Sorabol soars above expectations

The hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant provides excellent introduction to traditional food

Tucked away in a strip mall, you will find an explosion of flavor that transports anyone that opens the door.

Sorabol, a traditional Korean restaurant, has been a staple in the Newport News community for some time.

Located next to the International Market on Denbigh, many pass by Sorabol without batting an eye as they go to buy their rambutans and Pocky. 

Its storefront is something that is easy to miss. A large sign in yellow font above a nondescript door is all that welcomes those who enter. 

Going into the restaurant, I had trepidations. How good could something next to a supermarket be? How good could something next to a restaurant with bars on the windows, simply labeled Burgers, Wings and Fries, be? And why can’t I see through the windows here?

As I walked in, these fears weren’t necessarily assuaged. Dimly lit and sparsely decorated, what was there looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the ‘80s. The chairs were angled benches and a dark and seemingly broken karaoke machine stared me down as I took my seat. 

The menu was filled with all of the traditional Korean you would expect to find—bibimbap, bulgogi, dumplings, teriyak—if it’s Korean, it was probably there. 

As this was one of my first Korean food experiences, I was also thankful to see there were also descriptions of each dish and pictures in the menu. 

Looking through the menu I decided to choose gimbap as an appetizer and hoe-deopbap as my main course. My friends went with dumplings as an appetizer, chicken teriyaki and beef bulgogi. 

The gimbap, a traditional Korean sushi, was wrapped with seaweed and rice and contained eggs, cooked beef, cucumber, carrots and danmuji, a pickled radish. With these elements  being seasoned and cooked, as well as fresh, the textures and flavors created by the dish were exciting and different, each bite bringing forth a different note of the dish. With the carrots and cucumbers tasting so fresh, I wonder if the restaurant was benefiting from their proximity to the market next door. 

Although I didn’t partake as to save room for the rest of my meal, my friends spoke highly of Sorabol’s dumplings. Brought to the table still steaming, their texture combined with the seasoning and the moisture of the beef inside brought smiles to their faces and echoes of, “you’ve got to try this.”

The next food to arrive was the sides, or banchan. Small plates of kimchi, fried pork belly, vegetables and noodles  were brought out for the whole table to feast on and they provided quick bursts of flavor if we were to ever get bored of our meal, which we would be hard-pressed to do.

My main meal, hoe-deopbap, a mixed rice dish, featured seasonal vegetables, raw fish and fish eggs, topped a bed of rice. A side of chogochujang, a red chilli and vinegar sauce, was served on the side.

Again, the texture and combination of flavors was the highlight of the meal. Mixing the crunch of the vegetables, the buttery texture of the raw fish, and the pop of the fish eggs, this meal provided not only a cacophony of flavors, but also variable textures. 

Beyond which it was very filling. I was given a side of egg drop soup with my meal as well and I felt my waistband to begin to tighten. But with sides so delicious, I found it difficult to stop myself from eating more. 

My friends felt much the same. Finishing up their full meals and picking on what was left of the banchon, they spoke highly of their meals.

Given the prices which rung in at about $15 for an appetizer and meal, I couldn’t be more satisfied. When I was leaving an older woman said to me, “Best lunch in town. It’s a secret,” and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe Sorabol.

Although admittedly I don’t have much to compare it to, Sorabol was an excellent introduction to Korean food and I beg anyone that might pass it by to give it another look and maybe step inside.

~Morgan Barclay, Editor-in-Chief~

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