Jim's Han Bat trip.
It's interesting that you took such a liking to sul lung tang without salt. You should have been given a small dish of coarse salt along with the soup. I've never seen anyone eat sul lung tang without adding some salt. There's another delicious and very traditional Korean soup made from a very small chicken (or a Cornish hen) stuffed with gelatinous rice and ginseng. Each serving contains one bird. The bird is stuffed and cooked in broth made priamarily from about 40 cloves of garlic and NO salt. By the time the bird is done the broth is deliciously sweet and garlicy, but flat. A few pinches of coarse salt bring it to life. Sorry I can't remember the name right now but I'll post a followup.
I also first tried yook hwe at Han Bat, and I also love it, but please do yourself a favor and try it at Kum Gang San next time. Their version is superior.
David--yeah, this has already been pointed out on our General Topics board (where we discuss such matters of non-geographic relevance).
They actually didn't serve me any salt at all...and, what can I say? I liked it like this! I think it gave a really nice window into the purity of the soup, and I'm glad I tried it like this (it was like watching the chef walk a tightrope without a safety net)...but I do look forward to going back and trying it again!
Come to think of it, I'll add a note to that report for the benefit of those reading along...
Also, I know the baby chicken/sticky rice/ginger soup very well; I've eaten that without salt as well (at the encouragement of the chef). That's way too delicate and subtle a dish (even more so than sul lung tang) for the relatively coarse places in Manhattan, though. I used to eat it all the time at Bo, in Queens, where the cooking was much more personal and understated than the Manhattan Koreans.
re: Jim Leff
i can't recall whether han bat has salt on the tables - i would think they would - but you may also be mixing up han bat with gam mee ok on 32nd street, which is also known for its sulrong tang. a lot of my friends debate over which is better, but it's kind of like coke vs. pepsi, mickey d's vs. pepsi. i think gam mee ok is the brand name, but there are those who prefer hanbat's sulrong tang.
jim, you should definitely try out gam mee ok if you haven't already, a narrow strip of a place that's packed with koreans, especially on weekend nights after 2 am through 5 when hundreds of college and post college kids try to recover from a hard night of partying (i speak from experience, having done this about a couple hundred times several years ago).
over the years, i think their sulrong tang has gone from stellar to very good. the quality of the meat has definitely diminished, as has the soulfulness of the broth (the unfortunate byproduct of having to cater to masses). or maybe i've just eaten there too many times and become jaded.
but what gam mee ok is also known for is its excellent kimchi. one good korean friend of mine fron flushing called it "magic" and indeed it can reach those levels. and it goes perfectly with the soup.
and this place properly provides the coarse salt on the side (very strong stuff only a little is needed so be careful) and the scallion separately as well.
the limited menu also includes blood sausage, bindae duk, and bossam, all of which are decent, but none superior.
check it out jim, and let me know. and if you need more details, let me know. take care.