The flavors of Korea are anything but shy. At Dori in Commack, they come through loud and clear, both in the classics and in a smattering of Chinese dishes with a Korean twist.
Dori is the latest in a string of Korean restaurants to occupy the little chalet on Jericho Turnpike. Inside, with surfaces of wood and metal, its look is both rustic and coolly modern. Service can be on the cool side, too.
In true Korean fashion, dinner begins with banchan, an array of gratis small plates that varies slightly from day to day. Once, the assortment of pickled vegetables and cold noodles is augmented by a couple of small grilled fish. Another time, there's no fish but egg salad made with apple and onion.
As appetizers, vegetable spring rolls come out crisp and satisfying -- more so than fried pork dumplings, which are thick-skinned, heavy. A fine starter to share is the seafood pajeon, a crisp yet pillowy pancake studded with scallions, clams, shrimp and squid. You'll also find crowd appeal in beef japchae, a simple stir-fry of glass noodles, beef and vegetables.
A Korean classic, dolsot bibimbap, is served in a superheated stone pot; inside, crisped rice is topped with vegetables, bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) and, finally, a fried egg; mix in a spicy bean paste to taste. A shame both the beef and the egg are a tad overcooked.
It's hard, though, to chew the spicy (and rubbery) sizzling squid in a fiery red pepper paste, which is meant to be mixed into accompanying thick wheat noodles. Another mix-in noodle dish -- this one from the Korean-Chinese side of the menu -- is pork jajang, finely diced pork in a thick and inky sauce that tastes mainly of onions.
More universally appealing is the restaurant's take on a suburban Chinese restaurant favorite, General Tso's chicken. The glazed, lightly crusted pieces of poultry come in a well-balanced sauce playing spicy against sweet -- knockout chicken, for sure. The question arises: Could General Tso have been Korean? Another fine Korean-Chinese creation is jabtang rice, an assortment of shellfish and vegetables in a harmonious sauce plated over rice.
Although the menu lists ice cream and gelato as desserts, the waiter shakes his head no when asked about finales. No matter; a cup of tea will do fine.