But that’s where the excitement ends, I’m afraid, because the fired chicken sammy that everyone raves about is not all that, nor is it a bucket of chicken, because it’s SO thin you can almost floss with it! Not an exaggeration, sadly. To quote one reviewer on Yelp, “they must use very skinny chickens.” Truer words were never spoken. Fortunately the flavor and heat are good, but let’s face it, you’re basically eating a breading sandwich.
25 W 32nd St. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 967-8093 • bbqktownnyc.com
Welcome to the Korean Pret of fried chicken. A confusing, and yet surprisingly accurate description made only more confusing by the name, because there’s very little barbecue to speak of. That said, there is chicken in virtually every imaginable sauce you could want, fried, jerk, barbecue (naturally), grilled, thai, coconut, general tso, sesame, honey, spicy. It’s like Forrest Gump talking about shrimp. All pre-made for a quick grab-n-go mission (hence my Pret comparison) or there is a pretty extensive amount of seating if you want to sit and take in the rather nonexistent decor. It’s also very reasonably priced by Manhattan standards, making it one of the only options for lunch in the area under $20.
But here’s the thing, the bowls are all pretty damn yummy. Some served up with rice and potatoes. Others with rice and veggies like their bibimbap. And some are just piled high with poultry. But all of them are surprisingly good. They have other things as well, but chicken is clearly their bailiwick. Oh, and best of all, they have beer! Take that Pret!
1107 Broadway New York, NY 10010 • (917) 647-5911 • chingunyc.com
Let me just say that I am a Bigbimbap fan. In fact, I like it virtually any way it comes. With beef. Pork. Raw fish. Chicken. Tofu. I like it every way but bad. And unfortunately Chingu, despite it being very close to the name of one of my favorite beers in the world (Xingu), served up about the only bap that I thought was bibimblah. In fact my wife makes MUCH better at home. So don’t get lured in by the booth at Broadway Bites, either that or be sure to douse it with healthy amounts of Sriracha. Fortunately there are so many better options to be had at the other booths, not to mention Koreatown.
1250 Broadway – 39th Fl. New York, NY 10001 • • gaonnurinyc.com
As they say in Korea, “holy fucking shit is this place good.” Okay, so it’s a very loose translation, but the meaning is still the same. From setting to service to sumptuous this place is firing on all cylinders. And not only is it physically head and shoulders above the rest of Koreatown, it’s figuratively superior as well.
Oddly located atop an office building in Herald Square, you have to enter through the lobby and take the elevator to the 39th floor. And it is there that you will find yourself surrounded by stunning views of Manhattan and a décor that lives up to the view.
The food also lives up to the hype starting with the spicy fried calamari salad tossed in a honey gochujang sauce and served over mixed greens with a light pear dressing. It’s fantastic, but even better is the Japchae with mushrooms. It’s made with stir fried glass noodles and mushrooms, of course. But these aren’t your garden variety shrooms. Well, technically I guess they are, but there is something about the sauce they’re cooked in that makes them taste almost like velvety, silky, beefy medallions. Best thing of the night and the most enjoyment you can get from mushrooms without them being of the psychedelic variety. An Ultimate fo sho!
Both the braised black cod and the braised short rib are also wicked good, served with a bowl of rice along with an assortment of kimchi and things.
And finally, for dessert, we split the deconstructed Snickers bar because we weren’t going anywhere for a while- get it? It’s advertising humor. Okay, never mind. Jokes aside it was very inventive, airy and fun to eat, because depending on how you reconstructed it you could make it taste like seven different candy bars. But with just the right ratios of each, bingo! Snickers baby!
Mad props to Gaonurri for living up to the hype and exceeding it with the best Korean food I’ve ever had by far.
5W 32nd St. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 967-1900 • bcdtofu.com
I have no idea what the BCD stands for, maybe it’s Bargain Cuisine Delectables? Probably not, but whatever it is, ya still gotta love Koreatown for its bountiful spreads of food at a fraction of the price you’d pay anywhere else in Manhattan. It’s almost as if they don’t realize that there are sandwich shops all around them that are charging more for a tuna on rye- no chips, no drink- than the three course bento-paloozas the Koreans are doling out. So shhhh! Let’s keep it that way.
But cheap is only one reason to love the Tofu House. Good is the other. Especially in the winter with a bevy of fiery soups that manage to stay hot longer than Madonna. Offered in a range of spiciness from mild to medium to hot and finally very hot. I went with just “hot” and I found it to be perfect. Plenty of kick, but just up to that threshold where flavor ends and pain begins, without crossing it. Very hot would’ve probably rendered all of the goodies in the soup imperceptible to taste.
As for the goodies of which I speak, I opted for the dumpling soup, which as one might guess is loaded with dumplings. But also bulgogi, veggies, tofu (after all, the place is called Tofu House), and if you so desire, a raw egg, rice, peppers and kimchi. Plus a fried smelt on the side.
And speaking of dumplings, another worthy get as an appetizer are the fried veggie pot stickers.
Service is very friendly and attentive and the décor is rather basic. Not the point of this place though really. The soup here is the focus. So if you’re cold and looking for a bowl to warm you up, this should do the trick, even if you’re a White Walker.
34 W 35th St. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 564-4430 • barnjoo35.com
So apparently the second time’s a charm, because this one is SO much nicer than the one on 19th street. A décor that is cool, yet also warm and inviting with its raw wood tones. Which paradoxically somehow works, just like their modern twist on Korean classics such as bulgogi tacos.
Speaking of which, the tacos are actually just okay by comparison to the much more impressive kimchi pancakes mixed with bacon. Whoa nilly! They’re sure to have you clamoring like the dog in the Beggin’ Strips commercials.
They even offer their BBQ with a fun zag, done the way of the Japanese, over a hot stone as opposed to the usual Korean MO. We opted for the duck and it was a solid good.
Also good is the price of sake. Downright reasonable if you ask me. What isn’t reasonable, however
Last but not least, for dessert we ordered the churros with vanilla ice cream and I know what you’re thinking. Tacos? Churros? Is this place Mexican or Korean? I believe it’s the latter, but then again, they were some pretty impressive churros, so go figure.
17 E 31st St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 779-9990 • hernameishan.com
Even though his name is Ferocious, I was pretty much set on at least three knives before I even had my first bite. Starting with the name alone, it’s just friggin’ cool and somehow already tells you that you’re not in for you’re typical Korean culinary experience. Then, once you enter, the setting manages to keep carrying that baton, done in a rustic-chic that sort of bridges the gap between a Le Pain Quotidien and ABC Kitchen. And as I write that I’m realizing that’s quite the chasm, but go and you’ll understand.
Also, once you get a looksy at the menu, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did, you just instantly have to like the place. I mean everything looks good, so I threw a dart and partook in the spicy raw tuna bowl, which is essentially a nice twist on a bi bim bap, made with sashimi grade tuna, brown rice, poached egg, avocado, carrots, peppers, green onions and spicy sauce. Not only is it good. It’s good for you. And it’s good for your wallet, being that’ll probably set you back less than a sandwich and drink at Pret!
Looking forward to going back soon. But on the earlier side, because they don’t take reservations and they do make you wait.
I wish I loved the tacos as much as the name. Granted, one could argue that a “fire belly” isn’t exactly what you want after eating, because we all know the next stop and that train, and there are few things on this Earth worse than a fire bung hole. So now that you’ve thoroughly lost your appetite, let me tell you all about what you will miss.
I opted for the taco trifecta, my name, not theirs, comprised of bulgogi (beef), crispy spicy shrimp and veggie. All served on a soft tortilla and all topped with a vital kimchi kick. The best of the three for me was the shrimp. Good heat. The batter-fried prep kept the shrimp nice and moist and the shrimp were also pretty decent in size. Not that krill crap you tend to get in shrimp salads and popcorn shrimp orders.
Second up would be the veggie taco. Nice flavors poking through, but to be fair, you really only taste the kimchi. And lastly, the biggest miss of the trio, the bulgogi. Such a shame too because of all three tacos this was the one I was most excited about. Reason being, way back when I was a kid, I used to help out busing tables at a pan-asian restaurant. I was very friendly with the family who owned it and at the end of my shifts the owner would always make me my favorite dish… bulgogi. Well, this is no bulgogi. More like something else that starts with bull. It was dried out, chewy sinew.
So 2-1 is the score, which would probably put us at a three knifer under normal circumstances, but when you compare it to the likes of something like Korilla, I have a hard time going over two.
Azul Truck • Los Angeles, CA • kogibbq.com
I know that Koji is supposed to be one of the originators of the whole food truck craze, but Ford was the originator of the automobile and I think it’s safe to say that others have since improved upon the concept significantly.
Well, after eating Koji’s Pacman Burger (pictured) I can say unequivocally that Koji ain’t what she used to be. Perhaps due to a slide in Koji’s own performance or a testament to how many other food trucks have stepped into the ring, upping the game? Whatever it is, Koji is now a featherweight amongst heavy hitters.
So unrefined is the Pacman, tasting exactly as it sounds, “packed,” with 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag. Three different meats, two salsas, sesame mayo, jack and cheddar cheeses, salad and some crispy things on top, ya know, because why wait to have a coronary when you can die today?
But heaviness is most definitely not why I am getting all over Koji’s case. It’s because the burger tasted like nothing more than a bunch of greasy slop on a bun. No separation between textures or flavors. In fact, if it weren’t for the Sriacha, I probably wouldn’t have even made it halfway through it, which is about as far as I got. Not because I was full, but because I was worried about the gastrointestinal repercussions that might ensue. Fortunately the “retaliation” was milder than expected. My review, not so much.
This is Korean for the other half. The half that can’t be bothered with the manual labor of having to BBQ their food themselves. The half that likes a little ambiance and inventiveness. The half that doesn’t want a hybrid Mexican version of Korean sold off a truck. In other words, my half.
Sure there’s a time and a place for that kind of Korean, but it’s nice to see a cuisine extend itself into a more refined experience. Not that Hanjan is fancy by any stretch, but compared to the typical Korean haunts in the 30’s, it’s Per Se.
To start, I went with the spicy margarita because, as we know, I loves me a spicy cocktail. And while it’s certainly not bad, it’s nothing special either. Basically just a regular margarita dipped in chili powder as opposed to salt (cue Debbie Downer music).
As for food, we started with the crudité and while good, one can only get so excited about veggies on ice, which sounds like the worst theatrical ice skating show in history. But the sauce they serve it with has some serious kick, so if you’re into heat and freshly chilled plants, go for it.
Next came the squid and scallion pancake, which is more inventive than it is awesome. Only truly reaching its potential when you caught a hot pepper from the sauce it was served with, which was only about two bites in ten.
The short rib with stewed potatoes and onions came next and it was easily the best thing of the night. Fall off the bone moist. Bursting with flavor. I loved it so much I wanted to crawl into the bowl and spoon it.
Being that the short rib was a tough act to follow, the pork belly skewers, fell short. Not terrible or anything, but I wouldn’t order them again. That said, if you choose to get them, make a mental note that they are MUCH better without the recommended lettuce wrap.
And batting clean up was the brisket fried rice. It was good, but sounds much better than it is. The egg on top gets lost pretty quickly in the morass of other ingredients. As does the brisket. Again, glad I tried it, not something I would order again.
That said, I would definitely eat here again. Service was great and not one thing was bad. Plus, there are a ton of other things on the menu I wanted to try, so stay tuned for updates.