A few years ago, the South Korean consul-general for San Francisco blurted out that to get good Korean food in California, you basically had to go to L.A. For someone tried in diplomatic niceties to be so blunt about San Francisco's lack of bibimbap and ssam really says something.
Well, there's Rhea's, faithfully serving pork katsu on Valencia for some time now. And as of yesterday, there's a second location over on Bryant and 20th. Maybe that will get Mr. Fancy-Schmancy Diplomat to pay attention?
Rhea's pork katsu sandwich (panko fried pork, pickled red onions, jalapeños, slaw and katsu sauce) is quite tasty, in fact -- although it disintegrates rather completely by the third bite, requiring a fork. With a pickle spear and chips on the side, one also can't escape the feeling that it's been slightly toned down for an American palate. Fine, little bowls of banchan may not be culturally appropriate here, but one of the pleasures of Korean food is the variety of sides. Blow us away, Rhea's!
However, the wings (six for $7, a dozen for $12, in either original or sweet garlic sauce) are light years beyond most American fried chicken; it doesn't even compare. That's probably for the best, because Rhea's ran out of vegetarian options before the tail end of lunch. Also, there's beer -- cheap beer. $3 for a bottle of Sierra Nevada? Wow. That almost makes up for the noticeable uptick in sandwich prices, which are in the $10-12 range at this location.
Cool, almost neutral tones prevail in the interior. It's less retro than doctor's office-esque, but as with anyplace else, it'll certainly accrue character with time -- and God knows, they'll get the traffic. A few minor tweaks, and this place could be a standout addition to a section of the Mission that's not even close to the total foodie inundation found only blocks away. The more Korean food, the better.
Rhea's Deli, 2200 Bryant St.
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