A New Korean restaurant opening up off of El Camino is almost as surprising as hearing the the sun will rise tomorrow. A quick search of the area turns up more than 20 restaurants just within a small stretch. However, Paik’s Noodles is a bit different from the herd.

An offshoot of a South Korean chain founded by celebrity chef Jong-Won Paik, Paik’s serves up a Korean-Chinese fusion that is popular in the northern parts of both countries but almost unheard of globally. This cuisine is considered to be peasant food, as the shops that serve it typically cater to lower-income demographics.

When they first opened, Paik’s had four items on the menu; that number has now increased to nine—with more to come, including garlic wings and pan-fried dumplings. My dining companion and I decided to keep it simple and stick to their namesake noodles, so we ordered up the No. 9 Jaengban-jjajang ($13.99), or stir-fried black bean sauce noodles. After looking around, we noticed that almost every table had an order of the No. 8 Tangsuyuk ($10.99), which comes with sweet and sour pork, so we took the plunge.

First, the noodles—these aren’t any average noodles. Paik’s noodles are so long that scissors are handed out as a standard accoutrement to help cut them down to a more appropriate size. The noodles were amazingly silky, soft and chewy. They went down easily in the sweet but earthy black bean sauce. The concomitant wood ear mushrooms, baby corn, onions, shrimp, chili pods and pork made for one of the most delicious—but spicy!—stir-fries I’ve had. I found the heat to be pleasant, but my dining mate thought it a bit much. It’s worth noting that it didn’t slow her down from enjoying the dish.

Then the deep-fried chunks of piping hot pork arrived at our table. The rice flour coating was airy and had an odd crunch, unlike any I’ve tried. The accompanying sweet and sour sauce is served in a bowl on the side to prevent the sauce from sogging up the crunchy batter. At first we dipped the pork chunks into the viscous sauce one by one, but then I realized we were missing out on all the tasty veggies that were ensconced in the sauce. So we proceeded to just dump it on top and voilà—the cucumbers, carrots, cabbage and wood ear mushrooms transformed the dish from pretty good to pretty great.

Paik’s offers up a unique Korean dining experience in a neighborhood rife with similar eats. But they’re taking a little-known rustic food and elevating it to gourmet status, thanks to quality ingredients. As winter approaches, one might be tempted to try one of Paik’s soups, but don’t stray too far from the noodles. After all, it says so right in the name.

Paik’s Noodles 
1520 Kiely Blvd, Santa Clara.