I head into a Korean restaurant labeling themselves as “fusion.” I have never eaten fusion before, let alone Korean fusion. Fear and apprehension strike because I want normalcy like my daily meals in Seoul. But on this day (and pleasantly on my last visit), I find fusion to be agreeable and inviting to my palate. I am slightly saddened because all this time I was wrong, decent Korean food can be had in Wisconsin.
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Food: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Being a Seoul resident and having grown up on authentic Korean food (mom’s an old school cook from the countryside), I can say with conviction that K-Peppers does a pretty decent job with the quality and taste of their signature dishes (bulgogi, bibimbab, japchae, jjigaes). If you can get these basic dishes right, I’m sure their other options will be just as good. My initial quirk when I came here the first time was the “fusion” label (which to me means I don’t know what I’m doing so let’s throw everything in together), but I think it was a good move because 1) it’s not authentic Korean cuisine, 2) most of the main dishes and banchan (side dishes) are sweeter and milder, and 3) there are quite a few ingredient substitutions that appeal to the palates of Americans rather than Koreans (because all know Wisconsin is overpopulated with Koreans right?). ^^ Regardless, sweetness and minor ingredient swapping is not at all bad but something to be welcomed when we use the term “fusion.”
Service: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
I have to say this rating is a little skewed, just for the fact that both visits were late lunch time and there were only 2 or 3 tables occupied (they have 10 tables total that seat 4 people). We had an American male server who was very polite, prompt, and knowledgeable about the food. How did I know he was knowledgeable about the food? Well, for some reason, I get a little wary and apprehensive when I have a non-Korean as a server, so I did what any food-critic-wannabe would do: I challenged him to Korean Cuisine 101. Just kidding. But I did ask him a few basic questions about some of the dishes and he had no problem answering them. Back to the service, there were no issues at all and I personally appreciated his task of refilling my water several times and bringing plenty of napkins (ordered spicy level 5!). Anyways, the only thing that interests me now is how service would be during peak times, especially since there was only one person in front of house. Because of this, I just might have to check them out again before heading back to Seoul. ^^
Ambiance: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
The ambiance and decor was better than your normal Korean restaurant, which oftentimes skimp out on quality furniture and design to save money. The color schemes were neutral and provided a touch of coziness to the place. My sister and I thought the Korean figurines and ornaments were a nice addition, giving the restaurant a more rustic, Asian charm. Above all, I was personally impressed to hear throwback Korean music from the 80s to present. Although brief, I thought I was in Korea for a moment, that is until our American waiter returned with our food. ^^
Value: ★★★ out of 5 stars
Probably the only area this place suffers is the steep prices. These prices are comparable to bigger cities like Chicago or L.A., but it’s definitely understandable (at least to me) since we’re in Wisconsin, where logistics play a big part of where they get their inventory. Having worked at a fairly large Asian market in my heyday (in Iowa to be exact), we would get all our inventory from Chicago and then redistribute the goods to local Asian restaurants. So, you’re basically paying extra money to the middle man for delivery of goods and services. Also, I’m pretty sure their location is a big factor in pricing, being situated in a fancy strip mall with higher-end shops. Lucky for me, I get to return to the land of bibimbab and bulgogi and enjoy them all for well under $10 lunch or dinner. Sweet!
Overall rating: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
K-Peppers (Korean Fusion Cuisine)
1901 Cayuga St #110
Middleton, WI 53562
My spicy bulgogi was definitely gochujang-smothered-hot and sweeter than its’ authentic counterpart. Although tasty, I would have preferred red pepper flakes as opposed to red pepper paste (gochujang). Also, I have to say that spicy level 5 (out of 5) got me sweating profusely and calling for more water many times (not that I’m complaining). It was nice to clear the sinuses.