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Lauren Cusimano

Drunken Tiger

Drunken Tiger is like no other Korean restaurant in greater Phoenix. It’s a haven where soju cocktails flow, pop tunes blast, a joyful wall-painted octopus wields a chef’s knife, and chef Justin Park cares more about food being good than traditional. Sure, the old-school Korean classics slap, like fiery tteokbokki and a simple-yet-mean side of kimchi. But the new-school, booze-friendly dishes like bulgogi nachos and fried potato salad are what give Drunken Tiger its uncommon roar. As much as this snug eatery is a restaurant, it’s also a vibe. To channel it, roll up with friends, order soju bottles or a pitcher of frosty Kloud from the tap, marinate in the kinetic energy, and maybe even get the silkworm soup. Ramen has heat, depth, and long kinked noodles cooked just right, retaining some nice bounce and chew. Padak, Park’s take on popcorn chicken, brings a pile of small, meaty poultry hunks deeply-yet-somehow-lightly fried and buried under a tangle of shaved green onions — a heap of food that, like so much of the menu, feels like it was made to fuel liquid indulgence. Drunken Tiger can even cross the Sea of Japan to nail takoyaki, frying creamy orbs generously topped with saline bonito flakes. There is also a section of barbecue; as the sails of bulgogi slide off their thin bones and dissolve in your mouth, your sizzling cast iron dish holding half a dozen more, it’s easy to forget yourself and that you’re in Arizona.

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