R.I.P.: Bear Korean Restaurant, Cotati, Calif. (1999-2014)
I have been writing about Korean food for more than five years, reviewing restaurants all over the U.S. — San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Anchorage, Alaska, St. Louis, Mo., and even Billings, Mont. I’ve reported on establishments in Seoul, Chuncheon and Busan. But the one restaurant I knew very well I never reviewed: Bear Korean in Cotati, Calif.
Bear Korean was the only authentic Korean restaurant in Sonoma County — and in much of the north San Francisco Bay area — until Tov Tofu opened in Santa Rosa in 2010. I reviewed Tov Tofu but never Bear Korean.
The latter held too many memories for me to evaluate it objectively. Hubby and I celebrated many of our birthdays and wedding anniversaries at Bear Korean. Every friend who has ever expressed an interest in Korean cuisine was invited to join hubby and I there for a meal. In my circle of friends, I am the ambassador of Korean cuisine, explaining the concept of banchan (side dishes, often served as appetizers in the U.S.), giving quick chopstick tutorials and answering questions about Korean food etiquette.
As a blogger-writer-journalist of sorts, I work hard to look at each restaurant I review without bias or emotion. I state the facts about my experience at the restaurant: the flavors, the smells, the ambiance, the clientele. My job is to give readers the details they need to decide themselves if the restaurant I reviewed for them is worth their time to check out on their own.
Bear Korean had undergone a couple of ownership changes since opening in 1999 and was finally sold to a Chinese family in 2010. According to a source familiar with restaurant over its life, the new owners kept on a Korean cook.
Around August of this year, Bear Korean’s spot in a small strip shopping center in Cotati is replaced by Amy’s Chinese Kitchen. I don’t want to knock down a new kid on the block before they have a chance, but America is home to over 41,000 Chinese restaurants. Cotati (and America) doesn’t need another Chinese restaurant. Really.