.Culinary Adventures in K-Pop

The 2000 block of Santa Clara’s El Camino Real is a multicultural oasis. 

You can walk from the giant supermarket New India Bazar to La Paloma, the cater-cornered Mexican restaurant. Or you can check out the nearby new Korean bar Pocha K.    

Pocha K is open every night until 1am (2am on the weekends). We stopped by early to grab a bite at happy hour. We were greeted by a large TV playing K-pop videos and a friendly host. The walls are papered with the familiar pattern of horizontal wood beams, but the strings of cheerful LED lights brighten the atmosphere. 

The video screen inside the front entrance is installed like a shrine to the teenage gods and goddesses of K-pop music. There are no tables placed in front of it. At that hour, the music emanating from it is kept at a low volume. But I could easily imagine a late night crowd singing in front of the TV in full Karaoke mode.

In an introductory note on Yelp, James Ahn, the owner, explains why he opened Pocha K: “The Bay Area never had a nice Korean Bar that offered a modern K-pop atmosphere with reasonably priced food. Instead of waiting, I’ve decided to open one myself.” Pocha K, as Ahn says, is a place to eat and drink with friends. The menu is extensive. 

The kimchi pancake ($12) is eggy and filling, served a ruddy brown from all the spices. It’s got a good kick. I’d go back again for the hot plate of marinated short ribs ($18) and the beautiful plate of boneless deep-fried chicken ($13). 

Continuing our K-pop evening, we rolled south, right past the World Famous Pink Poodle to San Jose’s K Cafe Patisserie. In a very different way, K Cafe is a paean to another fantasy world (who knew Bascom Avenue was this inspiring?). As many Yelp reviewers point out, the interior design, including the brightly lit vitrine of pastries, was optimized for social media (“Can you say INNNNNSSTTAAAAGRRAAAAAAM?,” writes Mylynh N.).


Drink and dessert options blink out of the many video screens at K Cafe. Their specialty is an eggpuccino ($7), which can be ordered plain, or with matcha, chocolate or taro. I settled for a hot chocolate. 

Like the decor, the desserts landed picture perfect on the pretty plates. That they were way too sweet made sense in this context. Appearances triumph over substance in the land of the gram.  

Pocha K

2340 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

(408) 326-2191

pochaksc.com

K Cafe Patisserie & Tea House

923 S Bascom Ave., San Jose

(408) 900-0023

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