By David Minsky
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By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
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By Laine Doss
ROK's interior did not match its barbecue. Although there were many delights among the dishes, the only exciting thing about the décor was the many hues of beige on the floor tiles, the walls, and the exposed brick wrapped around each of the half-moon windows. Beige-backed banquettes had brown cushions wrapped in plastic. Tacky red strings of Christmas lights seemed a cheap attempt to spruce up the hole-in-the-wall feel. A cobalt-blue Paramax karaoke machine looked like it had seen better days.
The worst, and most easily fixable, part was the interior temperature. It seemed Kwon was trying to save a buck by keeping the air a few degrees above comfortable. The heat only got worse after we ate our way through a few platters of sizzling meat.
On a second visit, we sampled the Korean tapas menu. I advise you to stick with the barbecue. Thai beef salad ($9) came with a generous helping of sweet, thin-sliced beef over pale leaves of romaine lettuce. Cilantro sprigs brightened things up, but there was not enough to mask the watery greens. Shrimp and pork summer rolls ($7) were the highlight of the tapas we tried. A pair came sliced in half, filled with chilled shrimp and pork wrapped in thin, fresh rice-paper rolls with vermicelli noodles accompanied by a rich peanut dip.
4954 N. University Drive
Lauderhill, FL 33351
Republic of Korea, 4954 N. University Drive, Lauderhill. Call 954-530-1394. Open Monday through Sunday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.Korean barbecue $22
Thai beef salad $9
Shrimp and pork summer rolls $7
Whole fried cornish hen with daikon pickles $10.50
Two massive panko-coated pieces of pork loin arrived looking golden brown, as though they'd been cooked correctly for katsu ($10), the Japanese name for meat that's been breaded and fried. But when we bit in, we found them so tough, we had to send them back. They were also devoid of the promised shiso, an Asian relative of basil. Hopefully our order was an anomaly.
We thought the tapas paled in comparison to the barbecue, but Kwon says he likes those small plates most. "It's more my heart than the barbecue," he says. "The fusion is where I get to play and do the stuff that I want to."
None of the Korean business owners in Lauderhill seem concerned about cannibalizing customers from one another, even though we were one of only two tables at ROK on both visits. Young Kho, of Manna, says she opened about the same time as ROK and wasn't focused on any of the competing businesses. All of the restaurant owners insist that business is good and that there's plenty to go around.
"For me to see a Korean community would be amazing," Kwon says. "Everybody if they want to could come here, eat something Korean, see something traditional. We could have another coffee shop, another karaoke room."