One of the best things about eating at a Korean restaurant is the colorful assortment of little side dishes, or panchan, that they bring out — for free! — at the beginning of your meal. And nowhere else in the East Bay is the panchan spread as sumptuous or varied as at Sura, one of the newer restaurants in the row of Korean eateries that dominate a long stretch of Oakland's Telegraph Avenue. You never know exactly which side dishes you'll get, but they're always plentiful — as many as twenty a time. In addition to the usual plates of assorted kimchi you'll find at any Korean restaurant, the panchan at Sura often include a savory egg custard (served hot in a small stone bowl), thin shreds of purple potato and pink-hued daikon radish, cubes of sweet Kombucha squash, strips of garlicky sautéed eggplant, and much, much more. The flavors of the panchan are refreshingly delicate and nuanced, never hitting you over the head with sweetness or heat. During lunch hours, the spread of side dishes tends to be slightly smaller, but is still impressive — especially considering that Sura has some of the best lunch deals in town.
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