For Han Kim and Jade Ok, opening Hanok restaurant in Madison Park is a dream 15 years in the making.
The new restaurant from the Lynnwood couple is occupying the space previously held by Vietnamese restaurant Bella Viet Café at 4021 E. Madison St. The cozy space seats between 25 and 35, depending on the weather, and including its outdoor seating area.
Hanok is very much a family-operated business. Ok is running the kitchen, while Kim is handling the front of the house, with Ok's mother working alongside the couple. Their 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, designed the restaurant's logo.
Hanok had its public soft opening on Tuesday, Oct. 16, and is planning a grand opening in November. The restaurant will be open for lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Its dinner hours will be 5-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The restaurant's name is a combination of Kim's first name and his wife's last name, which, coincidentally, forms the native word for a traditional Korean house. Ok says hanok translates from Korean to English as "comfortable house."
It's a theme that she hopes will carry over to the patrons of her restaurant.
"We're recommending that everybody come to the house and enjoy the food," she said.
While Ok's primary focus is traditional Korean food, she describes Hanok's cuisine as Asian-fusion, as the menu includes items such as udon and Japanese hamburger steak. Guests will find traditional Korean favorites such as bibimbap and bulgogi.
"It's a lot of Korean traditional food, but it's served differently," Kim said. "We'll introduce some Western influences in some of the dishes also. We have so many menu items out there in our mind, but we don't want to put everything out in front of [customers] yet. We want to have people come in and say, 'Hey, what's new this time?' and keep creating something new and exciting, so people are not bored."
There won't be the traditional Korean sides, aside from soup and salad, as the food will be served as individual entrees instead of family style. The couple said not offering the Korean sides was both a nod to Western influence as well as an effort to eliminate waste.
Ok grew up in Korea and moved to Seattle for school when she was 19. Kim, who has an engineering background, was born in Korea but immigrated to Seattle when he was 8. He said he wasn't as exposed to the traditional Korean style until he met his wife.
Ok previously worked as a server at I Love Sushi on Lake Union, a job which she took to get a better feel for working in the restaurant industry. Her passion is cooking, though her long-held dream of opening a restaurant took a back seat 15 years ago to building a home for the couple's two daughters, Alyssa and Erica, 12. But Ok never let go of her passion. She has also worked in catering, and often cooks for her church, providing for parties of 100.
Kim said the time seemed right to support his wife with her dream. The process has come together rather smoothly, he said, with their in-laws providing a lot of support. Ok's brother, Ted Kim, runs Mura Asian Eatery in Magnolia with his wife, Kay. Knowing his sister wanted to run a restaurant of her own, he kept an eye out for potential spaces. He introduced them to the property where Hanok is opening.
While things may have come together smoothly, Ok added opening their own restaurant certainly comes with its own jitters. She credited her husband for helping her find the confidence to follow through with her dream.
"[Opening Hanok] was in my head for a long time, so why don't we just do it," she said. "I always teach my kids that whatever your goal or whatever your dream is, don't think about the result. Think about your passion and how much you love doing it, and just go for it and do it. I always teach that to my kids, but when it comes to my life, it's always stopped me from going forward. But he encouraged me a lot, and that's how we came this far."
From her time working in the restaurant industry, Ok said her biggest takeaway was the importance of building relationships with customers. She credited her time with I Love Sushi for teaching her how to work in a busy, fast-paced environment, working the lunch rush and serving the influx of customers from the nearby Facebook, Google and Amazon campuses.
"I just love to serve good food to people and watch them enjoy the food," she said. "When they get to the restaurant, they're hungry, but when they leave the restaurant, they're full and happy. Just looking at that, it just makes me happy. I just like the environment of working with the customers."
Kim said the restaurant still has a few positions they're looking to fill in the kitchen and the front of the house. They're hoping to find people who share their vision and passion.
As new faces in Madison Park and as parents of two daughters, Kim said the couple is looking to get involved with the community, particularly when it comes to youth or youth sports.
"We want to grow with the community and we want to be invested in the community," Kim said. "We'll definitely be reaching out to the chamber of commerce here and looking for places where we can help. Obviously, until we grow big, we won't be able to provide much. But from the get-go we want to make sure we provide a little bit of support."