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Mar 7, 2013 08:46 PM

Han Joo – Great Korean Sam Gyup Sal (BBQ Pork Belly) Specialist in Flushing / Murray Hill and the East Village

**For full post and pics**:

Han Joo is a well-known Korean restaurant located in the Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill. As I’ve waxed on about in the past I love specialist restaurants because you know exactly what you’re going for and you know they are going to make it well. At Han Joo they specialize in sam gyup sal, which is Korean pork belly BBQ. They are also known for the fact that they don’t BBQ the meat on a typical Korean BBQ grill, but rather on crystal plate, which I’ll explain more about later.

The restaurant is located right in the middle of Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill, which is the real Koreatown in NY. It’s a small restaurant that like most restaurants in the area doesn’t have too much in the way of décor. The service was fine and the hostesses seemed nice although I don’t think they speak English very well (my friends speak Korean). However, the menu is translated into English (as you can see from my pictures below), so you should have no problems.

Ban Chan:
Ban chan are the small dishes that they give you for free at the beginning of the meal at Korean restaurants. Here they gave us pajun (pan fried pancake), broccoli and seaweed with gochujang (chili paste), kong na mul (bean sprouts), sweet pickled radish strips, potato salad, marinated cold eggplant and jalapeno in soy sauce. These were all good, nothing amazing, but competently made. 7.75/10

Crystal Grill:
Unlike most places in NY that use the regular metal grill, at Han Joo they bring out a thick crystal plate which is propped up diagonally with a fire underneath it and you grill you meat on it. It looks cool although I’m not sure if there is a huge difference aside from the fact that your meat never actually touches fire. Although the other added bonus is that the juices from the pork run down the plate and they put kimchi at the bottom which baths in it and you eat this kimchi which is delicious.

Thick Fresh Pork Belly (Kal Saeng Sam Gyup Sal):
Han Joo offers several different types of sam gyup sal, which you can see in the pictures of the menu above. The first cut we got is the thick fresh pork belly was pretty similar to normal sam gyup sal except it was a little thicker. It had great flavor and the meat was nicely fresh. It’s pretty explanatory, but it was delicious. This is definitely among the best sam gyup sal in NY and is a “must order” dish. 8.5/10

Marinated Pork Belly With Green Tea:
My friend who eats here fairly regularly said the thick cut is the best, but we decided to get the green tea as well so I could try some other flavors. This was not cut quite as thick and was dusted with a green tea powder. The powder gives it’s a green tea flavor and makes it a little more salty. It was pretty good although I preferred the thick fresh pork belly. 8/10

The sam gyup sal comes with a variety of condiments including tenjang (bean paste), kinako powder (roasted soybean flour), sesame oil with salt and pepper, marinated onions and green onions, pickled radish, green peppers and raw garlic. Personally I like it with sesame oil with salt and pepper and some kinako powder. I also like it to wrap it up with the marinated onions and green onions in lettuce wraps and dip it in the sesame oil with salt and pepper. I love pickled radish as well, but I usually eat it separately.

Purple Rice in Pumpkin:
The rice is pretty good here; nice and al dente. I also love pumpkin so I liked this. 8/10

Tenjang Chigae:
Tenjang chigae is a simple bean paste stew. It’s something people eat at home all the time, but for some reason restaurants in NY can never really get this right. This wasn’t very good. 6.75/10

Mul Naeng Myun:
Mul naeng myun is a cold buckwheat noodle dish that has origins in North Korea and is usually eaten during the summer. It’s served with ice, pickled radish, Korean pear and hardboiled egg. The broth is tangy and sweet and the buckwheat noodles are slippery and have a bit of bite to them, but aren’t al dente per se. I love mul naeng myun, but I find that the difference between a good version and an ok version to be relatively large. It was ok here, but nothing special. 7/10

Overall, I thought the sam gyup sal here was great and definitely worth your time. Also, they have opened a branch on St Marks in the East Village, so if you don’t want to trek all the way out the Flushing you can find it right here in the city as well.

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  1. Mmm, the eggplant banchan and kalsaeng samgyupsal look delicious. Have you been to the East Village location? If so, how does it compare to the one in Flushing? Pork belly looks good on a day like today...

    5 Replies
    1. re: mookleknuck

      the eggplant banchan is a fairly standard banchan at korean restaurants although its not my favorite banchan generally

      the kalsaeng sam gyup sal is great here and definitely good on a day like today

      i have not been to the EV branch, but i heard its basically exactly the same quality. It's gotten mixed yelp reviews, but the people giving bad reviews generally ordered the wrong stuff (non-BBQ and kalbi) or were complaining about service, this is a sam gyup sal specialist obviously

      1. re: Lau

        I'm a big fan of eggplant. I've also had at least three different styles of eggplant banchan in the past six months and the picture you posted look like a style I might enjoy.

        So key to order the right thing at the right place. Good to hear that I could get some great pork belly no matter where I am. Thanks!

        1. re: mookleknuck

          ahh ok i actually love eggplant, but i dont love the korean panchan version of it for some reason (it's fine, i just don't love it). I think its b/c I like eggplant hot and generally prefer chinese versions of it.

          if you like sam gyup sal this place is definitely worth checking out and you can have it in the east village now as well. you should definitely check it out, i think you'll like it

          1. re: Lau

            Thanks! I've got some Korean BBQ in this area on the list to try out next week, so it's unlikely that I'd get to it next weekend, but maybe the weekend after that. I generally prefer Chinese versions of eggplant, too, but there have definitely been some cold Taiwanese xiaochi versions that I have really enjoyed... like this one place that is famous for their luroufan behind Shida near Yongkangjie (wish I could remember the name).

            1. re: mookleknuck

              ahhh nice, i havent had lu rou fan in forever, i should make some

    2. Overall I like Ham Ji Bak next door better. Have you been Lau?

      5 Replies
      1. re: Peter Cuce

        yah ive been to ham ji bak several times, but i always forgot my camera.

        i think the overall food at ham ji bak is better (i.e. ham ji bak definitely has better non-BBQ food than Han Joo), but i can't decide which one i like better for sam gyup sal.

        I was thinking about going to Ham Ji Bak soon solely to compare the sam gyup sal to Han Joo

        1. re: Lau

          I've had sam gyup sal at both places. Han Joo is a particular style and they have the kimchi at the bottom of the grill like you mentioned, so I can see how that would appeal to people, and I did enjoy it. But Ham Ji Bak to me is a more fun, better overall experience. I love the beef broth they bring with the food and the pumpkin sikhye they bring at the end. Even if you go for lunch, they bring the beef broth.

          1. re: Peter Cuce

            which cut did you get at han joo?

            the thick cut was definitely better

            1. re: Lau

              I got the thick. I've tried both at HJB and realize that for me the thick is inherently more satisfying. That could be an interesting food crawl: sam gyup sal.

              1. re: Peter Cuce

                yah the thick is definitely better

                haha and i do not think i could handle a sam gyup sal crawl...i was hurt enough as is just eating at han joo