Peter Cho doesn’t know what his new restaurant will serve, okay? It’s low on the priority list right now. “The menu is the last thing on my mind,” he says, sitting at a table near the large garage-style windows of Han Oak. “I need to get a general feel for the space, get the permits first.”
Cho runs Han Oak — an Eater 38 stalwart — with his wife, Sun Young Park, and the two have accumulated a deafening amount of praise for it. However, Han Oak started small: just a few days open, then a few more. Now, it’s still not open more than four days per week.
Cho and Park are similarly cautious with Pocha, the new spot they plan to open steps away from their original restaurant. Yesterday, the Oregonian broke the news that the restaurant would take over the former home of the Sudra, the vegan restaurant within the same restaurant complex. The story teased dishes like the restaurant’s kalguksu, a Korean noodle dish, plus its super-crispy fried chicken and Korean mandu (dumplings). When asked about these dishes, Cho says nothing is set in stone, but yes, those things will very likely appear on the menu.
When Cho talks about the restaurant, he’s more strongly committed to what it won’t be — Cho dismisses the idea that Pocha will just be a throwaway casual counterpart, with a few of the greatest hits churned out robotically. “I don’t want it to just be a casual dumpling and noodle bar,” he says. “I want it to feel like the early dumpling and noodle nights — I want it to force us to do things creatively.”
When he talks through potential menu items, he mentions the “Scotty Melt,” a dish brainstormed by Han Oak’s Scott Iijima; it’s basically a patty melt with dduk-galbi, a Korean grilled short rib patty. Cho wants the menu at Pocha to have a similar looseness — the team will have the freedom to come up with new things, to get creative with one-off dishes and see what works. “When we started, I felt like I was changing things all the time. But as Frankie (Cho and Park’s son) got older, I had to get things very consistent,” Cho says. “I miss doing things spontaneously.”
He knows Pocha will have a full bar, and the restaurants will likely have some crossover. He also plans to line up the schedules so either Pocha or Han Oak will be open any day of the week, with multiple days off at each restaurant. He’s even considering bringing back brunch at Han Oak, being able to balance time better between the two spots.
But beyond that, Pocha is very early in its gestation. For those interested in following along as things solidify, Pocha’s Instagram is up and running, albeit a little sparse these days. It’ll come together — if it’s anything like Han Oak, it’ll be in very good shape. Pocha will open at 2333 NE Glisan Street, whenever it opens; Cho says it could be as early as February, but he’s not going to commit to an opening date just yet.
• Han Oak [Official]
• Pocha [Instagram]
• Han Oak will expand with Pocha, a noodle and dumpling micro restaurant coming this spring [O]
• Previous Han Oak coverage [EPDX]