sit down, order a bunch of dishes, and have some of the best Korean food in the city.
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These wings are so crispy on the outside, that, even when coated in Paju’s soy-garlic sauce, one bite makes a crunch sound straight out of the classic thriller Earthquake. You know, the scene with the earthquake.
Truffle Rib-Eye Steak Bulgogi
Sometimes, truffle-flavored things can feel like a massage in a very tiny room where your sore muscles are lathered up with warm, potent truffle oil instead of lotion. That’s not the case with this comforting bowl of rice topped with marinated beef, caramelized onions, enoki mushrooms, and crispy quinoa.
Paju Crispy Pancake
The outside of this excellent pancake has a crisp shell topped with a sweet tonkatsu sauce, a creamy mayo drizzle, and some dancing bonito flakes. Also, the middle is packed with large pieces of tasty mixed seafood.
Paju Fried Rice
Eating this fried rice makes us feel like we’re sitting by a fire inside on a peaceful snowy day. It’s an amazing pile of squid ink-infused rice with bacon, kimchi, and a smoked quail egg yolk. The combination of the fluffy yolk-soaked rice, the crunch of the cabbage, and crispy edge bits is already fcking outstanding, and then they go and add bacon to it.