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Arirang - New "must try" restaurant in ktown (kal gook soo)

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so on a tip from squid kun that Arirang was opening a branch in Manhattan (the original is in flushing) we decided to try it out tonight.

It's fairly difficult to find b/c the sign isn't that big and its on the 3rd floor above NY Komtang (southside of 32nd street), 32 W. 32nd St. Its a wooden interior and reminds me of the interior at Seoul Garden, but its smaller, probably 15-16 tables. The owners were very nice although i had no idea what they were saying (they talked to my gf the whole in korean), apparently they were asking how the food was, how we found the place, how hard it was to find etc (they were worried people wouldn't know where it was) and they are probably justified as it's not obvious at all that there is a restaurant there (go so it doesn't go out of business). The service is pretty good as well.

They only give you kimchi and ggak dugi at the beginning of the meal (like gam me oak), their kimchi and ggak dugi was good, but too sweet (it probably would've been very good if it wasn't so sweet), my gf thinks people from seoul put too much sugar in everything (her family isn't from seoul)...but any which way their kimchi and ggak dugi was better than most ktown restaurants.

The menu is a very specialist restaurant (i love specialist restaurants). It's a short menu. They have several versions of kal gook soo, which is a handmade noodle soup. You can get chicken (which i believe is fairly traditional), anchovy, seafood or kimchi. You can then choose whether you want noodles, su je bee (which is a sort of handmade rice cake thing) or both. They also have tak dori tang (which is a big semi-sweet korean chicken stew/casserole type thing) and sam gae tang (which is a big korean ginseng chicken soup that involves a small whole chicken), kimchi dumplings and pajun (korean pancake). I believe the place is also some sort of chicken specialist as they have a big rooster painted on the wall.

On to the food:
- chicken kalgooksoo: this is what i got and i got it with both noodles and su je bee. It also contains thin strips of chicken meat and long thinly sliced scallions. The broth is excellent, slightly thick, great chicken flavor, not too salty...think of a really good chicken noodle soup (unlike alot of korean food this isn't spicy at all). The noodles and su je bee were both very good especially the su je bee, which was quite thin for su je bee (which i liked). Both the noodles and su je bee had that good al dente quality that good handmade noodle products have. The noodles are semi thick if you're trying to think of what its like. They've got two different condiments that you can put in, one is a drier chili paste with garlic, scallions and green onions, the other is a more liquid-y soy based chili sauce with garlic, scallions and green onions. Hit it with both and some black pepper and you've got a really good chicken noodle soup. Anyhow, I enjoyed this a lot and it actually tastes very similar to a famous kal gook soo place in LA that i go to sometimes when im home.
- kimchi kalgooksoo: my gf got this and its fairly similar to mine except the broth is kimchi based, so its much more tangy and slightly spicy. She liked hers better, but i liked mine better, so u can decide

Overall, I love specialists restaurants and this is a good one. I'd say its one of the few restaurants in Manhattan ktown that is good on an absolute basis for korean food (the other is gam me oak). Now you may or may not like the dish itself, but the dish is well made. I highly recommend trying this place.

For people less familiar with korean food, this dish is probably quite a bit different than what most people are used to thinking of korean food (i.e. its not bbq or a spicy soup), this is more sort of home cooking type thing (like i said think of a really good chicken noodle soup).

I'm looking forward to coming back with more people to try their sam gae tang and tak dori tang (i like tak dori tang quite a bit)

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  1. dioes this place have anything to do with the Arirang habaci chain?

    1 Reply
    1. Thanks for the review. My husband and I are always on the lookout for GREAT Korean food (which is rare 'round these parts) and this is definitely a must-try!

      How's their kimchi? My husband has NOT found any kimchi he liked in the U.S. other than this one hole-in-the-wall in L.A. since his visit to Seoul.

      Let me know if you try their dak dori tang too.

      7 Replies
      1. re: uwsister

        their kimchi is decent, but its too sweet

        the only place in NY I like for their kimchi is gam me oak (aside from my gf's mother's home made kimchi) ...most of the rest use store bought stuff that is pretty blehh

        1. re: Lau

          i haven't had the kimchi at gam mee oak, but my favorite kimchi in the city is at cho dang gol. it is the ONLY place in ktown that REALLY doesn't use MSG. all the other places either say they don't or say they won't if you ask, but they all use it. cho dang gol's buk-uh gui (grilled pollack) is OUT of this WORLD! and their tofu is, of course, stellar. i also love their kimchi biji (ground soybean stew) - YUM!!!! the marinated mackerel that comes as part of the banchan is awesome. it is the closest to my mom and grandma's cooking that i've encountered in ktown. everywhere else tastes like restaurant korean food and that is why i rarely go out in ktown anymore.

          1. re: j.jessica.lee

            I've enjoyed Cho Dang Gol. Have you tried BCD Tofu House on 32nd? I'm wondering how they compare.

            1. re: squid kun

              I didn't care for Cho Dang Gol's soon doo boo at all. Maybe I should try their other stuff? I prefer BCD Tofu House (and I love their fried fish ban chan.) However, BCD doesn't come close to our favorite place, Natural Tofu in Sunnyside, IMO.

              My husband tried Gam Mi Oak's kimchi and said it wasn't spicy enough, though flavor was very good. I should note he developed his Korean palate at my Mom's restaurant in Seoul, which always has had chefs from Cholla Province. I love Gam Mi Oak's kimchi, personally.

            2. re: j.jessica.lee

              their biji is pretty decent, but i agree with uwsister im not a fan of their soon doo boo at all either...their tofu has a weird texture and i think its pretty blehh...much prefer BCD

              ill have to try to buk-uh gui

              1. re: Lau

                i don't know if you know this, but their "soondubu" is not soondubu. it's made with a different kind of dubu. the dish is called cham dubu that is made from their housemade dubu. soondubu usually uses really soft, silken dubu which is why you don't like the chamdubu at cho dang gol. i much prefer their dubu in the dubu jungol or just plain with the dipping sauce. it's really good that way.

                yes, get the buk-uh gui. it is SOOOOOOOOOO good! and make sure to have some of the mackerel banchan. i'd go there just for that!

                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  yeah i knew they use a different grade of tofu, based on the texture I think they are using one that they press more water out of the tofu, but i believe they do bill it as soon doo boo although i haven't been there in a while

                  ill def try the buk uh gui

        2. i've been craving samgyetang recently, so i'll check this place out...

          4 Replies
          1. re: Simon

            be curious how their sam gae tang is, its not my favorite dish, but its decent if made right

            1. re: Lau

              it's actually my fav Korean dish...i was in Seoul for a couple weeks about 2 years ago and i ate a lot of it...when i was out w/ friends we ate in other kinds of places, but when i was by myself it was often the best call as it's a good dish for the solo diner and after two weeks i'd developed an affinity/addiction for/to it...

              i've yet to try it in NYC K-town, so i'll be delighted if it's good...i had it in Vancouver last summer and was disappointed (not enough ginseng, chicken hadn't been parboiled before being cooked in the cast iron pot)...

              1. re: Simon

                i generally think its blehh at restaurants...I even had in seoul, i went to some famous sam gae tang place and i wasn't a fan of it

                I actually disliked the dish until my gf's mom cooked it and now i like it b/c her's was very good

                1. re: Lau

                  mmm, now that i'm thinking about all that aromatic ginseng, i might go there tomorrow for lunch...will report back...

          2. Thanks for the heads up. We're always looking for tasty Korean restaurants and love the specialized restaurants too. They always seem to do it a little better than the generalized ones. We had the seafood pajun here and it was a pretty good version. Very crispy; it does not suffer from the unfortunate doughy quality of a lot of other pajuns out there. They have you mix your own dipping sauce, which is kind of nice, I guess. We had the seafood kimchi noodle soup. The noodles were nice and chewy, but the seafood addition wasn't really worth it. I'd like to try the chicken version next time so that I can try the chili condiments.

            4 Replies
            1. re: plantainsandkimchi

              hmmm ill have to try that pajun, i love pajun, but no one seems to be able to get it right here (its all doughy and gross)

              i recommend the chicken version, i prefered that one for sure

              1. re: Lau

                i totally agree. it's usually doughy and/or swimming in a vat of oil. and then they charge you the same as or more than the price of an entree for it! totally not worth it. it's better to just make it at home. the trick to making it crispy at home is to use equal parts of flour and cornstarch and, of course, to get the consistency of the batter just right.

                i'll have to try this kalgooksu place, but don't have high hopes. every time i've had kalgooksu out, i am disappointed. i much prefer my mom's and even the one i make at home. but everyone seems to have favorable reviews of this place, so i'll give it a shot!

                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  haha I was surprised as its usually terrible in restaurants although there are not many kalgooksoo specialists in NY in fact this is the only one i know of (i get it in LA b/c there are more of them)

                  1. re: Lau

                    There are a few specialists out in Flushing. One on Union Street, about a half block off Northern (right turn if driving west, twds Manhattan), with a black/white/green striped awning, that actually advertises kalgooksoo. The other is in Murray Hill, not far from Duck Butt and Bon Chon - a corner noodle place. Haven't tried either - I tend to get pretty good kalgooksoo cooked at home - but they're on my radar.

            2. oh btw, su jeh bee is not rice cake but a dough made from basically flour and water. you kind of rip bits off of the dough ball and maybe stretch it out a bit and plop it in. it's a very rustic, country kind of dish. my dad loves this as he had it a lot in his childhood.

              8 Replies
              1. re: j.jessica.lee

                sorry you're right i dont know why i said rice cake

                i like when they break it off in front of you...there is this amazing kkokaetang in LA place that does it at the end of the meal

                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  Yes, and I loved it.

                  Thanks for the recommendation, Lau, and everyone else!

                  I went for dinner yesterday with my girlfriend. We got Chicken Kar-Jeabe and Kimchi-Mixed Seafood Su-Jeabe. I think the chicken soup has been aptly described in this thread. My girlfriend liked it very much, especially after she added kimchi to her own portion (perhaps an unorthodox thing to do?). I thought it was OK, but probably wouldn't want to get it again. (I thought there was some off-taste in it, though it bothers me to suggest such a thing, so maybe it just wasn't entirely to my taste.) However, I loved the Kimchi-Mixed Seafood Su-Jeabe! So flavorful, really great broth, very pleasing seafood, scallions, and potato, and the excellent dough flakes.

                  As for the banchan, we both loved the daikon kimchi (I realize technically, that's the wrong name). I thought the regular kimchi was flavorful and I liked and respected the thick sauce, but I prefer it spicier.

                  A word about the portions: They are VERY BIG! We came nowhere near finishing either soup, and took home leftovers. I think that for two people who aren't absolutely humongous eaters, pa-jeon plus one soup is the maximum you should consider actually eating at the restaurant.

                  I thought the price - about $20.50 plus tip - was pretty cheap for what we got.

                  One question: The barbecue place that occupies the 1st and 2nd floors of that building seemed pretty popular, but when we used the bathrooms on the 2nd floor, we noticed that the ventilation from the barbecuing was poor, causing the room to be smokey. Do any of you have an opinion about the quality and tastiness of the meat in that restaurant, whose name I forget at the moment?

                  Finally, Arirang now has a menupages.com page, but with some typos in the menu:


                  I highly recommend that everyone reading this who likes Korean food or spicy noodle soups goes and tries the place. But be warned: It is hard to find! Even knowing its address, I passed it a few times before realizing which door I should walk into, and then it's on the 3rd floor, past two rickety flights of stairs (I later found out there is also an elevator). It's all worth it, though: The restaurant is a very pleasant space, and the food is quite good.

                  1. re: Pan

                    > be warned: It is hard to find! Even knowing its address, I passed it a few times before realizing which door I should walk into, and then it's on the 3rd floor,

                    It's easier to find if you check the Chow database, which makes clear that Arirang is on the third floor (so does the original post in this thread, BTW). The Chow record also gives the full name of the street-level barbecue house. It's New York Kom Tang Soot Bul Kal Bi, and it's been the subject of numerous (mixed) Chowhound comments over the years.

                    32 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                    1. re: squid kun

                      NY Kom Tang is pretty good, its def one of the better bbq places in ktown although i think madangsui is better...they are sort of famous as they are one of the few places that actually uses charcoals instead of the gas grills

                      1. re: Lau

                        They claim to be the only place on 32nd St. to use charcoal.

                        1. re: Pan

                          i think they maybe actually

                      2. re: squid kun

                        Logistical question: What's the easiest way to access the Chow database?

                        1. re: Pan

                          Hit the RESTAURANTS & BARS tab near the top of the page, which will lead you to a page with a search field. Enter the name of the restaurant, and it'll appear if it's in the database.

                          Recently the powers-that-be "improved" the site, which impaired the search function in some ways, at least for now. But you can still search for terms other than the restaurant name, using words in other fields of the venue record, e.g. address or cuisine tag. For example korean + noodles + 32nd brings up Arirang (and also Mandoo Bar down the block).

                  2. Does anyone have the menu of know if they have a website? Thanks

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: fooodie

                      pretty sure they don't have a website and they aren't on menupages

                      the menu is very short if you go there...i basically described it in the original post

                      1. re: Lau

                        Here's the menu for the Flushing location. I'm guessing it's similar to the Manhattan one.


                      2. re: fooodie

                        The Chow database is your friend: Here's place info with scanned menu ...

                        32 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                        1. re: squid kun

                          Great, thank you. I didn't notice the photo of the menu

                      3. so I ate here again tonight, it was excellent, I was happy b/c it was very busy (we had to wait 10 mins on a weds night), which means business is good (and hence they should stay in business knock on wood)....very korean crowd (like from korea not korean-american), which is always a good sign. Alot of people had a dish on their table that was a whole chicken that had been pulled apart along with a sticky rice with some stuff on it, looked delicious and ill definitely have to try it. I also saw the tak dori tang, which looked lovely as well.

                        This time we got:
                        - anchovy kal gook soo (with noodles and su je bee): this was excellent, great anchovy broth (deep flavor and depth) and same great noodles and su je bee (they really have good su je bee btw)...definitely worth ordering. Fyi, there is no anchovy in it, its just an dried anchovy based broth
                        - kimchi jun (kimchi pancake): this was pretty decent, but nothing special. It was crispy and wasn't too gooey (alot of ktown places make it all gooey...gross), but it didn't have enough flavor...great kimchi jun is more flavorful. Personally, I also like it when its very crispy on the outside and this was only kinda crispy

                        overall, very happy with this place and i highly recommend people coming to try

                        1. I just had the seafood noodle soup yesterday for lunch. The broth was tasty and complex, with a hint of soybean paste and a nice assortment of seafood - 2 head on shrimp, small mussels, one clam in shell, and some squid. Do not do the takeout - if possible , as the noodles lose their texture. I loved the liquid chili sauce accompaniment.

                          1. Lau, what a great recommendation. This was a real treat. I had the chicken with noodle and su je bee and it was delicious and strangely very reminiscent of my grandmother's chicken noodle soup (as in Jewish grandmother, not Korean). The place was completely full. The owner was very friendly and also intrigued that I was there. As the only non Korean at lunchtime, being a 6'3 caucasian I stood out, and he asked how I knew about the restaurant. The two businessmen I shared a table with found my presence humorous and commented on it. They shared with me that they were eating the seafood soup with thin noodles (not sure of the name), and that it too was superb. It's funny - I eat in a lot of korean and chinese restaurants where no-one looks twice at me, but I think maybe that being on the 3rd floor and hard to find, it gets a very traditional clientelle and explorers are few and far between. I left with a smile, having loved the food and enjoyed being an oddity.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mr_seabass

                              glad you enjoyed...this is definitely one of the best korean restaurants in manhattan

                              1. re: Lau

                                Had the seafood with long noodle today. Yum.

                            2. went again last night and tried the last of the kal gook soo preparations that I hadn't tried, which was the seafood version, they pile alot more greens on top of this one and there are shrimps, clams, calamari in it...its good as the broth is good and the noodles / su je bee are good, but it was probably my least favorite of the preparations as I didn't think the mix of seafood really did much for the dish.

                              We also got the tak dori tang (a big semi spicy chicken stew)....I liked it, it comes in a big pot with a fire underneath it and its got chicken, potatoes, onions, scallions, peppers and some other vegetables in it. The broth was not very sweet and was a bit spicy, which I liked b/c most places make the broth way too sweet. The chicken was fall off the bone and very tender. The only gripe was that the broth was sort of like a thick soup broth and it should be more like a gravy, meaning it was a little too liquidy (hence my gf didn't like it since thats not the way her mom makes it). I thought it was delicious and they nice owner lady comes by with a plate of su je bee at the end, which was delicious and also she told us it changes the flavor. What happens is the starch i believe thickens the broth, so it does actually change the dish.

                              Another excellent trip...this place is excellent

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lau

                                Thanks so much for passing along the info on Arirang, Lau!

                                I went last night, and my dining companion and I had the kimchi kal gook soo, chicken kal gook soo and kimchi jun. I preferred the kimchee kal gook soo, but it was nice to have both. They are quite different and offer a nice contrast to one another. I agree with others who have pointed out that both the banchan and kimchi jun are a cut above average Manhattan K-town fare. I will definitely be back to explore more of the menu.

                                It's always refreshing to have this level of houndishness on the Manhattan board!

                              2. Thank you so much for the recommendation! Had a very satisfying lunch today with both the chicken and anchovy noodles. One question though, is the soup supposed to thicken and become slightly gummy as the noodles soak after a while in the soup?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: xigua

                                  glad you enjoyed it

                                  i'm not sure if it is supposed to, but it always does b/c of the starch...every good place ive ever had it at is like that....i prefer when the soup is thicker personally

                                2. I was there this evening around six, and the place was about 1/4 full. The service was very pleasant and efficient; I got a lot of attention (maybe because the place was about 1/4 full). I had the seafood kar - jeabe. I really liked the dough flakes and the noodles - they had a great texture - but I thought overall, the dish just wasn't all that. The broth was kind of lackluster, and the seafood was tough, except for the shrimp, which was spongy. It was a massive bowl of soup, though. I liked the kimchi quite a bit, and didn't find it too sweet.

                                  And a question: with my beer, I was served a little plate of pine nuts and some long white shreds of something. What is that?

                                  1. Big thanks to Lau for your great reports about Arirang! I tried it and can tell you that it reminds me of what I used to eat at home. Two people will be more than stuffed ordering one pajun and one soup. We even had leftovers.

                                    The pajun is huge and well done with lots of seafood. I think they also used a mixture of wheat flour and sweet rice flour because there was chewiness to it (I prefer it to those that do 100% wheat). That is probably why people don't perceive it as "doughy" as other pajuns as the sweet rice flour cuts into the "doughiness."

                                    I ordered the chicken soup. Plain, it tasted exactly like what I grew up with. The seasoning paste was a bit different, but I liked it a lot. There were two pastes, and I preferred the one with the gochugaru, scallions, garlic, onions and rice vinegar. At home, my mom used to be toasted sesame oil in it. But I didn't detect it in this one. The noodles and su jae be were rustic and had a rough surface area -- perfect to absorb all the tasty broth and seasonings. There was a good bite to the noodles and dumplings.

                                    I agree with you that the kimchi was too sweet. DH actually said he couldn't eat it because it was too sweet for him. But it was the right level of fermentation -- most places either don't ferment it long enough or ferment it way too long.

                                    Service was pretty good except the guy taking our order kept hovering over us hitting his lower back (I think he was doing some sort of kidney strengthening qi gong exercise) as soon as we got our menu. We didn't really get a chance to really look at the menu. Music they played was typical American/British songs that Koreans absolutely love -- you know, like Hey Jude and Can't Help Falling in Love. I generally ignore the music at a restaurant. But I couldn't help noticing it because it was not too crowded and they were playing it at a high volume. It's okay for a meal, but I'd probably go bonkers if I worked there and had to listen to that all day.

                                    My opinion is that if you're new to Korean food, this is probably not the best place to start with. Menu is pretty limited, and I can see some people not "getting" the noodle soups as it may seem to bland and too simple. And a lot of newbies would probably be more happy at a place that serves a greater variety of banchan. But if you've had lots of Korean food before and want to try something else, I think Arirang is an great choice.

                                    1. I really really wanted to like this place, as kalguksu is one of the foods I most miss from Seoul, where I grew up, but at least the night I was there, the noodles were not really chewy and "al dente." I've actually been to the branch in Flushing and had felt similarly, but was wiling to give the new branch a try. I did really like the flavor of the anchovy broth, though. It made me miss my favorite place in Seoul more than ever.

                                      It does make me happy, though, to see more "specialty" Korean restaurants coming into Ktown. Gives me hope for this area.

                                      1. hi Lau, thanks again for the rec; finally ate here tonight and some info is; the had the branch in flushing but moved to manhattan (so, not sure if they still have the flushing one); opened 3 months ago; place was pretty packed; lotta servers; the bathroom is the worst setup ever. but the food!

                                        we only split an order of the seafood kimchi with noodles and dough things and it was served in an enormous bowl! the daikon kimchi was amazing, very good, very spicy; the greens kimchi was good and strong and mustardy, but I really liked the daikon one, better than ganmeeok's. the soup was not really what I expected; I thought it would be more a clear soup like jjampong but it was so good; the noodles so rustic, nice and thick; and it tasted really good with the pasts served as well; we had it with soup but also "dry", fishing out the ingredients and just putting the paste on it. we ordered a side of greens to dump into the soup as well, fresh spinach and scallion. everyone seemed to get one bowl each which is way too much food! so we saw a lot of takeout. a lotta pajun going out to eat table too. this place was excellent, nice space. next time I'd like to try some of their whole chicken preparations and other fancier stuff but, very happy with the food.

                                        thanks again, lau.

                                        ooh, and we followed that up with a green tea bing su at koryodang directly across the street; so good!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bigjeff

                                          glad you enjoyed it, its one of the few good korean restaurants in manhattan (on an absolute basis)

                                        2. Also checked out this place this past week. I'm not a huge fan of kalguksu or sujaebi to begin with, since I find 'em pretty bland, but Arirang's may be the exception. Wish they gave me a little more chicken, but no big complaints. Service was also very friendly and accommodating, which is a thumbs up for any Korean establishment, since they tend to lack on service.

                                          The seafood pajeon was also fantastic. Best one I've had in Manhattan (or at least in recent memory) so far.

                                          Portions are amply generous and I agree with previous posters that you have more than enough food for two should you split an order and get a pancake.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: baobao

                                            most people screw up kalguksu pretty badly, its one of those home style dishes that seems simple, but in reality is real easy to screw up

                                            1. re: baobao

                                              I had the exact some thing last time I was here.

                                              Agree that the soup is light on chicken, but the amazing broth makes up for that. The broth is easily the most intensely chicken flavor broth i've ever had. I think folks sometimes forget what chicken actually tastes like, and Arirang's kalguksu is like the essence of 10 chickens in one bowl.

                                              Definitely a must try for any Korean food lover.

                                            2. It's great to see this type of specialization, which is definitely improving the Korean chow scene in NYC.

                                              We really enjoyed our meal, this past Saturday, at Arirang. The long-simmered broth really made the chicken kalgooksoo. It's really a Sam Gye Tang-style broth, only - for a change - done right. The natural chicken flavor comes through, as does a subtle trace of sweetness from the date and ginseng. It's even better with a chunk of radish kimchi dumped into the mix. I also enjoyed the chewiness of the sujebee, the way the noodles mixed in with the strands of chicken.

                                              We also shared the Seafood Pajun, which is, to date, the best I've had in NYC: crispy all over, generous in portion, not too thick.

                                              I can't agree that the radish kimchi is too sweet. In most places we go, it's a lot sweeter. The wife and I both agreed that the kimchi here is of a generally higher quality than is available elsewhere.

                                              This place is a winner. I hope it endures in the midst of a sea of middle-of-the-road Korean diners than dominate Koreantown. As good as this type of food is in July, it will be that much better on a cold winter day. We look forward to returning to try the Seafood Kalgooksoo and the kimchi mandoo.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Polecat

                                                i went there solo a few months ago...i like the specialization and the nice staff, but i was underwhelmed by my samgyetang...