A Favorite For Korean-style Comfort Food

Yakiniku Million’s Bi Bim Gook Soo is a popular choice. Jo McGarry photo

These are interesting times in the restaurant business. Yes, it’s still an industry with low profit margins and rising costs, and it may be even harder work than it used to be, but none of that stops people in search of their dreams. I am inspired by the latest pop-up restaurants, impressed by the energy of all young chefs trying to break into and change our dining scene, and I’m truly enthused and excited by many of the restaurants that have opened this year.

But for every restaurant that opens, one or two will close after their first difficult year in business. It makes longevity in the industry something to be celebrated, especially when a restaurant is family owned and operated.

In conversations with chefs and others in the food industry, a familiar and favorite topic is best restaurants. The same contenders come up frequently – Le Bistro, Side Street, Gaku – and more recently Prima and Salt.

One that chef Hiroshi Fukui first told me about more than a decade ago remains a firm favorite among late-night restaurant workers. Known in the industry as much for its convenient hours as for its incredibly good food, Yakiniku Million provides Korean-style comfort food until 2 a.m. on weekends, and offers several specialty dishes that hungry top chefs crave.

Best known for yakiniku, Korean-style plate lunches, soups and a seemingly endless list of small side dishes, this unpretentious spot on Sheridan Street also boasts some of the best meat jun in the city.

But don’t expect to learn any of the secrets of the restaurant’s creamy potato salad or spicy chap chae.

The sisters who run the restaurant are not giving out their family secret. Million’s cucumber kim chee might be for sharing, but the recipes are not.

“It’s secret,” the staff always says when I ask.

If you go with a group, make sure to try larger portions of Million’s barbecue chicken plates, short ribs and miso butterfish. Go for lunch, when it’s often less busy than late night, and try specials that include Bi Bim Bap and Soft Tofu Soup served up hot and spicy with Spam, kim chee, clams or beef. Bi Bim Gook Soo is one of the most popular soups on the Yakiniku Million menu. The dish is vibrant and colorful, its spicy, red soup base topped with boiled egg, beef and vegetables. Cold somen as well as hot noodles are served at both lunch and dinner.

The family-run Million opened in 1989; its longevity in a troubled restaurant world stands as testimony to its popularity.

Happy eating!

Yakiniku Million 626 Sheridan St. 596-0799