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Korean grill lets hubby hone his skills

Taste
by: JIM CLARK, A slew of side dishes — which, unlike the meat, you don’t have to cook yourself — rounds out the meal at Toji.

Years ago, before we had kids and when I had a full-time job, I already did all the cooking at my house. One day I announced to my husband that he was in charge of making dinner.

He bought big, fluffy, white hamburger buns and a can of sloppy Joe sauce, which he heated and poured over the buns. It looked and tasted disgusting.

That was the last time he cooked dinner.

But, in another example of our relationship being almost embarrassingly traditional, my husband is in charge of the barbecue grill.

Our chore distribution extends to dinner at Toji Korean Grill House (4615-A S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-232-8998). I drink beer (Kirin Ichiban on tap) and watch while he does all the work.

At Toji, most customers cook their own food on gas grills sunk into the middle of each table.

There is a decent-size selection of already-cooked items on the menu. But if you don't want to grill your own food, it would be silly to come to Toji. Visit BeWon in Northwest Portland for excellent already-cooked Korean food.

If you've never been to a Korean barbecue before, pretend like you have when you come to Toji. If the servers think you don't know what you're doing, they may take over and offer so much assistance that you'll miss all the fun.

The menu includes three long pages of 'grill on your table' items, many with accompanying photos.

The most traditional grilled dish is bulgogi, made with marinated beef, but Toji's menu also includes chicken and pork versions. The beef bulgogi, which has been marinated in a sweet soy sauce, and pork bulgogi, marinated in a spicy sauce, are both tender and delicious.

Other meats to grill include short ribs, pork belly and beef tongue. There also are seafood choices like shrimp, scallops and eel. There's a vegetable platter, too.

Depending on how much food you order, the bill at Toji definitely can add up. Individual barbecue items range in price from $14 to $25.

But with the barbecue dishes you'll receive several small banchan, or side dishes, including a couple of kinds of kimchi, sweet fermented black beans, thinly sliced daikon radish and, my favorite, delicate bean sprout salad dressed with smoky sesame oil. You'll also get an assortment of sweet, salty and mildly spicy dipping sauces.

There is one precooked appetizer on the menu that you mustn't miss. Haemulpajeun is a thick, sticky, fried pancake filled with chunks of calamari and shrimp and sliced scallions. I'll order it every time I visit the restaurant.

The servers at Toji are friendly and helpful and the space itself is casual, clean and comfortable.

Many Korean families eat at Toji, and, as is customary in Korea, they tend to linger over their dinners talking and drinking and ordering more food. Dinner out is a social event, a chance to relax and catch up, and, in my case, watch my husband 'cook.' Now doesn't that sound like fun?

Toji Korean Grill House is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

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Do you love to cook? Would you like to learn more about cooking? Eminent chef and teacher Robert Reynolds has just announced a new schedule of three cooking classes offered at his school, the Chef Studio (2818 S.E. Pine St., 503-421-9257).

'Course by Course' is a kind of introduction to serious cooking. The next eight-week session starts March 20, meets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, and costs $480. The class is limited to eight students.

'Workshop on Menus' explores the skill of combining different dishes into a cohesive menu. The six-week session, which begins March 24 and meets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, is limited to six students and costs $450.

'Sense of Place' is a full-time course (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday), which runs eight weeks starting March 17. Reynolds taught this course for more than 20 years in France. If you have big cooking aspirations, and you can afford it, this is the class for you.

The cost for the entire series is $8,000, but depending upon enrollment, it may be possible to take only one week of the course ($1,000) or even one day ($150). Contact Reynolds at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-233-1934 with questions.

For information, visit www.thechefstudio.com

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Gourmet food shop Foster and Dobbs (2518 N.E. 15th Ave., 503-284-1157) recently announced a series of spring workshops.

In 'Bees and Honey' with longtime beekeeper Tom Foster, you'll taste different honey from all over the world, learn about bees and how to use honey in interesting ways. The class is at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 11. The cost is $20. Visit www.fosteranddobbs.com for more about upcoming workshops, dinners and tastings.

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