There’s a new culinary option in FD

Gaga and Hoo Korean Restaurant set to launch

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Hoo Won, 16, of Fort Dodge, left, serves up some Korean appetizers to Mike Ludwig, of Fort Dodge, during a recent open house at Gaga and Hoo Korean Restaurant.

Korean cuisine featuring marinated barbecue meats and other delightfully spicy and sweet dishes will be offered at a new restaurant, which is set to open next to the Fort Dodge Country Club.

Gaga and Hoo Korean Restaurant, 368 Country Club Drive, will open Aug. 31.

At that time, Chef Byeong-Whan Won’s dream will come true, according to his son Hoo Won, 16, of Fort Dodge.

“Ever since we moved here, he wanted to open a restaurant,” Hoo Won said. “It’s been a dream of his.”

Hoo Won will be a junior at Fort Dodge Senior High when school begins. He said his father is an experienced chef.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Chef Byeong-Whan Won, at left, poses with his family at Gaga and Hoo Korean Restaurant recently. Next to him is daughter, Gaga Won, son, Hoo Won, 16, and their mother, Hae-Young Park. The restaurant is named after Gaga and Hoo.

“He has been cooking forever,” Hoo Won said. “He used to travel all over America cooking at different restaurants.”

More recently, Byeong-Whan Won was a chef at CJ Bio America, a chemical plant located in the industrial park west of Fort Dodge called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation.

There, he served Korean interns who worked for the company.

Byeong-Whan Won moved from St. Joseph, Michigan, about five years ago.

“I have lived here three years,” Hoo Won said. “My dad has lived here two more years than us. He came to work at CJ Bio. Once his job was stable, we moved here.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Mandu, which are Korean dumplings stuffed with a mixture of various meat and vegetables, haemul pajeon, which is a green onion seafood pancake, tteok-bok-ki, which are chewy rice cakes with Korean spicy sauce, and dak-gang-jeong, Korean fried chicken, are all featured on this plate of appetizers.

When asked if he would help out at the restaurant, Hoo Won said he likely would even though his dad doesn’t want him too very often.

“He said I should study,” Hoo Won said.

The restaurant is named after Hoo and his sister Gaga Won.

Gaga Won, 25, is a recent graduate of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She earned a master’s degree for violin performance.

She has been playing the instrument since she was 10.

On Aug. 10, the family hosted an open house.

Gaga Won, Hoo Won, and their mother, Hae-Young Park greeted guests, while Byeong-Whan Won, was busy in the kitchen preparing the night’s meal.

After guests were seated in the party room and the appetizers were ready to be served, Gaga Won addressed the crowd.

“We are blessed to have so many supportive people among us,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

She had visited with some who were scared of what might be in the food.

“Don’t be scared,” she said. “We don’t have any scary food. My dad is a great chef. You will love it.”

Hoo Won said the secret to Korean barbecue is marination.

“Korean food we prepare three to four days before,” he said. “We marinate everything.”

Oftentimes, the meat is marinated with soy sauce.

One signature item is galbi, which is Korean short ribs.

According to Hoo Won, the ribs are dipped in soy sauce and sugar. Other ingredients include ginger, garlic, and kiwi.

The meat is then smoked outside.

“The kiwi makes the meat very soft and tender,” he said.

Some of Hoo Won’s friends stopped by to sample the cuisine, which also included barbecue chicken legs.

Nathan Hayes, 17, who will be a senior at FDSH, was one of them.

“If you don’t get a little messy, you’re doing it wrong,” he said.

The tteok-bok-ki, which are Korean rice cakes with spicy sauce, was as advertised — spicy, according to Hayes.

Another friend would later join the table.

“Just the right amount of sweet and spice,” Jeremy Brower, 18, of Fort Dodge, said of the food.

Mandu, which are Korean dumplings, and kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish, were among the items on the table.

Some of the kimchi was a few weeks old, while another plate was a few years old.

“The older it is the more expensive it is in Korea.” Hoo Won said.

The resturant’s hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

About the building and its location next to the Fort Dodge Country Club

Gaga and Hoo Korean Restaurant will occupy the space formerly held by the Cellar Restaurant and Lounge.

The Cellar was closed in March of 2015. It was open there for about two years.

The spacious facility can hold about 250 people, according to Gaga Won.

The structure, erected in 1911, was remodeled by previous owners. The renovation job produced a new kitchen, new restrooms and an updated air conditioning system, among other features.

Eddie Doyle, manager of the Fort Dodge Country Club, is hopeful that the two businesses will benefit each other.

“Hopefully it will increase traffic out here,” Doyle said. “I have talked to some of my members and other people, they would like to join out here or be associated with the country club, but since we don’t have the clubhouse, it’s something that it’s not worth their time doing because they want to spend time using the clubhouse and the restaurant.”

Doyle, 2014 St. Edmond graduate, spent his first full season as the golf shop manager this summer.

With the arrival of the Korean restaurant, Doyle is looking forward to future events at the Country Club.

“That place is a beautiful building,” he said. “There’s a lot of space in there. Hopefully come 2019 when we have the Fort Dodge AM and some of our club-held tournaments, hopefully we can use some of his space over there to make the members and the people playing golf out here, really get the total feeling of the Fort Dodge Country Club. Playing a nice golf course and enjoying a nice big place to sit down enjoy a meal and have a drink.”

He added, “Hopefully it will increase our business and hopefully our members will support him.”