If you weren't looking for Koreana, you probably wouldn't notice it. But if you're interested in homestyle Korean food, there's enough reason to hunt it down.
If you're headed south on Niagara Falls Boulevard by the Boulevard Mall, slow down just before Sheridan Drive. There's a little strip plaza there, with a market called Best Asian. Next door is Koreana.
The reasons for going there are a variety of Korean soups, stews and stir-fry dishes. If your mom was Korean, and she was making your lunch, this is what you'd have. Not the premium stuff, the complicated seafood pancakes and meat grilled at the table.
You might have the regular bulgogi ($7.50), strips of beef sauteed in a faintly sweet sauce with sesame oil and a bit of garlic. The meat was tender without falling apart.
Or you could order chicken bulgogi ($6.99), sliced chicken in a spicy red pepper sauce, sauteed with onions. It's savory and sweet from the onions, not scorching with pepper sauce.
The heat level went up with the stews we tried. Potato soup ($6.99) turned out to be a simmering bowl dominated by bony chunks dusted with a spice mixture and potatoes. Normally, we don't like to do a lot of gnawing, but the spices and the pork rib broth it reclined in made gnawers of us all.
The dish that caused the most discussion -- and a repeat visit -- was the kimchi stew ($6.99).
It's a rich pork broth with chunks of tofu, briny pickled cabbage kimchi and even a chunk of Spam, which lent an indulgent air to the assembly. But that was trumped by the hunks of tender pork spare ribs lurking in its depths. It was the kind of dish that makes you not care that you need more napkins to mop your sweaty brow.
Each of the dishes came with cabbage kimchi and bean sprouts, as well as a big bowl of steamed rice. It was white rice mixed with black rice, resulting in a faintly purplish hue. It had a toasty, nutty taste we enjoyed.
When we visited, the woman who was running this one-woman show didn't speak much English to us, but that wasn't a problem. You order at the counter, and get called when it's ready. Then pick up your own utensils and water, if you want it.
If you order kimchi stew, you will. Get a table near the water cooler.
-- Andrew Z. Galarneau
Koreana is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is handicapped-accessible.
1010 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda