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Sep 19, 2007 11:38 AM

Koreatown help

I just got a new job right next to K-town and am interested in trying some Korean food on my lunch break. I've been to Worijip before and enjoy perusing all of their tasty treats and I've had some BBQ at a place I can't remember on 32nd and really enjoyed it.

Both times I was with a Korean friend who could guide me through and it all and talk to the waiters--now, however, I'm on my own.

What are good things to try and where to go? Who has the best bibimbap? What kind of noodle soups are the best? What's you favorites?

I'll eat anything (yes, I've had chicken assholes) and am really psyched about eating a cuisine I'm really not too familiar with.

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  1. I love the spicy tofu soup at Cho Dang Geol, and many hounds love this restaurant. I've only had the soup, as most of the menu is a bit outside my lunch budget, but it's great. For $9.50, you get kimchi and rice with the soup, so it's nice and filling. I like eating lunch there, as it's usually all-Korean and nearly all-male, so I get to look around and see what everyone's eating.

    1. E-Mo translated in Korean literally mean aunt, this little quaint shop located at 2W 32nd Street, NY, is a great little spot for those on the run. E-MO only makes assortment of Kimbap meaning seaweed rice, which are Korean versions of sushi. A typical Kimbap will have pickled turnip, carrots, parboiled spinach and fishcakes cooked in soy sauce. However at E-MO one can find special variety like, jalapeno, beef, spicy tuna, tuna, kim chee (Korean fermented cabbage), cheese, vegetable, mushroom or squid and is only $4.50 or $5 per 12-13 piece roll.

      One roll is enough for a satisfying meal that is unlikely to result in any stomach discomfort, perfect for those on a diet. Two rolls might be pushing it unless you’re Hungry MAN.
      2 W 32nd Street, New York, NY (btw 5&6 Ave)

      Gahm Mi Oak Restaurant
      43 W 32nd St (between 5th Ave & Broadway) New York, NY 10001
      I know this joint is well know for its sul-lung-tang ($8.99) which is a broth cooked with beef bone served with rice, thin slices of beef, and rice noodles, but for the true foodies out there try the traditional Korean wrap, or “ssäm.” Gahm Mi Oak has many different variations on ssäm, for example Kenneth and I got the thinly sliced pork and raw oysters ($18) but the menu offers boiled squid, raw beef tartar and Dogani Moochim Gelatin of cow knee cooked and served with Korean-style vegetables and served with Gam Mee special sauce. All are accompanied with lightly pickled napa cabbage, spicy seasoned shredded radish, and three different types of dipping sauce.

      It’s a must if your want to experience the true Korean way of eatin, not too hard even for a first timer, just grab a medium to large piece of cabbage and place a slice of pork on it, then pickled radish and your choice of sauce, roll it up and place into mouth. It’s a party in you’re the flavor of the tender pork mingling with the pickled radish all wrapped in the soothing crisp texture of cabbage is amazing! The one dish was large enough for 2 people which would of helped us when ordering but the sul-lung-tang was a nice addition with our ssäm dish, usually most warps are over powering with intense garlicky/chili flake taste one needs to compensate with some rice or ice cold beer.
      for more info check out

      1 Reply
      1. - Best bibimbap - Gam Me Oak; however i really like the kimchi dolsot bibimbap at Kunjip (its bibimbap in a hot stone pot with kimchi and pork, but it doesn't have gochujang --> the spicy sauce that goes in regular bibimbap)
        - Sul long tang (oxtail soup) - Gam Me Oak, this is their specialty
        - Mul Neung Myun (this is a cold noodle group in a slightly tangy broth with sliced of radish, cucumber and korean pears) - You Chun on 36th st, this is their specialty and they make it by far and away the best in ktown (though competition is pretty light as everywhere else makes it horrible)
        - Korean Fried Chicken - Bon Chon Chicken, this is a bar on the second floor on the west side of 5th between 32nd and 31st, but closer to 32nd street
        - Tong Dak (like a Korean rotisserie chicken, the entire chicken as the half is sometimes sort of dry) - Baden Baden, on the southside of ktown on 32nd street, its on the 2nd floor and it will say BBNY on the onning on the outside
        - BBQ - i like Chung Moo Roo on 32nd and surprisingly i discovered Woo Chun on 36th st the other day (the general food there such as soups are terrible, but kalbi is surprisingly good...get the like woo chun special i think its called its the best cut of meat)
        - Hyo Dong Gak (Korean-Chinese food which is chinese people who moved to Korea and adapted chinese dishes to Korean tastes) - its on 35th street, get the ja jyun myun (noodles with meat sauce), jjam pong (spicy seafood soup), tang soo yook (sweet and sour beef) and Kkan poong gi (spicy chicken - i really like this here)
        - E-Mu - small store next to worijip, sells kim bap which is like korean sushi rolls (makes it the best in ktown)
        - Yang Pyung Seoul Hae Jang Gook - on 33rd st as the name says go there for Hae Jang Gook, which is a beef stew with vegetables, but forewarned it has blood in it (which i actually like)
        - Seoul garden (2nd floor, closer to bway on 32nd st southside of the street) - best soon du boo (spicy tofu soup) while i dont think its great here (nowhere in manhattan makes it great) its pretty decent and i like soon do boo alot

        9 Replies
          1. re: pastoralia

            I just went to Kum Gang San, 32nd north side, just east of Broadway, recommended by a Korean friend for its authenticity. It's raucous and crowded, but I thought the selection of those little plates that you get for free at all Korean restaurants was particularly tasty there (excellent octopus, tofu and noodles), which seemed like a good sign, and the bi bim bap was good. It's open 24hrs.

            1. re: chowbeth

              Yeah, Kum Gang San is generally looked down upon by this board. However, I think it's really good for banchan (much better than most of the other places) and a good intro to Korean food for newbies. I'm not as crazy about the main dishes -- though I found their yuk gae jang to be very tasty here.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                The 24 hrs aspect is very appealing. I just hope that that is not somehow connected to the "raucous" aspect....

          2. re: Lau

            To the great list, I'll add Gam Mi Ok for their bin dae duk (best in NY) and Cho Dang Gol for their homemade tofu dishes. If you want soon tofu, I've found Seoul Garden better than Cho Dang Gol. And Woo Chon has some great sachu tang, a spicy hearty lamb soup with perilla seeds.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              ill add a few things:
              - Yang Pyung Seoul Hae Jang Gook is now closed (replaced by Beijing, which is a terrible korean-chinese restaurant)
              - Ma Dang Sui (on 36th street by You Chun) is now my "go to" bbq spot now, i think the bbq is much better than the other places in manhattan ktown, most notably the meat quality is alot better...its a new place

              1. re: Lau

                My favorite place for stews was Yang Pyung Seoul and its a true loss for K-town.

                Went to Ma Dang Sui tonight. The place smelled of well aged beef, and I was pretty excited. However, upon ordering the 4-6 week aged prime rib eye, they merely shrugged and said it wasn't available. They had other prime grade meats, but we decided upon a seafood stew--and it was really mediocre.

                I guess that serves us right for ordering a stew at a BBQ place.

                At any rate, the place is quite loud and packed. And the service, in addition to the shrugging, was pretty bad: a couple was seated before us by mistake, soup was spill all over the table, we were charged for a bottle of soju we didn't order. It became comical.

                Having said that, the beef smelled great, and it might be worth returning to try it out. They claim to use natural charcoal, although that wasn't evident at the table we were sitting at.

                1. re: banquo

                  I've had a couple of pretty good lunches at Madangsui, although there were some miscues. This branch hasn't been open too long, so I figure there might be some kinks to work out still. For example, on one occasion the potato salad banchan was almost not cooked and another time the black soybeans were very hard. However, the stews I've had have been quite good, including an interesting version of kimchee chigae that had a giant hunk of pork bone in it instead of the usual small bits or small pieces. My last visit I had grilled mackerel served with a smaller portion of dwenjang chigae. The mackerel was deliciously salty and oily, but the portion was much too large for the richness of the fish, and the chigae was very good. The accompanying seasonal red rice was a bit on the mushy side.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    supposedly they might switch to wood chips, which would be nice

           should try it again (as you said it is a bbq place)...i had a good experience there last time, they gave me a free kimchi chigae, but it is a new restaurant so i imagine they'll probably have their kinks...btw last time i ordered their unmarinated beef (i ordered the best cut) and its a good cut of beef, but i like the flavor of marinated beef better (i'd go to a steakhouse for an unmarinated cut); so recommend getting the marinated version (the unmarinated version is saeng kalbi fyi)

          3. My favorite place to go is Kunjip. They have great bbq, try their bulgogi, and even better is the yaet-nal-sheek bulgogi, which is bulgogi and vermicelli-type noodles. I think they also have the best appetizers, especially their eggs. Their seafood scallion pancakes are also really good. If you want more Americanized Korean, try Mandoo Bar, their dumplings are good and they have great dolsot bibimbop (mixed rice, beef and vegetables in a hot sauce served in a stone pot, awesome!)

            1. for something different, go for mandoo bar. it's actually a relatively well priced lunch option since korean bbq tends to lean towards the expensive side. they have various dumplings - some traditional some not - and some other stuff too. not too intimidating either for someone who's not an expert in korean food.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Renguin

                Also love the bibimbop at Mandoo Bar. They have one which has pieces of beef vs. more ground beef.

                1. re: Renguin

                  am I the only person who thinks mandoo bar's namesake menu item is actually really bad? invariably thick skin either fried, steamed or in soup, and the flavors themselves are not great (strenuously avoid the seafood).

                  btw, this weekend's NYT article on k-town:

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    there is a wide variety in the dumpling spectrum. while i've never had dumplings in korea, the ones there are really close to chinese shuijiao which are always thick skinned. while i'm generally a fan of more southern style, thin skinned dumplings, sometimes i'm in the mood for the heartier northern variety. comparing dumplings across genres is apples to oranges, however when comparing mandoo bar to similar types at other restaurants, theirs are really good and fresh.

                    1. re: Renguin

                      definitely not trying to compare varieties, but, just because they make 'em in the window right there doesn't take away from the fact that those suckers have skins way too thick (the boiled should be just translucent enough so you can somewhat make out the filling, e.g.). I like the fried dumplings at hyodanggak but maybe those are close to chinese-style fried dumplings, but even the mandoo found in the dukmandooguk at dae dong or kang suh, while again another style (almost thinner than wonton skins), are way better than the mandoo soup I've had at mandoo bar. and the steamed kimchi ones (had hight hopes) were also a disappointment; the skin too thick to steam through completely, and even getting that lovely tough skin when it sits around uncovered for awhile (that might have been a function of service though). I do like one of their cold noodle preparations though, not naengmyun but another one, made with noodles that look like bean sprouts.

                      I'd be curious to hear other recs of korean mandoo though, in all its varieties. too many places serve the frozen ones unfortunately and those just end up tasting like the ones you can get for $6.49 a pound at any typical korean salad bar deli.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        I agree about the kimchi ones, a bit lackluster, but i still think the meat ones are okay.

                    2. re: bigjeff

                      i dont think they are very good, actually fairly mediocre, but agree with renquin that they are better than other restaurants in the ktown area who serve really crap dumplings...actually now that i think about it you chun probably has the best mandoo, they have pretty decent mandoo. I like to get their duk bokee and they put fried mandoo in it as well (i ask them for extra fish cakes as well), the mandoo are very tasty in the spicy sauce

                      1. re: Lau

                        ever have that soondae stirfry at you chun? pretty good too.

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          nope, but i love soondae, so will definitely try next time i'm there

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          I'm not the hugest fan of them as I prefer my dumpling kins thin. However, every non-Korean (including other Asians) that I know who have been to it love it.