Sura Korean Restaurant
1213 S. Victoria Ave.
The Korean word sura means a meal for royalty; and though the restaurant of the same name in Oxnard isn’t exactly palatial or bedazzled in the spirit of a royal palace, one thing is clear: people there do like to treat their guests like royalty.
The décor of the long narrow space, located in the Seabridge shopping center on Victoria Avenue, is nondescript but clean and open with dark accents and Asian-inspired light boxes that mimic windows along the walls.
We stopped in for dinner on a quiet Sunday evening, and though it was a chilly night, we decided to get into the spirit and start with a Korean beer (an OB and then, later on, a Hite, the former standing out as a surprising favorite with hints of fruit and a crisp finish). The beer, served in the bottle with chilled glasses, ended up being the perfect complement to the searing-hot dishes and the spicy flavors to come — so perfect, it went down like water and we had to order another halfway through our meal.
After we ordered our beer, our server brought us a complimentary salad topped with ginger dressing, a foreshadowing of the delicacies and attention to detail to come, the first hint that we were being treated like royalty. We studied the appetizers and considered fried calamari and pot stickers, but opted for the kimchi pancake and the chicken wings instead.
The kimchi pancake is sweet potato orange, infused with the rich color of the traditional fermented vegetables, and is served on a screaming-hot skillet, keeping the savory cake hot over the course of the meal. Not as spicy as we anticipated, we couldn’t stop eating it. Crunchy, savory, with a pop of spice, each bite was enhanced when dipped in a sweet, soy-based sauce. The chicken wings were crunchy, well-battered and finished with a spicy, sticky sauce. As we ate both, and the spice-inspired sweat started to pour, I was ever grateful for my icy cold beer.
One of the things that struck me throughout our meal was how hot all the food was. We could take our time with the dishes, share them, sip our beers, take a break; and then when we dove back in, the food was still piping hot, making for a dining experience fit for a king or queen.
For our entrees we enjoyed the seafood stone bowl and one of the dinner specials featuring grilled beef ribs, both must-try dishes according to our server. The dinner special comes with a choice of soup, and we started with the soft tofu soup. A few minutes later, another steaming dish arrived, filling our table with the sounds and smells of a culinary adventure. The reddish orange broth is flecked with chili oil and filled with copious amounts of soft tofu, thinly sliced mushrooms and tender pieces of pork. Though I ordered mine mild, as we slurped the steaming broth and savored the pillows of soft tofu with our long Korean spoons, I could only imagine the joyous sensation of sipping this soup with the added element of spice.
The grilled beef ribs arrived piled high on a bed of crunchy bamboo shoots on yet another hot skillet. Our server explained that the ribs are traditionally eaten wrapped in crisp lettuce with a pinch of purple rice and a smear of a vibrant orange sauce. We ate a few of the ribs solo and loved every bite of the tender and sweet meat, and also enjoyed them paired with the coolness of the lettuce and the spicy sauce.
The seafood stone bowl was a favorite of the evening. A generous amount of fresh seafood is mounded on top of rice and vegetables, in a hotter-than-hell stone bowl that keeps the food sizzling while you eat. Though we skipped this step, it comes with a raw egg that can be cracked into the dish, mixed with the other ingredients, and cooked on the heat of the stone. Sweet teriyaki sauce infused the whole dish, draping every bite with a hint of sticky sweetness. Scallops, clams, mussels, prawns, squid and chunks of fish intermingle with crunchy broccoli and bamboo shoots. The heat of the stone bowl gives the bottom layer of rice an irresistible crunch, taking the dish to whole new level.
The service at Sura was excellent. Our server was very patient as we inquired about the menu. She even took the time to walk us through it and explain the differences among the dishes. She explained each dish and the accouterments when they arrived, and even explained how each dish is traditionally eaten. It was our first time eating there and not once did she make us feel rushed or foolish; if anything she made us feel like royalty.
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