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Reports on Bop, Golden Unicorn, Madras Mahal

m
Michael Aug 17, 1999 12:28 AM

I took my girlfriend to Bop (on Bowery) on Friday
night. It seems quite trendy and looks to be catering
to a crowd of hip students and such. Andrea wanted to
sit in a booth downstairs, but I thought that little
table might not be big enough for our food, so we sat
upstairs, where it was loud. I got used to the loudness
eventually. We ordered assorted Korean appetizers,
which were very pleasant and some better (like the
clear, chewy, thin thing fried in chili oil), and
excellent seafood pancakes which came with a delicious
sauce that the staff almost forgot to give us. For main
dishes, we had some very fine broiled shrimps
(recommended by our waitress), and bibimbop with tuna.
The shrimps were slightly too carbonized in the grill,
I thought, but we both agreed that they were very good.
The bibimbop was excellent. It's a combination of rice,
lots of vegetables (notably including bean sprouts,
bamboo shoots, and delicious dried black mushrooms),
and, in this case, cubes of tuna. There was plenty of
the bibimbop - maybe too much. We were also given some
kimchi that was absolutely WONDERFUL! It was unlike
other kimchi that I've had, in that it was accompanied
by plenty of sauce - a red chili sauce. Though the
service was not perfect, it was pleasant and they tried
their best to be helpful. I live around the corner from
Dok Suni's, so I've had their food a lot, and I thought
Bop totally blew them away, at similar prices. Andrea
and I totally pigged out, and it cost just over $50
total, plus tip. It struck me that while Korean food
may not be a fine art like Indian, Chinese, or French
food, it is surely at least a hearty peasant cuisine,
filling, and rather healthful with all those
vegetables. Andrea and I agreed that Bop deserves a
2-star rating on a 0-to-4 scale. Don't go there Tuesday
nights, though, at least not late, because I was told
by a waitress that they have a DJ after 10 P.M. that
night.

Based on some recommendations on this board, I and
Andrea went to Golden Unicorn for dim sum on Sunday
afternoon. We got there around 1:30 P.M., got our
ticket on the ground floor, and did not have to wait
very long for our table. We enjoyed our meal very much,
and also enjoyed the elegant decor and ambiance of the
eating hall, which is nicer than any other Chinese
eating hall I've seen in New York so far (much less
hectic than Harmony Palace, an old standby for me). We
ate beef balls (good, though I've had better), spring
rolls (very good and better than the usual, though I
found them a bit fatty; Andrea loved them), shrimp siu
mai (excellent and superior), fried scallop and shrimp
dumplings with leeks (terrific), red pork buns (very
good), chicken buns (good, but not as good as the pork
buns), and shrimp in the big noodles (nice, but could
have had more sauce). Andrea was astonished that the
tab for everything was $20. I will be back.

Tonight, I went to Madras Mahal. I have been there
several times before, and never had any complaint.
Today, I ordered rasam, an onion/chili utthapam, and
spicy lassi. The rasam was authentic, tasty, and almost
too hot for me to eat, as usual (helps clear the
sinuses when I'm allergic!), and I had no complaint
about the fine utthapam, either. The problem was the
lassi. I am a regular at Madras Cafe, 2nd Av. between
4th and 5th, and I always get a masala lassi there -
it's no longer on their menu, but they make it for me
specially, since I like it. Madras Mahal has a strange
take on spicy lassi. The main taste in the lassi was
lemon juice. Unfortunately, it tasted like it came from
a large number of old lemons. I gave it a chance, but
ultimately asked the waiter to send it back, giving the
taste of the lemon juice as my reason and asking him to
bring sweet lassi instead. He said "you like spicy." I
responded that the spicy is not the problem, it's the
lemon juice, but that the simplest thing to do is to
just substitute sweet lassi. So what do you think
happened? He brought a hotter version of the same
drink, with the same old-lemon juice taste. He was
surprised that I didn't like it and wouldn't drink it.
Clearly, he didn't understand my English. That became
clearer when, at the end of the meal, I put in an extra
dollar, saying "I need change for a dollar" (for his
tip!), and it came back unchanged. Without belaboring
the point, it really is a problem when restaurants with
such a large percentage of non-Indian patrons have
waiters who don't understand English.

  1. g
    Governor Aug 18, 1999 08:20 PM

    Just a follow-up on Bop.

    While not the most traditional Korean restaurant
    you'll ever dine in, the slightly trendoid Bop does
    have its merits.

    For the most enjoyable experience, forgo the entrees
    and graze on a few appetizers - including killer
    tartare (combine it with some greens - very tasty),
    assorted kimchee (the clear chewy stuff in chili oil
    was squid, BTW), and those tender pancakes.

    A couple of their less traditional dishes (something
    they called ravioli, if I remember correctly, and a
    papaya salad with shrimp) were disappointments.

    Bop, not necessarily worth a dedicated trek, but
    certainly a good option when you'll be in the
    neighborhood.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Governor
      m
      Michael Aug 19, 1999 03:13 AM

      "(the clear chewy stuff in chili oil was squid, BTW)"

      I know squid. In my opinion, it was NOT squid. It was
      VERY THIN and CLEAR, NOT WHITE. If it was squid, please
      explain what part of the squid it came from, and how
      they got it paper thin and cellophane-like.

      1. re: Michael
        m
        MU Aug 19, 1999 08:25 AM

        Not squid. Jellyfish.

        1. re: MU
          m
          Michael Aug 22, 1999 05:20 AM

          "Not squid. Jellyfish."

          Thanks, MU.

        2. re: Michael
          g
          Governor Aug 21, 1999 01:14 PM

          Rather testy, aren't we Michael?

          Not to be too pendantic about it, your rather
          condescending throwaway of Korean food in general (not
          "a fine art, like Indian, Chinese, or French food")
          based on an exposure to what - two restaurants in
          total, gave me the general impression you had no idea
          what you were talking about.

          Your description of the "thin, clear, chewy stuff"
          could easily have been dried, reconstituted squid,
          cuttlefish, or as MU quite rightly pointed out -
          jellyfish.

          Now pipe down and eat your nice kimchee.

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