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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.
                    P.

            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:

                  http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...

                  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.

                    -----
                    Arirang
                    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).