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bo alert!

h
howler Nov 12, 1999 09:49 AM

yesterday was the second time i went to bo's; wow, what an unbelievable find, thank you jeff. the sad thing was that the restaurant was completely empty. completely empty! my friend and i were the only two customers there throughout our dinner, and we got there at 8.00 and stayed till 9.30.

so we chatted awhile with saint maria cho, the chef owner, and she said she got so few customers at the begining of the week that she was thinking of remaining open sundays and taking tuesdays off instead. sadly, she's also exploring the option of setting up shop in manhattan because of the low traffic volume and the fact that 'at least 70% of my regulars are from manhattan anyway'.

if thats what she has to do, thats what she has to do. but i wonder if the quality will remain: wherever she sets up in manhattan is almost bound to be more expensive then where she is right now, and so she'll have to increase traffic and so she'll have to hire an assistant to help cook and so the quality will start to diminish and so eventually her soul will be spread so thin that it is no more bo. that would be unfortunate.

history backs me up in this glum prediction, for i can't recall ONE manhattan version of a queen's restaurant that mantained quality - eg jaya thai, penang, jackson diner etc. you cut corners to meet the rent, price yourself to the competition, compromise on the ingredients because they aren't readily available and who cares because 90% of the clientele can't tell the difference anyway and you're in business.

there is another solution, though, as jim always urges: go there to eat regularly. do your bit. NOW!

  1. s
    Steve Dec 5, 1999 12:33 PM

    Finally made it out to Bo on Sat. night. My wife and I ordered both of the pancakes (I liked the mung bean better), bibimbap, and the galbi. Everything was delicious, including the panchan. As commented elsewhere, there is a sublety to each of the dishes - nothing alone that I could say was so much better than what I've had elsewhere but every dish was very, very good - consistent throughout. The overall meal ends up being greater than the sum of all the parts.

    In comparison to what I've eaten in manhattan, I'd say that Bo is better across the board except I'm still biased towards cooking meat at the table. Service was also better than what I've seen elsewhere although Korean restaurants aren't known for their service.

    I'd have to go back a few more times to try the other items (any comments on the ojinga bokum would be greatly appreciated - had this on cheju island in Korea, always been disappointed no matter where I've been ever since) but it's definitely worth a trip out there.

    1. r
      Rachel Perlow Nov 22, 1999 04:19 PM

      Jason and I are heading to LI tonight, so we decided to try Bo. Since no one here posted the phone/address, I looked it up. Here it is for future seekers:

      Bo Korean Restaurant
      5916 Kissena Blvd. (bet. 59th & 60th, park on corner of 59th)
      718-661-3775

      I called, she's open on Monday nights, we'll report soon.

      Rachel

      40 Replies
      1. re: Rachel Perlow
        r
        Rachel Perlow Nov 30, 1999 10:50 PM

        So, Jason and I went to Bo on the evening of the 22nd (sorry for the delay - I've been off the computer for a while). Anyway, we would say Bo is a good introduction to Korean food for Americans. The food is tasty, fresh and obviously prepared with care. However, the menu is very limited. Our favorites were the dumplings (excellent fresh/light filling - not the regular pork filling nor like gyoza, as is usually the case) and the jap chae.

        The potato pancakes are not for those who are used to latkes. They are probably excellent Korean potato pancakes, but to me they seemed like gooey, gummy, latkes. The sauces for both the dumpling and pancakes were excellent; flavorful, and they smelled like they would be hot, but weren't.

        The bulgogi is prepared in the kitchen and came out a little wet for our taste, and is served without all the usual condiments (like shredded scallions and raw garlic). Actually we ordered the special ($1 more), which sounded just like bulgogi, but wasn't called that. Apparently you need to order that special to get the lettuce (red leaf and iceberg (???) on the plate) to wrap the meat, ordering "bulgogi" will just get you the prepared meat. The bean paste was excellent however. We usually refer to this as "funky sauce" (no disrespect intended), but this was not the same animal. We finished every bit, where usually we use it sparingly because of the strong taste.

        The panchan was fabulous. All vegetarian (which is the way we like it - no unidentifyable fishy things), favorites were the tofu, pickled radish and marinated soy beans. Jason felt the kimchee was wimpy (not hot enough).

        Next time we go we are planning on ordering some of the short rib stew and the pork & tofu dish. I kept saying throughout the meal that the tofu was wonderfully different in texture, I wonder if it is homemade?

        I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Bo's, but if I lived in the neigborhood or were passing Kissena Blvd on the LIE, I'd definitely go back.

        1. re: Rachel Perlow
          r
          Russell Drecque Dec 1, 1999 06:43 AM

          I wouldn't exactly say that Bo is a training diaper for Americans before they get serious Korean. Most of your comments on the food deal with texture: "Light, gooey, gummy, shredded, wet, raw..." the tofu... "wonderfully different" in "texture". You sound like an interior decorator. Why don't you take a course as a sommelier and learn to judge food by its taste? You can get standard hi-voltage Korean at any of the other restaurants. Russ here thinks you go for the atmosphere of the food rather than the substance. Work on it, Babe!
          Regards,
          Russ

          1. re: Russell Drecque
            r
            Rachel Perlow Dec 1, 1999 11:53 AM

            Actually sommeliers judge wine, not food, and texture is usually an element in addition to taste (viscosity, the mouthfeel of tannin, etc.).

            1. re: Rachel Perlow
              f
              fred t. Dec 2, 1999 06:38 PM

              (let's see, seemingly nice couple go to bo's, like it but aren't thrilled, now are being somewhat lambasted by culinary bullies...what the hell, i had a bad day at the office):

              hey rachel and jason, what the hell is the matter with you! how dare you have opinions! what do you think this is.. a free country or something! knock it off or i'm going to drop any modicum of civility and revert to personal attacks (and perhaps even parse every sentence of your postings for further criticism).
              agree with us...or else!

              1. re: fred t.
                j
                Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 06:56 PM

                Yeah, kinda sad what this site is coming to. God forbid I offend the Chowhound cogniscienti.

                ITS JUST FOOD PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

                Jaosn

                1. re: fred t.
                  j
                  Jim Leff Dec 2, 1999 06:56 PM

                  Not so simple, Fred. Big diff between saying "I don't like the food" (which NOBODY would--well, SHOULD--particularly mind) and saying that a much loved chef who's valiently putting everything on the line to cook her heart out in a cursed location should maybe try another line of work.

                  It's sort of like saying an underdog but talented/spirited baseball team should try some other sport because they're behind in the ninth inning and they're playing with cracked bats. Solution's to pray they get new bats, not kick 'em when they're down.

                  1. re: Jim Leff
                    j
                    Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 07:20 PM

                    Fine. I'll accept that she shouldn't do something else. My opinions are worthless. What the hell do I know. I'm just a stupid, sheltered white Jewish computer journalist from Great Neck with no sense of understanding someone else's ethnic pride.

                    But I do know this -- she should get the hell out of Flushing.

                    Jason

                    1. re: Jason Perlow
                      j
                      Jim Leff Dec 2, 1999 07:26 PM

                      I can't speak for others, but as far as I'm concerned, it's not a question of the value of your opinions or how much you know. My problem was with the harshness of your proposal she get out of the Korean food business. It struck me as mean-spirited, given the circumstances.

                      As for her getting out of Flushing... now you're talking! I couldn't agree more. She's gotta do SOMETHING, that's for sure. That location's a dead end.

                      She'll go to Manhattan and we'll all be saying we knew her "when".

              2. re: Russell Drecque
                j
                Jason Perlow Dec 1, 1999 03:53 PM

                Well, if I was going to introduce my spice-averse parents to Korean food I would probably bring them to Bo. So in that sense it is a training wheel for more serious Korean food. No that Bo is bad or any less authentic than any other full-service Korean restaurant in Flushing or Fort Lee but Maria's interpretation is definitely less scary to someone who would get panchan dishes at a typical Korean place and wonder what the heck the dried squid and fishy stuff in the little plates were.

                As to the comments about Rachel's texture observations -- texture is an important way of describing food and is just an important sensory factor as flavor. You could have the best flavor in the world but if it isnt presented in a texture that is appealing, who the hell wants to eat it? I suppose you like heavily-seasoned soggy pasta?

                Jason Perlow

              3. re: Rachel Perlow
                j
                Jen Kalb Dec 1, 1999 10:55 AM

                Im still looking forward to my first visit to Bo. No matter how satisfying and delicious the Korean dishes I have had around town, they have seemed somewhat more one dimensional and reliant on a few strong flavors (garlic, hot pepper, bean sauce) than the foods of other major cuisines. I am wondering whether Bo, if more subtle, will take me a bit farther.

                As to your assessment, could you tell us what your Korean standards of comparison are - Korean restaurants which you think provide excellent cuisine? Have you had any experience with the NYC midtown, NJ or Flushing Koreans that have been previously discussed that you would like to share?

                1. re: Jen Kalb
                  r
                  Rachel Perlow Dec 1, 1999 12:08 PM

                  Our Korean background is mostly on the NJ side. We used to live in Fort Lee and have visited most if not all of the Korean restaurants in that vicinity. There are at least four Korean restaurants in Fort Lee itself, most of whose names I can't recall (too small for the Z-word), with and without BBQ tables.

                  We try to explore the menu after the first visit, when we usually get some of our "standard" dishes for comparison as to how other restaurants prepare them. Our favorite is Shin Goong Jun, which our friend who is from Korea found better than most of the places he went to when visiting Seoul a few years ago (in Palisades Park, opposite Meson Madrid). The sign (in Korean) in front advertises a "room salon" which has its own private entry downstairs and in back of the restaurant (no, we haven't been down there!). Another fave was Koreana on Rt. 4 in Paramus, however on driving by recently I noticed it appears to have closed.

                  We've only found one Korean in Parsippany, which has been rather disapointing.

                  Most Korean restaurants tend to be combine their menu with Japanese dishes. Maria does not do this at Bo, which is welcome. Many of her dishes were not ones I've heard of before, which is why I'm looking forward to going back to try more of the home style cuisine. She herself pointed out the Bulgogi as being her favorite, and it was much more subtly flavored than we've had before.

                  We talked to Maria for a while after she served our main courses and the other two occupied tables cleared out. The reason why we found many dishes not as seasoned as we are used to is that's the way she likes them. She doesn't care for hot & spicy and it's reflected in all dishes, even the kimchee, which looked like it would be spicy, but wasn't.

                  I wasn't trying to give a negative review, in fact we quite enjoyed ourselves and plan to go back. I just don't feel that, for us, it's worth taking the trip just to go there. However, we go to LI frequently, we pass the exit every time, and we would go back when we're in the mood for Korean and passing it anyway. I could see going out of our way to go there if we still lived on LI, or even Manhatten since others have reported it's easy to get to via public transportation. Please go and enjoy.

                  Someone else commented on my talking about the texture of everything. Well, that's the primary difference I noticed between her food and all the rest I've had. Especially the tofu. You've got to admit, tofu is mostly about the texture, and it usually has none. So, it was exciting to me to be enjoying the tofu in the broth as well as in the panchan (when it was served warm with a savory sauce).

                  1. re: Rachel Perlow
                    h
                    howler Dec 1, 1999 01:13 PM

                    i'm sure you didn't intend it this way, but your original post and your reply have a touch of condescension:

                    " Anyway, we would say Bo is a good introduction to Korean food for Americans" thats the sort of remark that always gets me. what does it mean? does it means that americans are raised up on a special cuisine which bo manages to appeal to? or is the inference that as the food isn't fiery hot, its a good introduction for the alleged 'wimpy' american palate? or does it mean that there are "no unidentifyable fishy things" that archie bunker wouldn't be caught dead eating?

                    "However, the menu is very limited" that sounds harsh for a one woman operation, no? given what she accomplishes all by herself, that might have been better phrased as "understandably, the menu is limited".

                    "I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Bo's, but if I lived in the neigborhood or were passing Kissena Blvd on the LIE, I'd definitely go back" not really a ringing endorsement is it?

                    "Our favorite is Shin Goong Jun, which our friend who is from Korea found better than most of the places he went to when visiting Seoul a few years ago (in Palisades Park, opposite Meson Madrid)" i take it that you mean seoul, korea and not seoul, palisades park. in that case i would take your korean friends statement with a big pinch of salt. indians who live here - myself included - are always claiming such & such restaurant is 'better than home'. and its never the case, it just gives us the hope we aren't really missing out. on the other hand, were there an indian version of bo around, we WOULD have a place better than most back home.

                    "She herself pointed out the Bulgogi as being her favorite" you surely must have misunderstood her! her favourite dish and the one she's proudest of are the ribs, kalbi jim.

                    in any case, i'm going to repeat myself: don't judge bo by the basis of your experience at other korean restaurants. imagine instead that you are invited to a friends home to eat dinner.

                    1. re: howler
                      j
                      Jim Leff Dec 1, 1999 02:17 PM

                      yeah, the bulgogi is something she makes, I think, just because everyone insists on it.

                      but as for:

                      "the one she's proudest of are the ribs, kalbi jim"

                      ..I think that dish has been supplanted in her (and my) affections by the ginseng chicken

                  2. re: Jen Kalb
                    j
                    Jason Perlow Dec 1, 1999 03:38 PM

                    I can't tell you what Rachel's experience with Korean food outside of NJ is, but I've had a lot of it in Manhattan. I can't name specific restaurants but most of what I have been exposed to is your typical bulgogi parlors which sideline in Japanese.

                    In NJ, I used to recommend Koreana, in Paramaus on route 4, which was an elegant place but recently it closed down. Sin Goon Jin in Fort Lee is a great place, they actually use coal-burning bulgogi grills at the table. In my opinion this is the sign of a superior Korean restaurant if they take the trouble of putting these things in. Fort Lee has a huge Korean community and has tons of Korean restaurants 9the Japanese restaurants in Fort Lee are also largely owned by Koreans), Sin Goon Jin stands out for an extremely diverse menu and their quality of ingredients and preparation is excellent.

                    Another thing which is important in a Korean place is the selection and the quality of the Panchan dishes -- Bo excells at this, although like Rachel says I think the Kimchee could be a bit spicer, thats just my personal taste. To me Korean food should have a lot of fermented and garlicy flavor to it and the kim chee should blow the mucous right out of your sinuses.

                    Rachel did not mean to come off as being negative about Bo -- Maria is definitely an accomplished chef, but to be honest I think she is wasting her talent in a town chock full of Korean restaurants, nice as her Korean food is I think she should do haute cuisine like she did at Sign of the Dove instead.

                    1. re: Jason Perlow
                      f
                      Fed Up In Brooklyn Dec 1, 1999 04:00 PM

                      "I think she should do haute cuisine like she did at Sign of the Dove instead"

                      I haven't eaten there yet (been meaning to), but you're at pretty serious odds with the opinions of just about every major food critic (NY Times, Daily News, Newsday, Village Voice, NY Magazine, etc, plus our own alpha dude) as well as everyone else on these boards.

                      Which, of course, doesn't make you wrong. But judging from the quality of most of the opinions you two have expressed (and expressed and expressed) hereabouts, I'd say "wrong" is actually pretty darned likely.

                      1. re: Fed Up In Brooklyn
                        j
                        Jeremy Dec 1, 1999 04:54 PM

                        "Fed up in Brooklyn" writes:
                        judging from the quality of most of the opinions you two have expressed (and expressed and expressed) hereabouts, I'd say "wrong" is actually pretty darned likely.

                        If you're going to insult someone's tastes, etiquette demands that you put your name on the message.

                        Just my $.02

                        1. re: Jeremy
                          j
                          Jason Perlow Dec 1, 1999 06:18 PM

                          To each his own, and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

                          If I'm "wrong" on this one then fine. Like I said, I think Maria is a good chef and I think the food at Bo is nicely prepared and tasty. This was not meant as a personal affront to people.

                          But I don't think everyone on this board truly thinks rachel and I do bad personal restaurant reviews, and I think even Jim will admit to that.

                          Jason

                          1. re: Jeremy
                            r
                            Rachel Perlow Dec 1, 1999 10:20 PM

                            "If you're going to insult someone's tastes, etiquette demands that you put your name on the message."

                            Thank you Jeremy, I totally agree. Whenever I see certain aliases in hot posts, it is almost guaranteed that those posts are negative and usually rude.

                            People may disagree, and they are free to do so, with mine and/or Jason's assessments, but at least we put our names up. I'm never obnoxious to others, preferring instead to retain a sense of civility.

                        2. re: Jason Perlow
                          j
                          Jen Kalb Dec 1, 1999 08:48 PM

                          why should Bo's chef bother to cook Korean in a town full of Korean restaurants? Well because she appears to be doing it differently, tho you don't seem to like it as well as the stuff that clears your sinuses. Would you ever advise a french or italian chef not to bother to cook italian or french because there are already plenty of such places?

                          I suspect this chef finds great satisfaction in applying her talents and training within her own traditions. IMO we the eating public are better served if she pursues her own line of interest rather than reverting to being just another chef in our overpopulated haute cuisine scene.

                          1. re: Jen Kalb
                            j
                            Jason Perlow Dec 1, 1999 09:11 PM

                            Jen:

                            Well, if she was the pastry chef at Sign of the Dove, I imagine that she'd do a hell of a job running a pasty bakery or a french restaurant and might even be more financially successful at it. Its hard enough to find female executive chefs in fine restaurants, let alone Asian ones, I bet her running a more conventional restaurant would be more popular -- although I doubt anything that Maria could produce would be "conventional".

                            I know it sounds harsh, and I bet she's really proud of her heritage, but sometimes even the most interesting ideas don't fly no matter how hard you try to execute it.

                            1. re: Jason Perlow
                              a
                              Allan Evans Dec 1, 1999 09:56 PM

                              When you have an artist like Maria, popularity is less of a concern than the results of her discerning taste and individuality. She is not the type to upset her gifts for mere profit seeking. Whether she is proud of her heritage or not is irrelevant: she is proud of her cooking and her accomplishments are evident in every bite. By the way, have others noticed her exquisite wall hangings of "Bo," (tea cloth(s))? They are woven and dyed by Buddhist monks and perfectly correspond to her essential refined aesthetic.

                              1. re: Allan Evans
                                r
                                Rachel Perlow Dec 1, 1999 10:12 PM

                                "By the way, have others noticed her exquisite wall hangings of "Bo," (tea cloth(s))? They are woven and dyed by Buddhist monks and perfectly correspond to her essential refined aesthetic."

                                Yes! I did notice and admire them. I didn't realize that that was the reason for the restaurant's name. Thank you.

                                1. re: Allan Evans
                                  p
                                  pat hammond Dec 2, 1999 08:37 AM

                                  I read somewhere that many of the tea cloths are antiques, some being over 100 years old. p.

                                  1. re: Allan Evans
                                    b
                                    Barbara S Dec 2, 1999 02:30 PM

                                    Allan writes: "When you have an artist like Maria, popularity is less of a concern than the results of her discerning taste and individuality. She is not the type to upset her gifts for mere profit seeking."

                                    I wish it were true that every chef who ventured into the ownership of a restaurant, with all the attendant expenses (and they are enormous), could truly send out only dishes to his/her tastes, and have an unqulaified success. The chef-owner must also be a business person, and popularity generally has a direct, positive, possibly essential, financial impact. I'm not referring to making money hand over fist without regard to quality, but to the necessity of paying the rent, the electricity, the gas, the staff wages, the trash, the licenses, taxes, the insurance, the raw materials, spoilage, the unexpected, - and hopefully something left over at the end of the day for the person sweating at the stove. The top end alone (not just referring to the most expensive dishes - but the quality) doesn't keep a place open. Some appeal to the tastes of the "general public" - I leave it to any one else to define that individually - is necessary to stay in business, especially when a factor such as a poor location is working against the operation. Every menu has some compromises on it; think of those as the dishes which subsidize the rest of what is offered. And which possibly keep the place afloat for the next time a palate-educated, discerning patron arrives.

                                    1. re: Barbara S
                                      a
                                      Allan Evans Dec 2, 1999 03:35 PM

                                      I've yet to detect any compromise in Maria's cooking. Ever. And her way of keeping mundane business matters aside as they should be is admirable. If she were more interested in money, she would lower quality and price to lure students away from the nearby Dunkin Donuts. We can only hope her reputation will spread and she will prosper, or that any move will be carefully weighed (unlike the notion of artist-as-dreamer, she is a master artisan and quite a realist).

                                  2. re: Jason Perlow
                                    j
                                    Jim Leff Dec 2, 1999 01:31 AM

                                    "sometimes eventhe most interesting ideas don't fly no matter how hard you try to execute it"

                                    let me see if I have this straight...even though Maria's preparing food that just about everyone in-the-know consider best-of-type, and even though she's doing it in probably the worst possible location, (and underfinanced, to boot), your conclusion is that she must simply not be cut out to be cooking Korean food?

                                    I'm having trouble following the logic...I mean, if you're not thrilled with her cooking, it's totally your right to opine. But to suggest that she simply give it up because you (alone among all the people who've ever reported back from a meal there, to my knowledge) were underwhelmed seems just a tad out of touch to me. Unless I'm missing something here.....?

                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                      j
                                      Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 09:29 AM

                                      "let me see if I have this straight...even though Maria's preparing food that just about everyone in-the-know consider best-of-type, and even though she's doing it in probably the worst possible location, (and underfinanced, to boot), your conclusion is that she must simply not be cut out to be cooking Korean food?"

                                      Nyet. What I'm saying is that the negative factors contributing to her lack of success that you mention put her choice of cuisine at a disadvantage, not that she's not "cut out" for it. She might do a better job cooking it elsewhere, not smack in the middle of flushing.

                                      1. re: Jason Perlow
                                        h
                                        howler Dec 2, 1999 10:38 AM

                                        sorry to be picky, but the statement

                                        "..to be honest I think she is wasting her talent in a town chock full of Korean restaurants, nice as her Korean food is I think she should do haute cuisine like she did at Sign of the Dove instead."

                                        and the statement

                                        "What I'm saying is that the negative factors contributing to her lack of success that you mention
                                        put her choice of cuisine at a disadvantage, not that she's not "cut out" for it. She might do a better
                                        job cooking it elsewhere, not smack in the middle of flushing"

                                        together imply that maria should either switch to haute cuisine in flushing or offer her 'nice' korean food in poughkeepsie (or some other locale refreshingly free of competing koreans).

                                        i dont think you really mean that - or do you?

                                        1. re: howler
                                          j
                                          Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 01:27 PM

                                          Flushing is certainly has a lack of fine restaurants, so yes, she might do better with something more continental if she really wants to stay there. Her version of korean may do better in an upscale neighborhood like Great Neck or some of the rizier parts of Manhattan. I talked about it with her at length, to some extent she agrees with me. She was also amazed at my knowlege of korean food and the korean languarge, and was impressed when I asked her for korean ginseng tea (not listed on the menu) to conclude the meal, which came from her private stash.

                                          It sounds like you guys are really intent on changing my point of view, to be honest, we are not that far off. Rachel and I like the place, but I think she's going to have a very hard time keeping the place open where she is.

                                          1. re: Jason Perlow
                                            a
                                            Allan Evans Dec 2, 1999 03:29 PM

                                            Can non-European restaurants qualify as "fine restaurants" in your mindset? I doubt if the finest Korean and Chinese eateries in Flushing can be matched anywhere in the New York area. Great Neck is a culinary waste-land and the "ritzier" parts of Manhattan offer French-Alsacians (of great quality).god help you if you are stuck on Madison Avenue and wish for decent Shanghai or Taiwanese cuisine.

                                            1. re: Allan Evans
                                              j
                                              Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 04:37 PM

                                              Great Neck a culinary waste land? Um... lest you forget Peter Luger and the Kensington Delicatessen (corn beef sandwich is killer), maybe. I don't spend as much time in my hometown these days as I used to. But there's plenty of upscale Korean people (and the old-guard upper-middle class Jewish population who appreciates good asian food) living there now and as far as I know, no Korean restaurants.

                                              Yes, an asian place can be a fine restaurant -- I mentioned the ill-fated Koreana in Paramus in an earlier post. I certainly consider Silver Pond in Fort Lee to be a prime example of a fine Hong Kong restaurant, and Bangkok Garden in Hackensack tops my list for classy Thai any day.

                                              But consider this -- It took many years for Japanese food to penetrate the American psyche, I guess Korean is something that hasn't hit our collective mindset yet. Maybe our grandchildren will be craving Bulgogi and Kalbi Gui as we do Sushi and Dim Sum now.

                                              Theres always hope for the new Milennium, I suppose.

                                              Jason

                                              1. re: Jason Perlow
                                                a
                                                Allan Evans Dec 2, 1999 05:09 PM

                                                We ate 2 or 3 times at the Great Neck branch of Peter Luger: waiters always pushing you to order more and rushing you out, steaks dry and dull, awful experiences. So I guess G Neck is a one-sandwich town. Why is it important for a foreign cuisine to penetrate the American psyche? And upscale is no guarantee for culinary savvy. Some of the worst meals I've ever eaten were with wealthy people. That's why the restaurants often praised by chowhounds are so special: they transcend all the social strata, ethnic boundaries, and exist in a beatific zone of deliciousness. This is happening in the here and now... no need to wait for any Milennium.

                                                1. re: Allan Evans
                                                  j
                                                  Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 07:11 PM

                                                  I'll admit, when I was faced with a choice of steak places on Long Island last week to bring my parents to for a pre-turkey day get together (we had to forget getting together on T-day because of traffic from NJ to the Island) I opted for Bryant Cooper on Northern just up the road as opposed to Luger's because my wife wanted a choice of something other than steak or chops. We wanted to try Rothman's on 25A near Muttontown but it wasn't open for lunch. I hear it's good though.

                                                  Jason

                                                2. re: Jason Perlow
                                                  n
                                                  Nick C. Dec 2, 1999 05:22 PM

                                                  "But consider this -- It took many years for Japanese food to penetrate the American psyche, I guess Korean is something that hasn't hit our collective mindset yet. Maybe our grandchildren will be craving Bulgogi and Kalbi Gui as we do Sushi and Dim Sum now."

                                                  Wow, that's some pretty all-inclusive first-person-pluralling you're doing there, kemo sabe, some big assumptions behind those "we"s.

                                                  Some Americans already crave Korean food--and they're not even necessarily "ritzy", "classy", or "upscale." They're just not White Like You. Many people aren't.

                                                  1. re: Nick C.
                                                    j
                                                    Jason Perlow Dec 2, 1999 06:58 PM

                                                    Don't reproduce, please.

                                                    Jason

                                                  2. re: Jason Perlow
                                                    m
                                                    MU Dec 3, 1999 09:47 AM

                                                    I was not all that impressed with Koreana. But it *definitely* had a location problem. Your average Jerzoid out shopping at the Garden State Plaza isn't thinking of going out for Korean food after a long day of browsing Fortunoff and the Gap.

                                                    An interesting example of Asian food being assimilated into the American mainstream: I spent several years living in St. Paul, where Vietnamese food has become as ubiquitous as takeout Chinese here. In an attempt to seem more familiar to midwesterners accustomed to Chinese food, the cuisine has morphed into a pleasant, slightly bland fusion of Vietnamese and Chinese, producing versions of chow mein cooked with thin egg noodles and fish sauce, a common expectation that eggrolls are skinny, contain bean thread noodles, and are served with sweet, carroty fish sauce, and (because of the large vegetarian population in the Twin Cities) the universal availability of a seitan product called 'mock duck.' Because people are accustomed to getting Vietnamese food for their quick takeout dinners, the quality of garden-variety stripmall Chinese food there tends to be higher (and cost a little more), than you find on the East Coast, but all the Vietnamese joints are obligated to sell the cream cheese wontons invented by the local Chinese restaurant tycoon Leeann Chin.

                                      2. re: Jen Kalb
                                        j
                                        Jim Leff Dec 2, 1999 01:38 AM

                                        " I suspect this chef finds great satisfaction in applying her talents and training within her own traditions"

                                        yes she does...it's obvious in every bite. But it's not just self-fulfillment...she's been sharing her satisfaction with a small but appreciative following, and drawn raves from the entire NYC food-writing establishment (including some eloquent amateur food writers on these boards).

                                        If she moves to Manhattan, she'll easily pull down three star reveiews from all the majors.

                                  3. re: Rachel Perlow
                                    h
                                    howler Dec 1, 1999 11:30 AM

                                    i think you are approaching the bo experience in the wrong way. its not about the texture of the tofu, marvelous though that maybe, but a chance to eat food that tastes like a lovingly prepared meal in somebodys home.

                                    that experience is truly a remarkable feat to achieve. this may be purely psychosomatic, but my body 'knows' the difference between restaurant food and home cooked food. it just FEELS different after eating in somebody's house as compared to eating in a restaurant. its the skull beneath the skin of commercial cooking, and its almost always visible.

                                    for eg, thats my complaint about indian restaurant food. its the same moghlai menu all over the world and it gives you absolutely no idea what the cuisine is all about. it usually leaves you feeling uncomfortably heavy at the end of a meal and its so obviously 'prepared' that i now very seldom go to such restaurants. lots of skill with creamy sauces, lots of tandoori cooking but.....no real joy.

                                    on the other hand, i would KILL for indian home cooking and if there were such a restaurant with bo's quality anywhere in the 5 boros i suspect i would move in next door. seriously.

                                    1. re: Rachel Perlow
                                      j
                                      Jim Leff Dec 1, 1999 12:24 PM

                                      Rachel--it's not that Bo has a limited menu. It's that other places have over-extended menues. Korean restaurants--like American diners--have a tradition of offering everything but the kitchen sink but only making a few things really well. Bo just makes a few things really well.

                                      Most people who eat at Bo immediately drop their preconceptions about Korean food--realizing that Maria's cooking is utterly different, a completely different part of the cuisine's spectrum--and enjoy the experience on her own terms. That's really the best way to do it.

                                      Regarding your "introduction-to-the-cuisine" remarks, I see what you mean. It's gentler, more subtle cooking than other Korean restaurants, probably easier to like--even aside from it's great deliciousness--by novices.

                                      As for your slightly tepid closing comment, I can't blame you. Took me a while to "get" the gigantic importance of this restaurant, too. My first impression was similar to yours. Everytime I return I'm shocked by how much I'd missed the time before.

                                      1. re: Jim Leff
                                        r
                                        Rachel Perlow Dec 1, 1999 01:08 PM

                                        I promise to return at some point on our next trip through and get something I've never had before. That seem's to be the best way to experience her food. I'm looking forward especially to the short rib stew.

                                  4. f
                                    Frank Language Nov 19, 1999 12:23 AM

                                    howler writes: "there is another solution, though, as jim always urges: go there to eat regularly. do your bit. NOW!"

                                    Well, tonight (Thursday) I made a start; I made the trip to Flushing. So now I can say it's the best Korean I've ever been to. Actually, it's just the best, period; I had an excellent dining experience, excellent food - and I took a handful of business cards with me to pass out.

                                    I agree Bo could do very well in Manhattan if Maria gets some investors, but I assured her I'd be back as often as I could. Hey, it's worth the trip.

                                    1. j
                                      jonathan sibley Nov 12, 1999 11:23 AM

                                      Is there an easy way to get to Bo using public transportation (e.g., the subway)? Also, do they serve lunch and, if so, is that a reasonable way to try the restaurant?

                                      1. j
                                        Jim Leff Nov 12, 1999 10:09 AM

                                        jim plus leff doesn't equal "jeff"!

                                        Credit where due: Bo was a Sylvia Carter discovery. And I think it was our own Allan Evans who first told her about it (that true, Allan?).

                                        14 Replies
                                        1. re: Jim Leff
                                          j
                                          Jim Leff Nov 12, 1999 10:37 AM

                                          To answer on the manhattan thing...we WANT her to move to Manhattan, so she doesn't have to continue to scrape along with no traffic (she's been on the brink of closing down for over a year now).

                                          The thing that makes places go downhill is inattention, and Maria is one of the most attentive, meticulous restaurateurs I know. She'd be great wherever she was and whatever she did.

                                          The problem with moving to Manhattan is that it would take substantial investment, which she couldn't possibly muster herself (DAYS go by with no customers!).

                                          If any Titans of Industry types are reading along, this is a sure thing...the place would be a huge hit in Manhattan, I'm completely positive of it. She's fighting an impossible location right now.

                                          Go eat and see.

                                          ciao

                                          1. re: Jim Leff
                                            h
                                            howler Nov 12, 1999 10:59 AM

                                            jim - e-mail sent.

                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                              a
                                              Allan Evans Nov 12, 1999 11:13 AM

                                              If any Titans of Industry interested in quality rather than bottom line are about, let us know: the age of enlightened patrons for the arts is gone.

                                              1. re: Allan Evans
                                                h
                                                howler Nov 12, 1999 01:36 PM

                                                my, my. rather testy these days, aren't we. pretty heavy stuff, this 'enlightened patron for the arts' who are also 'titans of industry', no? kind of went out with the rennaissance, leaving us poor plebes to buy our tickets and gawk at the exhibit.

                                                just one mans opinion.

                                                1. re: howler
                                                  a
                                                  Allan Evans Nov 12, 1999 08:22 PM

                                                  It was alive until recent times: all the great classical musicians up to WWII had patrons to help launch their careers. Savvy art collectors have been replaced by amateur collectors who have now grown tired of buying art, leaving many a prominent artist scrambling to survive. A great study of this phenomenon is in Alain Danielou's When the Gods Play.

                                            2. re: Jim Leff
                                              a
                                              Allan Evans Nov 12, 1999 11:10 AM

                                              Sylvia gets full credit for finding this remarkable place. The economics of maintaining quality in a high rent district bode ill for Bo should they move. Maria is in a sort of isolation as the Queens Korean community seems to favor the identical grills with loads of MSG (which she prohibits), the locals are yokels, and savvy eaters outside the area can't always make the trip. But for those seriously interested in her remarkable art, it is a must.

                                              1. re: Allan Evans
                                                d
                                                David Link Nov 12, 1999 01:22 PM

                                                You can get there by taking the #7 train to the last stop: Flushing, Main Street. Then you can board either the southbound #25/34 (yes, it's a fraction, the two routes were combined years ago and they've not been able to decide which # to go with) or the #17 bus (both travel on Kissena Boulevard). Tell the driver you wish to disembark on 60th Avenue. You know you're close once you've passed Kissena Park, but have gone too far if you've passed the LIE and Queens College. Bo is on Kissena Blvd, between 59th and 60th Avenue.

                                                How do I know this? I'm one of the "yokels" that grew up there.

                                                1. re: David Link
                                                  p
                                                  pat hammond Nov 12, 1999 01:54 PM

                                                  Well, I'm really a yokel, from Missouri. Given that fact, how long would you allow for the trip from, say,
                                                  midtown Manhatten (very roughly speaking)? And do you know if it's open for lunch? Thanks in advance. pat

                                                  1. re: pat hammond
                                                    h
                                                    howler Nov 12, 1999 02:01 PM

                                                    yes its open for lunch (if memory serves well, i saw lunch specials on her menu). it'll probably run you an hour to get there by public transportation from mid-town, but its well worth it.

                                                    1. re: pat hammond
                                                      a
                                                      Allan Evans Nov 12, 1999 08:25 PM

                                                      No intention to disparage people from places outside Manhattan (I'm from the wasteland of an LA suburb) but to underscore how this exquisite outpost of refined food can go completely unnoticed by the locals, who haven't the slightest curiosity or interest in exploring something new.

                                                    2. re: David Link
                                                      a
                                                      Allan Evans Nov 12, 1999 08:19 PM

                                                      An even faster way is to get the Long Island railroad train (Port Washington line) to Flushing Main Street, a 17 minute ride from Penn Station, and then take the 17 or 25/34 bus. I love the yokelness of my semi-native Flushing, as intimate knowledge exposes other layers of existence, ranging from latter day Joseph Cornell types to the folks from high school who became MIT professors, Jewish mobsters in Gotti's employ, Nashville based crooners, MTV execs, rock stars, but this cross section can be made anywhere.

                                                      1. re: David Link
                                                        j
                                                        Jim Leff Nov 12, 1999 11:33 PM

                                                        excellent bus instructions, David, thanks.

                                                        but one important point worth stressing: Bo is JUST north of the Kissena Boulevard exit off the Long Island Expressway. If you have a car, it's the easiest restaurant in Queens to get to.

                                                    3. re: Jim Leff
                                                      h
                                                      howler Nov 12, 1999 01:27 PM

                                                      ouch, sorry for the jim/jeff gaffe.

                                                      1. re: howler
                                                        j
                                                        Jim Leff Nov 12, 1999 11:26 PM

                                                        No prob. So many people make that mistake that I actually answer to the name "Jeff" at this point!

                                                        There was a NY Supreme Court justice named James Leff (totally non-corrupt, I'm pleased to report). Always meant to write to him and ask whether he had the same spooneristic experience.

                                                        If any of you have a copy of Sylvia Carter's very first book (which was GREAT, by the way...published over 10 years ago), you'll notice it's dedicated to, among others, "Jeff Lim".

                                                        Guess who?

                                                        ciao

                                                    4. p
                                                      pat hammond Nov 12, 1999 09:57 AM

                                                      It was terrific to see Bo mentioned in the NYTimes
                                                      this morning. p.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: pat hammond
                                                        d
                                                        Dave Feldman Nov 13, 1999 01:44 AM

                                                        Had a fabulous meal at Bo tonight. Way to go, Dave. I plan this more than a week in advance (I cadged a car from my now favorite friend) and find that the NY Times spotlights Bo (among other Korean restaurants) and that howler has written a heartfelt note here. Would we get a seat?

                                                        This is the first time I've been to Bo when it has been crowded. We got the last table, in fact. They had already run out of mung bean pancakes and had half an order of kalbi left (that's o.k., we had a half-and-half order w/boolgaki, and got more than one order's worth of beef). The #1 winner tonight was the potato pancakes. I complained here once about the sogginess of the pancakes; I've always preferred the mung bean pancakes.

                                                        So what did Hoon Me/Maria do? She made them soggier than usual, and so damn delicious that they evoked audible sighs from all of us. We ordered more. Deliciousness cannot be denied.

                                                        I just KNEW that there were other Chowhounds in the room, and it was confirmed when it turned out Zephyr was across the room from us (hi Dave!), and I have a guess that the table next to us, two guys, might have been CH's, too.

                                                        Had a long talk with Maria after the meal, and I have to agree with Jim that unless there are other factors I don't know about it, it would be a very good thing for her to move to Manhattan. The problem seems to be not just that her location is bad, but that she doesn't have enough of a base of support in her neighborhood. Why shouldn't she have a chance to prosper.

                                                        She deserves to make a living, and she deserves recognition for her achievement. She is such a charming person, and her spirit is so lovingly manifested in her food, that I have every confidence she would succeed in Manhattan.

                                                        Long live Bo!

                                                        1. re: Dave Feldman
                                                          f
                                                          Frank Language Nov 14, 1999 07:23 PM

                                                          Today I took the 7 train from Grand Central to Main Street, then hopped the Q17 bus; I asked the driver to let me know when we were at 60th street. Alas...Bo was closed.

                                                          Was there some mention in an earlier post that she closes Sundays, or was this just a well-deserved rest? Of course, having made the trip once, I'll go again real soon and hope she's open, but I was very, very disappointed. (Not to mention it took me forEVER to get home; at the Main Street station, I sat on the train about 20 minutes waiting for it to pull out of the station when we were greeted by an unintelligibile spiel on the loudspeaker and everybody started filing out. Turns out there was "difficulty" on the tracks and the station was to be closed for 20 minutes. We had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the Shea Stadium station. Would have been a lot more worth it if Saint Maria had been there.)

                                                          1. re: Frank Language
                                                            a
                                                            Alan Divack Nov 14, 1999 07:35 PM

                                                            She is closed on Sunday, as Jim writes in his book. I know from hard experience -- we went out there once on a Sunday, albeit by car, to find it closed. When I got home I saw in Jim's book that that is always the case.

                                                            However, once we did go at about 7 on a Wednesday night last April to find Bo closed as well, so I have yet to eat there.

                                                            1. re: Alan Divack
                                                              f
                                                              Frank Language Nov 14, 1999 09:34 PM

                                                              Sounds like we should organize a Bo trip...give the lady some business, and satisfy our needs in the process.

                                                              1. re: Frank Language
                                                                d
                                                                Dave Feldman Nov 15, 1999 12:54 AM

                                                                And if it fits your tastes, I'd suggest going on the late side. All three times I've been to Bo, Maria has come out of the kitchen when her work is done. She loves to talk and is utterly charming and funny and a little nutty.

                                                                She doesn't know me from Adam but she welcomes you like a long last pal. The waiter who was there Friday is also a sweet tall kid, who found my group more than a little amusing.

                                                                One other thing. You are more than welcome to BYO at Bo: I brought wine and they were more than willing to supply glasses with no corkage fee.

                                                                For that matter, Maria refused to charge us for our dumplings, which she called "old" (and weren't, in fact, as good as the other appetizers). It's that kind of place.

                                                                1. re: Dave Feldman
                                                                  e
                                                                  Eric R. Nov 15, 1999 11:22 AM

                                                                  There isn't anyone on the "restaurant scene" any warmer than Maria Cho. On every visit has made a point of visiting, chatting. In fact she's become quite taken with my teenage son (I think she's impressed by his adventurous palate). On our last visit she brought him a slice of jellyfish and seemed genuinely delighted when he gobbled it down, smiled, and asked for more.

                                                                  1. re: Eric R.
                                                                    a
                                                                    Alan Divack Nov 15, 1999 07:51 PM

                                                                    We are going to meet my parents for dinner in Queens, with my children, and I thought we would try Bo. Two problems -- my mother hates garlic, and my children only like the blandest and plainest of foods, and eat almost no animal flesh other than chicken sate and hard salami. (Some people have taken these as proof of the existence of G-d, or at least of divine justice.)

                                                                    So, would a trip to Bo make sense? In spite of their limited diets, my kids do OK in kid-friendly restaurants as long as they can get rice or bread, and my mother can survive the garlic as long as it doesn't hit her when she walks in the door. Otherwise, it is someplace more ordinary, like Kway Tiow.

                                                                    1. re: Alan Divack
                                                                      d
                                                                      Dave Feldman Nov 15, 1999 10:44 PM

                                                                      Alan,

                                                                      I wouldn't worry about your mother. If she can tolerate Thai food, I can't believe that Bo will be a problem. Boolgaki or galbi might be a good choice for her. Just keep her away from the kimchee!

                                                                      My guess is that both your mother and your kids would love the potato pancakes and/or the mung bean pancakes, which are delicious but mild. All three of us let out audible sighs when eating the potato pancakes on Friday. Gotta love your kids if they eschew most meats but like hard salami. No equivalent at Bo's, I'm afraid, but it's hard to believe that the kids wouldn't like the boolgaki over rice.

                                                                      Might they be amused at the panchan, most of which are mildly spiced? Or might they like the "chicken soup," which is a whole chicken surrounded by vegetables and a whole stuffed chicken (if they'll eat everything but the chicken itself).

                                                                      Or how about the noodles, with the beef picked out?
                                                                      If it's not on a weekend night, Bo will likely not be crowded, so it will probably be very kid-friendly (what is more kid-friendly than a restaurant with friendly folks working there!). The only negative is that the timing of the meal can be uneven and slow, depending on how busy Bo is.

                                                                      1. re: Dave Feldman
                                                                        a
                                                                        Alan Divack Nov 16, 1999 06:43 PM

                                                                        They may go for the broth of the chicken soup, but any cooked vegetables are suspect.

                                                                        Does anyone remember in Calvin Trillin's early books, where he wrote about the limited diet of one of her daughters? She basically lived on bagels, and of course roast squab as well. He said that it reminded him of a very square real estate salesman from the suburbs, Republican and Rotary member, who practices voodoo once a month. (Or something like that.)

                                                                        I can't quite figure where the hard salami or the sate comes from, but there is certainly some form of negative karma for this chowhound.

                                                                        1. re: Alan Divack
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dave Feldman Nov 16, 1999 09:00 PM

                                                                          Alan,

                                                                          IMO, those predilections for hard salami and sates are grace notes, Nature's way of telling you that they are going to be o.k -- chowhounds in abeyance.

                                                          2. re: Dave Feldman
                                                            z
                                                            Zephyr Nov 15, 1999 12:07 PM

                                                            I was indeed at Bo on Friday where I met Dave Feldman. What a nice surprise. It seems to be atypical, but there was quite a crowd on Friday. The waiter (a very friendly young fellow) seemed a bit overwhelmed by the numbers, but said that its like that every weekend. I guess weekdays are a different story. Anyway, the food was excellent, especially the Galbi Jim (beef). When I ordered it (I got the last full portion, Dave!), the waiter excitedly said, "that is the best!" All in all, a great meal. We will make it part of our dining repetoir. And Jim's right. By car from Brooklyn it couldn't be easier.

                                                            1. re: Zephyr
                                                              d
                                                              Dave Feldman Nov 15, 1999 10:23 PM

                                                              I would resent you for taking the last order of galbi except I've had it before (even if my friends hadn't), and Maria was kind enough to give us a boolgaki/galbi combo (and I think together, we received more than we deserved). Next time, we'll have a wrestling match. Maria, too, said that the galbi was "my favorite." In fact, she said it many times.

                                                              One reason Friday was so crowded was because the NY Times ran a feature about Korean restaurants, and Bo was mentioned first. And Howler might have had something to do with it.

                                                              Great to meet a fellow Chowhound.

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