The "Korean Village" of Murray Hill
In last month's blowout thread on Flushing Korean chow, GeoJack mentioned a Korean mini-enclave that's sprung up around the Murray Hill LIRR station (41st Avenue at 150th Street). "Korean commerce has transformed this sleepy 19th century setting into what I call 'the Korean Village,'" he wrote.
"Village" is apt it's got that feel, separate from (and much smaller than) the sprawling Northern Blvd. Korean strip. My wife and I passed through on a chilly weekend afternoon with no time to sit down and eat, unfortunately, but we did see a lot of intriguing places. Here are some notes. Hope anyone familiar with these restaurants will chime in. There are one or two hof-type drinking hangouts, too, for those interested; we couldn't check them out Saturday, but one of these days ...
At least a couple of these places have turned up in past Chowhound discussions: Hamjibak (41-08 149th Pl, 718-460-9289) for barbecue, especially sam gyup sal ("three stripe" fresh pork belly), and Hanjoo (41-06 149th Pl, 718-359-6888) for shabu shabu and naeng myun and other noodles.
The place that really got us curious was Su San Seafood (40-30 149th Pl, 718-460-5414). It looks like an aquarium inside, with tanks lining the wall the length of the long dining room, aswim with crabs, abalone, sea squirt, conger eel, sea cucumber, big unidentified fin fish. Many are served raw, but there are also cooked dishes like stews and grilled stuff. Looked kind of pricey, but a group could probably split a bunch of plates and drinks at reasonable cost.
We did grab a few bites to go at Andersen Bakery (149-01 41st Ave, 718-939-2110), which may be part of the Japanese chain (the manager of this shop is Korean): A nice chewy black-sesame puff. Delicate but dense chestnut cakes that are probably meant to be eaten with tea or coffee dry and chalky Saturday, not bad today (must've absorbed some moisture). A mini-ham sandwich on a panko-crusted roll with cabbage, mayo and sweet sauce (not bad but nothing special).
Other local options:
Da Korean (41-10 149th Pl, 718-321-0014), a barbecue place with live eel in tanks.
Sol Bawoo (149-44 41st Ave, 718-445-2542): Prominent on the menu: Tojong and Yuhwang duck specials, lamb, jungol.
Cho Won Restaurant (41-05 150th St, 718-460-1266): barbecued meats, jigae, more.
Kum Sung Jingook Kalguksu (40-09 149th Pl, 718-661-3780): naeng myun (chik, momil, or ogapi), kal guk soo, jungol.
Mat Dol Tofu, a.k.a. Professional Soft Tofu (40-11 150th St, 718-353-6962).
Mapo Korean Barbecue, a.k.a. Taepungyangdolgorae (149-24 41st Ave, 718-886-6883).
Min Sok Restaurant (41-11 150th St, 718-858-5312).
Well Being Foods / Party Well Buffet / Mae Il Jinme Restaurant (148-32 41st Ave), a takeout-catering operation with a dining room.
Murray Station Hof (41-13 150th St, 718-321-8803).
Han Shin Pocha (40-03 149th Pl, 718-886-1328).
* * * * *
We were in the neighborhood to check out the takeout offerings at Maru (157-22 Northern Blvd, 718-461-2018). Following a hound tip (thanks, Lisa!), I'd dropped in a few weeks earlier and had great octopus kimbap, jun, and mushrooms. So we wanted to see how they would handle a larger order for my wife's office holiday party (she was in charge of about half the savory food).
Not all the staff speaks English, but the couple of young women who do were very helpful in tailoring our order for a crowd of guests, including kids, that was mostly unfamiliar with Korean food. For this reason (and also because there was going to be non-Asian chow and numerous desserts on the table) we wanted to avoid dishes that were too authentically fiery or funky.
We ended up with large trays of nice fresh-rolled beef kimbap, delicious rolled omelettes with seaweed and chopped onion and peppers, spicy cucumber muchim (the only chile-hot dish we got), and potato bokum, a great salad-like dish of shredded spuds, lightly boiled and still a bit crunchy, with strips of carrot and green chile. All big hits among the partygoers, who raved about everything and left little behind.
Manhattan hounds take note: Maru will deliver even to Manhattan for orders above (I think) $100. Ours was barely half that, so I picked up the food on the day of the party. That's a pretty painless round trip on LIRR Murray Hill is just 20 minutes from Penn Station, a $3 ride each way with the weekend City Ticket.
Does anyone know the name of the restaurant in that area that serves the really tasty blood sausage made with what I assume is rice noodles? They had this gigantic basket in the dining room filled with these sausages - a $11 portion provided nearly 50 slices of this fantastic sausage.
And Peter - the thinly sliced daikon sounds fantastic - I never saw that in my travels in Korea but then again I was drunk most of the time. Damn soju.
i think you're referring to seoul soondae, on the north side of northern near 159th st (the same one that zenfoodist referred to below).
the soondae at this place is pretty good, tho i haven't been there in months. they also serve korean-style barbecue, which i've never tried.
i had some terrific soondae at the korean chuseok ("harvest moon") festival in flushing meadows park a few weekends ago. i'm not sure if the vendor was affiliated with a local restaurant, but it was as good as i've had in ny.
It's good to know what that area is called. I've explored it a bit, thinking it was Bayside and having someone tell me it was Flushing, and now finding out it's actually Murray Hill.
So far the one great meal I've had was at Hamjibak. What I thought was interesting is that in addition to lettuce for wrapping, they also have very thinly sliced daikon for that purpose. Is this a common thing in certain types of bbq places or in certain parts of Korea?
re: Peter Cuce
honestly, i think ham ji bak has somewhat declined recently. it's still better than most for pork bbq, esp. the heuk dwehji sam gyup ssal (black pig's belly bbq), but the original branch in LA's koreatown is far better, for anyone planning a trip out there in the near future. incidentally, i used to think the murray hill branch of ham ji bak was better than the bayside branch on northern blvd, but at this point they're about the same, judging by recent visits.
i still like the gamja tang (spicy potato soup) at both ham ji bak locations, tho.
When I went to Hamjibak, besides the pork, most tables were getting the crab. Unfortunately, we already put in our orders so we didn't try it. I also enjoyed their bibimbap, which is made with sweet (or glutenous) rice. I guess I don't get out for Korean food that often, but I was pretty impressed by the overall high level of quality here, including things like the pajun, and the ban chan. Better than anything I've had in Manhattan, and other restaurants in Queens.
re: Peter Cuce
I went to Hamjibak on Friday night.. I left Manhattan by car and was there in 20 minutes. One thing interesting about Ham Ji Bak Restaurant is on the chopstick wrapper there are two locations:
1)41-08 149 place....................2)210-22 Northern BLVD
Flushing, NY 11355.................... Bayside, NY 11361
I recently went to the location on 149th place.. Thank you for showing me this place everyone. Me and two other people had a feast here.. We ate a lot, we drank Korean Beer and tried a Rasberry Wine.. Which tasted very much like Manischewitz and Rasberry wine cooler..Hey it still worked.
We ordered the Kalbi and the Pork Belly.. There were other options that looked interesting, they had soondae a type of blood sausage and duck are a couple I remembered.As the grill was heating up we ordered the seafood pancake.. This was really good. Came out hot and crispy, nice pieces of fish in the cake. Looking at the menu, the have some nice looking fish offerings. Someone's oposition to crab made us choose a Monkfish Option.. The spicy monkfish soup was a great route.
The grill unfortunately not charcoal, is a cast iron disc placed on top of a gas burner.. The disc is tilted slightly so oil can drip to one side where there is a folded up napkin to catch the oil. Our waiter was tending the grill and the oil rag for us. He was really so friendly and welcoming.
The Kalbi was on point with any of the other non chargrilled versions i have had.. The pork belly was very nice.. The waiter instructed us to dip the pork belly into a sweet sauce, then into a bean powder, and then wrap in the daikon with a scallion salad. Recently, I was given Daikon to wrap around meat at a Korean Resurant in the suburbs of Chicago. The Kalbi was marinated, the Pork Belly was just lightly salted with Kosher Salt. I am someone who cooks Pork Belly at home, I have it in all its forms and bacons..This was just an average presentation. Was it a nice piece of pork belly, of course it was. But besides just Pork Belly being great in general, Iwas not wowed.. Cooked on charcoal would be better, I dont have charcoal at home..
The sides are good, very plentiful and tasty, nothing really stands out.. Thank again for showing me this place.. Can anyone recommend a place that uses Charcoal in the area..
yeah, ham ji bak has definitely declined. the thing to get there nowadays is gamja tang (potato stew with black pepper and pork bone), but even that isn't as good as at their LA branch. and honestly, the 149th place branch in murray hill has gotten so mediocre, i'd actually say you're better off going to the bayside location on northern boulevard.
murray hill's a little overrated as an eating neighborhood, anyway; i can't say i love most of the stuff i've eaten around there of late. i strongly suspect that a lot of the best korean food popping up in flushing these days is at the new eateries that are owned, operated, and catered toward ethnic koreans from china. most of these places tend to be on the other side of northern blvd (with a few apparently on northern itself), but not so much in murray hill. i'm still looking around, though. but i've yet to be overly impressed with anything in the area.
one place that has me intrigued at the moment is on northern blvd, called on-dal myun-ok. it used to be ok dol jip (jade korean restaurant) until this summer, but suddenly changed its name. not sure if this was due to an ownership change or what, but i haven't been there since that happened. anyhow ok dol jip used charcoal in its grills and had pretty high quality meat - it was easily one of the better options in all of flushing for korean bbq.
so without knowing the reason for the switch, i'd bet that on-dal myun-ok is at least decent - if not very good - and most likely still uses charcoal.
right now, no (unfortunately). i've been on sort of a korean eating binge of late and while i've found some decent stuff, nothing has really stood out.
there are a lot of speciality shops that have popped up, though. porridge specialists, fried chicken shacks, and so forth. most of the korean fried chicken places i've been to in flushing and nj have been pretty good, actually. i'm not so crazy about the new porridge place that recently opened up on northern blvd (i'm not referring to the one peter meehan reviewed in the ny times recently), but right next door i noticed that a new gamja tang place is opening up soon. i can't wait to try it out, but i'm not holding my breath that it'll be great. then again, a specialist is always better than a "general purpose" restaurant. that's why most of the "big" korean restaurants with extensive menus in the area are so utterly mediocre. if anything, they do one dish well, if even that.
Thanks from GeoJack. I live in the most Korean of zipcodes that includes the Korean Village. I even get Korean junk mail. But my knowledge of Korean food does not go much beyond barbecue. Maybe some of you pros could invite me along to sample what you find in the Village.
Great list.. I taught ESL for 8 years around the corner on 147th and Sanford and used to eat in this enclave all the time. There used to be a super good tofu restaurant highly praised by Jim right on 150th I believe. No longer there.
Sol Bawoo has very interesting pan chan...stuff you don't see in the Northern Bld. places. It's a madhouse at night and parking is very difficult- the valet service is excellent.
Thanks so much for posting all of that information. As a child, my parents would take me and my siblings to all these [what seemed to be nameless] Korean restaurants around the LIRR - Murray Hill station frequently. However, I have to admit that I no longer frequent this area any longer, besides HamJiBahk and the cheek-nehng-myun place next door to it.
'twas like a trip down memory lane. ;-)