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Dolsot bip bim bop dish is on the

Dolsot bip bim bop dish is on the menu at Cafe Jane in Mineola. (Feb. 27, 2009) Photo Credit: Photo by Jin Lee

A big hit among Asian-food cognoscenti, this diminutive spot offers well-executed Korean and Japanese specialties. Sushi is ultra-fresh. Try the jap chae (stir-fried cellophane noodles) and the fluffy seafood pancake.

Although I had come mainly for Korean food, I tried three rolls from the sushi bar -- the salmon and avocado roll and the (very) spicy tuna roll, both fresh and attractively cut on the bias. The Jane Café roll was a bright combo of assorted fish and Asian pickles.

From the mostly Korean menu, I ordered two steamed dumpling appetizers, which came 10 to each order -- ideal for sharing -- accompanied by a soy-based dipping sauce. I liked the hearty beef filling better than the vegetable stuffing, a beige puree studded with bits of corn. My all-out favorite dish (which can be either an appetizer or entree) was octopus pancake. "It's really a seafood pancake, and it's delicious," said our waitress, who turned out to be Stephanie Shin, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Bruce Shin. The pancake was, in fact, irresistible, at once crisp and pillowy, studded with assorted pieces of seafood. I could live on such pancakes.

A meal here can be made from a bowl of soup, whether it be the hearty beef udon version -- containing strips of meat, assorted seafood and fat udon noodles -- or the pungent casserole called bok mae woon tang, a spicy broth filled with vegetables and the somewhat bland swellfish, also known as blowfish or fugu. "Don't worry, it's not poisonous," assured chef Bruce Shin.

When a mountain of galbi -- Korean barbecued beef -- was set before me, I was urged to use my fingers to get the most from tender, garlicky pieces of bone-in meat. Another winningly hearty entree was sliced pork tenderloin grilled with vegetables in a spicy -- but not harsh -- sauce.

For many, the test of a Korean restaurant is its bibimbap, a savory bowlful of vegetables, beef and rice topped with a fried egg, the whole to be mixed with a spicy red bean paste at the table. At lunch, I watched a young woman tell her boyfriend to be sure to eat his with a spoon rather than chopsticks. "If you do, they'll come over and yell at you." she warned jokingly. I can't imagine anybody yelling at anyone here, but Stephanie Shin is passionate about introducing those new to the cuisine of her native country to enjoying it properly. I was pleased with her suggestion of hwe dup bap, a cool rice and vegetable dish laced with slices of sashimi. Jap chae, the classic noodle dish of sweet potato vermicelli -- thin jellylike noodles pan-fried with vegetables, fried egg, beef, shrimp and fish cake -- proved hearty and satisfying.

At dinner, we were brought a platter of fresh honeydew melon as a finale. It was light and cooling, just right after a meal of strong, forthright flavors. We left feeling refreshed on many levels.

Reviewed by Joan Reminick.

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