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ny pizza and north korean food in sunnyvale

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one of my biggest complaints since moving out here from new york, other than the fact that you can't get a decent bite to eat after 9:30 pm on the peninsula, is the unbelievable lack of good new york style pizza. well, thanks to a friend at work, i've managed to solve the latter.

went to giovanni's in sunnyvale last week for the first time, and man, i must have felt like tom hanks in castaway upon coming home to his first burger (not that that was a scene in the movie, but it would have been a good one). okay, so the crust was maybe a millimeter or two to thin, and the pizza a wee bit greasy and maybe even a touch salty, but hey, when you're talking a million bucks, a few coins ain't gonna make a difference. and, thank god, they had garlic powder on the tables. what's the deal with pizza places out here not having garlic powder (not to mention the lack of russian dressing for my turkey sandwiches at the delis around here)? jeez. anyway, if you're in need of a slice, get thee to giovanni's for a quick fix.

oh yeah, it's right off 101. if you're going south, get off at lawrence, make a left, one block down make a left at the light (lake haven) and into the shopping center on the right.

and, in other good news, eunice (that's my fiancee in case you're keeping score) and i were cruising around in sunnyvale looking for korean places we hadn't tried yet (since we seem to always end up at the same two or three), and found this new north korean place. i refrained from making a joke about wondering if they served rice with the meal, and instead got really psyched for a good meal, and was not disappointed.

tops on the list was a great bowl of mul naeng myun, which to me is the perfect cure for the unusually hot summer days we've been having. for a quick rundown on those not familiar, naeng myun is a cold noodle soup with a beef based broth, buckwheat vermicelli noodles, and assorted vegetables, usually cucumber slices and radish or kimchi, some sliced beef, half a hard boiled egg (my favorite part), and some asian pear thrown in for good measure. it's actually hard to find a good bowl, since the quality of the broth can vary quite a bit. i was very satisfied with morangak's rendition. the broth had a particularly rich beef flavor to it, more so than the south korean variety, so it was a bit unusual for me, but good nonetheless. there was a generous portion of noodles, which is rarely the case these days, and the accompaniments were all very fresh. i highly recommend it. some helpful hints, add in some vinegar to taste and spicy yellow mustard for an added kick. they're both supplied to you at the table.

the mandoo (boiled dumplings) were also homemade and quite good, as was the bindae duk (fried mung bean pancakes).

moran gak is hidden in the back of a shopping center off of el camino. from 101, get off at lawrence and make a left on el camino. go down a few blocks (past kyopo supermarket on the left) and pass calabazas i believe and make a left into the shopping center. morangak is in the back and has a green sign with korean lettering on it. the small menu is in korean but luckily has pictures. if you can't read korean, i suggest you just memorize what you want to order, like mul naengmyun (make sure you say the "mul" part or they'll bring you the bibim naeng myun which isn't a soup, is really spicy, and not as good). you can figure out the mung bean pancakes and the dumplings so just point to them.

my only complaint would be the lack of panchan. some white kimchi which was pretty sour (not too bad) and tongchimi (kimchi in a salty broth) which was pretty decent. not nearly enough though. have fun, and let me know if you have any other questions.

now, if i can only figure out how to keep these places open past 9:30...

wonki

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  1. Wonki, could you identify some of the differences between North Korean and South Korean cuisine?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      melanie,

      unfortunately that's not my area of expertise (not that i have one). there are actually a lot of the same differences, except the flavors and ingredients are different between north and south. for example, the naeng myun that i talk about is a dish that i believe originated in pyongyang, the north korean capital, and the broth is definitely a different flavor. north korean mandoo i've had also seems to use a lot more greens in the filling. i'll get in touch with mike yu, chowhound's korean military advisor, and see if he's got better intelligence.

      wonki

      1. re: wonki

        Wonki and others--

        we had some huge and wonderful discussions on our General Topics board on N. Korean food a couple of years ago (with lots of input from our Korean Military Advisor). Hit the search engine (link below) and try plugging in:

        north korean general topics

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/htdig/chowti...

    2. "my only complaint would be the lack of panchan"

      wow...to see you drop that line so cavalierly at the end of an assessment is pretty stunning, Wonki. Back in NY you were a panchanaholic, refusing to even consider places which didn't offer good panchan...and lots of it!

      I remember that you refused to even consider the barbecue and (at the time) excellent pa-jun at Kang Suh because of their notoriously skanky kimchee.

      Have you gotten mainstreamed out there in Silicon Valley, or what? It's that unvaried climate. Evens everybody out.

      ciao

      2 Replies
      1. re: Jim Leff

        jim,

        actually, i need to make a distinction here. the problem (or at least my beef, no pun intended) with kang suh in new york, was not the lack of panchan, but the fact that what they gave you was crap. this place just doesn't give you any. so i guess what i'm saying is that i'd rather have no panchan at all than really bad panchan. or, if you're going to give panchan, make it good panchan; otherwise don't bother. hmmm, i smell a chowhound magnet/pin merchandising idea. :-)

        wonki

        1. re: wonki

          Wonki--I understood--and agreed with!--your panchan problem at Kang Suh. Yes, it's about quality, not quantity, and I totally agree that they serve some of the most unrepentantly skanky panchan imagineable.

          I do agree with your "give me (good) panchan or give me dearth" stance.

      2. OK, all of you stay away from Giovani's! It's my secret and I don't want to have to wait in too long a line.

        Seriously, it's the best you'll find this side of the Hudson. True Italian, thin crust, Sicilian style if you prefer, baked ziti or al dante pasta with home made everything. Polly-O cheese. If you're from NY you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, if not I feel sorry for you.

        Tell Vince, George & Julien sent you...