I recently had a meal here when celebrating a friends birthday party. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I tried:
This chicken with peanuts dish was really tasty. Nicely fried morsels of dark meat.
These fried beef dumplings were better still. I could have eaten a dozen.
While I’m not a huge tofu guy, these fried cubes were pretty tasty. I’d eat them again, but definitely not over the other two apps above.
Next up, beef noodles. These were ultimately pretty middle-of-the-road. Nothing stand-out about them.
The star of the show, however, was this pork belly dish. So much nice quality belly, with some chiccharones and a great spicy bean curd dip to boot. Awesome.
The octopus was perfectly cooked and had a great crunchy texture on the outside, but there was just something about it that bugged me. It had a flavor that reminded me of the smell of dried fish food. Perhaps it was something added on top for seasoning.
Lastly, their pickles and kimchi items are superb here. Some of the best I’ve had.
I was invited into Ms. Yoo to try their burger and help promote it on Instagram. I brought a couple of food photo people with me as well, so we were able to order a bunch of other stuff in addition to the burger.
Ms Yoo is essentially an American joint, but it incorporates lots of Korean flavors and ingredients into each dish that you really walk away thinking you ate a 100% Korean meal. I guess one could call it “fusion,” but it’s not pretentious and douchey like other “fusion” places can be.
First up was this bowl of nori popcorn to get things started.
The salted seaweed adds a nice natural savory element to the snack.
Next up was the beef carpaccio. This baby was gorgeous, topped with watercress, edible flowers and a cured egg yolk.
Then we tried some mac and cheese made from rice cakes (tteok).
The rice cakes are the perfect texture and vehicle to drive a great, cheesy comfort food like mac abad cheese. This one was made with gruyere and cheddar, and had a panko crust.
This was absolutely delicious, especially since it had copious amounts of bacon in it. That dipping sauce you see there is made with tomatoes and kimchi.
There are two varieties of chicken wing: spicy gochujang and honey soy sesame. The breading was perfectly crisp. While I typically like spicy wings best, the honey soy sesame was my favorite between the two.
We also had some bone marrow, which came with a bacon kimchi onion jam. Yeah – wild!
There’s also a really unique and flavorful hot dog on the menu here, topped with a dynamite grilled jalapeño pepper.
And that’s homemade Korean pork sausage on a pretzel roll with some Yoo sauce to boot (a spicy mayo, I think). Easily one of my favorite dishes of the night.
Oh yeah and the burger! This beauty is 10oz of beefy goodness topped with American cheese, Yoo sauce, and a kimchi bacon onion jam that will make you mouth water for days after tasting it.
I’m really looking forward to going back and eating that burger again, actually. And part of the reason why is because I want this as an encore for dessert:
These are honey-butter chips, and they’re the closest thing that Ms Yoo has on the menu to a dessert at the moment (there will be a dedicated dessert menu in time). These are just fried root veggie chips, like taro, potato and sweet potato, but they’re dressed in a sweet, yet savory and spicy, honey-butter glaze that’ll blow you away. Absolute must try.
Had the delicious pork belly bossam. This is mandatory.
Also tried the flank steak. 7/10 – just needed more seasoning.
My wife scored a crazy flash deal for KBBQ here at Miss Korea. The regular price was $95 but with additional coupon codes, she paid something like $70 for this BBQ barrage. We went above and beyond, though, when we started with this bowl of makgeolli (slightly bubbly, unfiltered rice wine at about 6% alcohol that drinks as easily as soda). I love this stuff.
First was a simple salad to get the juices flowing.
Then a bowl of rice porridge with dried fruits and nuts. This was refreshing and light.
Next up was a trio of Modeum Jeon pancakes: corn, kimchi, spinach.
These were amazing. Usually they’re thin, greasy and too crowded with scallions. Not the case here. These were thick and light.
Holy shit this thing came out next… Tuna tartare. But look at how vibrant the color is on this!
It had a perfect sear on the outside, nice and peppery. I could eat this all day long.
Next up was this spicy Sinseollo hot pot that had chestnuts, soy beans, veggies, beef and fish mixed in.
Very soul-warming, satisfying, and totally unique.
Then came the onslaught of banchan: small dishes and bowls of pickled items (kimchi) and veggies.
These are used to dress up your lettuce wraps, in which you place the finished BBQ meat after its all grilled up nicely.
Then you wrap it up and eat it.
But wait.. I skipped the best part. The MEAT! Our meal came with a plate of four meats: thick cut pork belly, spicy pork bulgogi, boneless beef rib and beef short ribs. Look at this fucking short rib…
That marbling… Holy shit! I was so captivated that I didn’t bother shooting the other meats. Just perfect. My order of preference: short rib, belly, bulgogi, boneless rib.
We also had a braised salmon dish. This was a bit dry and overcooked for my liking. In fact we threw the salmon meat into the hot soup dish for the next course, but I really enjoyed the sauce and radish that came with it. It was topped with a slice of lotus root too.
Next course: noodles. I couldn’t believe we were each getting a bowl here. We picked Haemul Kalguksu: spicy seafood noodles (hot); and Mul Naengmyeon: green buckwheat noodles (cold). Both were tasty but we seriously had no more room left in our stomachs! We brought these home, but not before my wife lifted the noodles for an Instagram pic.
Atoboy is a new Korean fine dining joint with a new concept; you choose three dishes for a $36 tasting with a bowl of rice. The menu is set out in three sections, which are somewhat similar to an app, salad and entree breakdown. You choose one of each, but can add additional items from each section at an upcharge of $9, $12 or $15, depending on which section you’re choosing from. White rice and some kimchi (both cabbage and tomatillo varieties) comes with your meal, but they also offer a seasonal rice for $2 extra. Currently, the seasonal rice is a white rice that’s been mixed with powderized nori.
The portions are a little small, but they’re all really well executed and delicious. Since I came here with Jay from The Dishelin Guide, we sampled an extra entree item as well as a dessert in addition to our three courses each. Here’s what we had:
Eggplant with snow crab and tomato jelly. While this doesn’t look pretty or even sound particularly appetizing, it was actually pretty tasty. I’m generally not a big fan of eggplant to begin with, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Littleneck clams with avocado cream, rice crackers and gochugaru (red chili flakes). This was pretty good. I’ve never had clams with avocado before. It was pretty interesting. The rice crackers gave the dish a nice dynamic texture.
Next was grilled avocado with horseradish, cotija (hard cow’s milk cheese) and trout roe. I’ve never had grilled avocado before. I just assumed doing anything to a ripe avocado would result in guacamole due to the softness. Perhaps these are grilled while they’re still a little bit hard to avoid structural breakdown? In any case, this was a tasty and healthy dish.
This next dish is highly recommended, and was one of my favorites of the night. Squid rings, stuffed with pork and shrimp, then topped with salsa verde. The squid was perfectly cooked and tender, and the stuffing gave a nice salty and fatty flavor. Plus, it was really pretty.
Now we move on to the big winners from this dining experience; the entree selections. We started with crispy pork jowl on a bed of barley, ssamjang (spicy and sweet sauce/paste) and romaine.
The crispy skin and under-layer of fat were delicious, and as I bit down into the meat beneath, my mouth came alive with salivation. Great dish!
Next up was the brisket with melted foie gras, garlic and ginger. This was really hearty and delicious. The beef was super tender and can rival any top notch BBQ brisket you might find out there at a pit smoker competition (though this one was admittedly not prepared the same way with a smoker – it’s just the same cut of beef).
Our last entree item was the strip steak. This came with a tofu skin and celery salad, and everything was lightly dressed with sesame oil.
The steak was super tender and flavorful. They marinade the steak with kiwi to allow the enzymes to slowly tenderize the meat before it is cooked. That may be the reason why there was a healthy amount of grey banding around the edges of the meat.
The outside could use a slightly better crust, but I imagine they need to be careful not to overcook the steak, as it isn’t very thick. This was a big success though, overall, and it tasted like wagyu. 9/10.
For dessert we tried this black raspberry cake with hazelnut and pistachio, which was garnished with fresh blueberries. This is the only dessert that’s made off-site by another pastry person. The texture was almost like mousse, and the look reminded me of Italian tri-color cookies. Very nice.
Although expensive at $80 each after tax and tip, this was a satisfying, unique and delicious Korean fine dining experience.
I actually DO have to write this next bit, because there were a few people at the event who had never eaten kimchi before. For various reasons I will not disclose, this was completely understandable and should not be mocked or taken as a point of negativity.
So here it is: Kimchi is Korean for “pickled” and/or “fermented” veggies. In its most typical form, kimchi consists of cabbage with various spices and herbs. Cucumbers are also common.
Muk Eun Ji is known for its 1+ year aged kimchi. This tasting event featured their aged kimchi in every dish in various ways. Here is a shot of owners Cathy and Yongsung Kim, who were very gracious and kind, and who explained everything to us as we ate.
Dish 1: Crunch Muk Eun Ji – washed aged kimchi seasoned with sesame oil. This was mild and really tasty.
Dish 2: Yuk Hwe – Korean beef tartare. Okay, while this ONE DISH didn’t actually have any kimchi in it, the flavors were present, perhaps in the sauce. This was skirt steak. Super tender and incredibly delicious.
Dish 3: Kimchi Jeon – Korean pancake with aged kimchi. This had a nice crunch on the outside with a great spicy kick from the kimchi and scallions inside. As you can see from the pics below, this joint has a fun conveyor belt in one dining room, where you can pluck the little dishes right off and start digging in.
Dish 4: Mandu – steamed homemade Korean dumplings with aged kimchi. These were expertly created and cooked. I loved the dipping sauce on the side actually. Wanted to drink it.
Dish 5: Janchi Guksu – cold thin noodle with aged kimchi in spicy anchovy broth. This was one of my favorite bites of the night. It wasn’t too spicy, and the cold noodle was great for the summer.
Dish 6: Kimchi Bokkeumbap – stir-fried rice with chopped aged kimchi and pork. Also a favorite, this rice dish packed a lot of flavor and meatiness. I could easily eat a massive bowl of this.
Dish 7: Samhap – boiled pork belly, fermented skate fish and aged kimchi. This is an acquired taste. The fermented skate has a distinct ammonia-like quality to it that is common with fermented fish products, whether from regions like Scandinavia or Iceland, as well as parts of Asia. One thing that I didn’t expect was that the skate would have some bone connected to the meat. I popped all of it into my mouth at once and then had to work around the bones. It was a difficult eat for me.
Dish 8: Galbi Jjim – braised beef short rib stew with aged kimchi and vegetables. This was incredible. The small bowl tasting size didn’t do the dish justice.
I actually didn’t get to taste it on first pass, so I and a few other guys who missed out asked for some more later on. They brought out a full entree size.
This is a $20 item. There is so much fork-tender beef that falls off the bone in that bowl, so it is an amazing deal at that price point. As you can see from the pic above, there’s tons of kimchi too. This will feed two or three people easily. The sauce is amazing. A deep, robust flavor lurks in there, so soak it up with some rice after you get tired of spooning it directly into your mouth.
Dish 9: Deungppyo Jjim – braised pork backbone with aged kimchi. Same deal as above, but with tender-ass pork instead of beef.
Dish 10: Gyeranmari – Korean style rolled egg omelet with aged kimchi, cheese and sliced pork belly. This is like heaven at breakfast time, I bet. Absolutely delicious, and really beautiful.
Dish 11: KBBQ – premium thick cut pork belly, thin sliced marinated beef short rib and aged kimchi on the grill. No Korean meal is complete without gorging on some delicious grilled meats.
I mean, this is what I’m all about, is it not?
So the idea is to take the meat and add some of the nice toppings from the small plates, and then wrap it up in some lettuce. Then eat.
Carb-free! Haha. I love this shit. It may be time for a separate page dedicated to KBBQ on this website. I’m considering it. There really is nothing quite like it. So satisfying.
I should also mention that we were washing this delicious shit down with some nice drinks throughout. We tasted an assortment of soju and makgeolli. For the uninitiated, soju is a mild distilled spirit that is similar to a flavored sake.
Mokgeolli is more like a rice or wheat beer in that it is bubbly and looks unfiltered. It contains less alcohol (not distilled), but it tastes similar to flavored soda.
I recently received an email from Seoul Garden owner Patty Koo to come in for a press meal. My wife had been here about three times in the past, so I knew it has to be a decent joint if she had been there on more than one occasion (she has great taste in food).
Seoul Garden has been a family-run operation since 1998. It started with Patty’s mom’s recipes, which were taught to the chefs and taken from there. It’s done very well through the years, and serves as a K-town staple: a place where you can find home-style cooking basics, nothing too fancy or obnoxiously trendy – just really good, solid Korean food in a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
The restaurant is located on the second floor, up and off the noisy, crowded and sometimes smelly (in the summer time anyway) ground floor space.
While it may make for less visibility to passers-by, as a diner I actually like this feature of the restaurant, especially because the large windows on the second floor that overlook 32nd Street and the bustling K-town scene offer great natural light into the spacious and comfortable dining room. it makes you feel like you’re up in someone’s apartment too, which is cool.
The place was actually already packed at 6:30 while we were in the middle of our meal. Nice! I guess there’s no shortage of customers, even on a Monday night, right after a shitty day back at the office.
As is the case at all Korean joints, the servers bring out a barrage of delicious banchan. These are usually an assortment of pickled items, like kimchi, for those who don’t know the cuisine. Seoul Garden has an especially tasty set of these, which I’d like to give a little bit more detail on here:
First, and my favorite, was thick glass noodles with crushed pepper, dressed in a light sesame oil of sorts:
Then there was the sauteed peppers, onions and squid in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. Really delicious.
This potato and Asian pear “salad” was dressed in a slightly sweet mayonnaise and was really refreshing and light:
The bean sprouts had a great texture; fresh snap to the stems and a good nutty crunch to the bean.
Seoul Garden serves up a really good kimchi. It’s spicy and crisp, crunchy and zesty. Almost bubbly or effervescent.
The only downer for me in this entire meal was this bitter green item: possibly dandelion or mustard greens?
It was a little too bitter to be eaten by itself, for me anyway, and a bit fibrous, but there were some sweet pickled radish slices that you could wrap around them to achieve a better balance.
The servers also brought out some lettuce for wrapping up the BBQ meat, and spicy scallion shreds for topping.
The sauce trays below contained: fermented soy bean (sweet and savory together – a really good dipping sauce for the meat), raw garlic (excellent when char grilled), and spicy soy sauce with scallions for dipping shit.
Okay, so now that all of the small plates are set up and ready to go, let me switch gears to some of the amazing starters that we tried.
First was this crispy, yet pillow-soft seafood and scallion pancake.
Inside were coarsely chopped scallions and bits of seafood, like squid tentacles. It was really good as a snack, or to dip into some of the sauces on the table. And it was BIG too: the size of a small pizza pie, and virtually grease-free. Most places serve up really greasy scallion pancakes, but this place was awesome.
This next dish isn’t served at too many Korean joints on 32nd Street. I saw it once before at the place directly next door, and my stomach turned at the thought of it, but that was way back in my less adventurous food days. What is it? Raw blue claw crab that has been marinating in a soy-based sauce, spices and other delicious sweet and potent flavor pastes. The bodies stay pretty soft, so you essentially just squeeze the thing between your fingers and suck all the meat out, like toothpaste from a tube. The consistency is similar to the delicious, soft and edible part of beef fat – it’s like jelly. Only here it is cold and flavored differently. All of this sounds really nasty, I know, but I fucking loved it. I can’t believe I was squeamish about this dish in the past. I’m all in now! That said, both I and Patty realize that this dish is not for everyone. I think it’s one of those “either you love it, or hate it,” kind of things.
The last pre-meat item is an incredible tofu and seafood soup. I know what you’re thinking: “Johnny, what the fuck, man? You just used the words ‘tofu’ and ‘awesome’ in the same fuckin’ sentence. Is everything okay? Did someone kidnap the real JP, or surgically remove his testes?”
Please allow me to explain this dish, which was far and away my favorite of the night. It comes to the table in a small, bubbling-hot cauldron that looks like a miniature witch’s stew.
Beneath the surface is an ensemble of seafood consisting of mussels, squid, head-on large shrimp, teeny tiny baby shrimp, mushrooms and silken tofu.
But wait… it gets better… There was a lone egg on the table when we were being served all the banchan. I was confused. But then it all became clear. The egg was for this soup. It gets cracked into the soup as it bubbles away, and you allow the hot soup to poach the egg to a perfect consistency. Watch:
Fucking… so… good… Spicy, deep and rich with seafood flavor, light yet hearty. Simply put, it is off the charts excellent. It’s called Soondofu, so you know what to order when you go in.
Okay so after that shit the beef was just not even that interesting. Don’t get me wrong – the meat was spectacular and really tasty, but I was blown away by that soup to the point where everything else just paled in comparison.
So they grilled for us at the table: marinated cross-cut, sliced beef ribs with enoki mushrooms, garlic and raw onion slices. That was the first up to bat:
They snip up the meat pieces with scissors for you when they’re ready to take down. Excellent and attentive service, if I may say.
The marinade was good and flavorful, sweet and savory, and the meat was really tender. It came off the bone bits very easily. As you can see below, the sugar element in the marinade gives off a great sticky char when exposed to the heat for long enough.
Next was marinated (same flavor as above) boneless beef short rib, sliced thin, with mushroom, red bell pepper slices and fresh garlic.
Look at how awesome that interior looks. A purpley medium rare!
Essentially this was the same meat as above, but with a slightly different texture to it since it was sliced differently and not on the bone. They both went really nicely with the lettuce wraps, as well as all of the various toppings and sauces I discussed above.
Standard operating procedure at these joints is a slice of orange as a post-meal cleanse. Clean that mouth out with some citrus, bitch!
When it comes to the meat, this place understands: simple and delicious is the key. Heat + Meat = A Tasty Treat. But I have to say, that soup was so complex and delicious, that I consider it an absolute MUST TRY when you dine at Seoul Garden. Put this place on your short list. You won’t be disappointed if you eat what I ate.
And don’t forget to grab a stick of two of gum on your way out. It beats those shitty little red and white breath mints!
34 W. 32nd St.
New York, NY 10001
People who plan to go here should realize and appreciate the fact that this is primarily a meat house, so the menu is limited on purpose. It is NOT meant to be a massive, traditional steakhouse with a never-ending menu and a gigantic, full-staffed kitchen. What they are doing here is focused and directed, purposeful and deliberate. Think ramen menu (limited, small) as opposed to diner menu (everything but the kitchen sink). So as a caveat, low scores in some of these categories really mean nothing when you think about it. Flavor is the big essential here, and they did a great job in that category. My wife and I came here for a secret $50 deal and to cash in some OpenTable rewards. The deal, running through the end of the month, is for a glass of wine, a soup or salad, a choice of app, and a wet or dry aged strip steak. Essentially you get the wine, soup/salad and app for free, since $50 is the regular cost for just the steak.
My bone-in rib eye was under-seasoned and unevenly seasoned (some parts had the needed salt, others were flat on taste). However it was very evenly cooked; quite impressive, actually. The scallion and anchovy sauce added that necessary salt back into the bite. Use it. I expected the fat to be broken down more from the 9 week aging on mine. It definitely had some waste. By itself the rib eye was a 7 out of 10, but the rating here jumps up because of the strip.
The strip was nicely seasoned. And similar with the perfectly even cook job. The strip was a juicy wet-aged boneless cut that had been aging at least 20 days. You can definitely can tell the difference. It was better than the rib eye (9/10). The strip portion was a little thin, but since it was part of the $50 price fix it was to be expected.
Both steaks a little under (these were somewhere between rare and medium rare, closer to rare) but I was expecting that from the minions at yelp.
Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10
You have a lot to choose from here, both in the single cut steak section and the steak for two section. Kevin took me to the aging room downstairs and showed me all the goodies through the glass. Before they cook your meat, they will bring out a plate with your cuts to show you the superb marbling. The dry aged selections are a 50 day minimum in the aging process. The steak I had was at 9 weeks. For wet-aged, the minimum is 20 days. They have all the essential cuts and then some. Bravo.
Portion Size & Plating: 9
Portions are good here, considering how much is lost during the lengthy aging process. My rib eye was 20oz, bone-in.
As I mentioned above, we had some OpenTable cash AND took advantage of a special deal, so the price was right for us on this trip. The steak prices are average and on par with other competitors, and the appetizers are fairly large portions, but you are in a very different kind of atmosphere here, so you have to take that into consideration for your own pricing judgment. When you see the ambiance section you’ll understand.
This is not a proper bar, but it really doesn’t matter for what this place is about. They only offer wine, beer (bottles and taps) and soju. Good enough. I couldn’t have a martini, but this is the kind of environment where it’s not needed. The bar is small, with room for only 4 people, but it is close to windows and the steps up to street level.
Specials and Other Meats: 6
The menu is pretty much beef-centric with the exception of the apps, which offer some great pork selections. They have kalbi and bulgolgi, and a really delicious looking “burger rice” item that I may have to come back for some day soon.
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9
The apps here are strong. We had a bunch of shit.
The bacon was perfectly roasted, then cut up and served with a spice salt.
The yuzu dressing salad was very refreshing and properly dressed.
The butternut squash soup was flavorful and not too thick and filling, though I was sort of taken back that it was being served in the summer.
The Wagyu salami was incredibly soft and spicy. There was a LOT of it too, for only $8. I would almost prefer this to be available per slice as opposed to a large app size order of 8 slices. It was too much, almost. Maybe they should make it $1/slice?
The pork soo yook is essentially braised pork belly in a sweet, tangy, and spicy BBQ sauce. So soft and delicious. The sauce was a little too sweet and too salty, but still really yummy. It came with braised carrots and peppers, as well as some crispy chip things to add texture. The mixed greens on the side went perfect with the excess sauce used as a dressing.
Dessert was called “the planetarium.” It was milk choc mousse with a pear filling. Pretty good. Not overly sweet but I definitely had to chug water to calm down the taste buds.
Seafood Selection: 2
Unfortunately there’s only scallops and crab cake on the app menu. But please recall what I said above in the introductory paragraph. That said, perhaps some shellfish or octopus could make their way onto the menu in some prominent form. Korean cuisine is known for excellence in preparing those great items.
Our experience here was great. Nathan was a great waiter, very attentive, and with great suggestions. And Kevin was very helpful and informative when he took me down to see the aging room.
This has the feel of a small neighborhood restaurant. It’s clean, white interior and painted bricks make the dark brown tables and chairs pop. The old timey 1930s and 1940s music was great too.
Madangsui is a great spot for quality Korean BBQ, and Korean food in general. My wife and I came on a Friday after work to give it a try. It’s located on 35th Street just east of 6th Avenue. Not quite IN K-Town, but close enough. And slightly removed from the craziness of the main K-Town hub. Here’s what the joint looks like outside and inside:
As is common practice in Korean cuisine, the banchan comes out first… an array of pickled veggies and greenery to wet the appetite and for adding to your BBQ meats, lettuce wraps or rice dishes.
They also brought out some fluffy egg in a small cast iron pot, and a crab and veggie soup. The egg was perfect. The soup was hearty and rich, and the crab gave it a nice flavor of the sea:
We actually started with some chicken bibimbap. It was really tasty with the fried egg on top. I just wish the rice was a little bit crispier from cooking in the clay pot some more. The little crispy brown bits are the best!
For the bbq portion we had two different meats. First, the pork belly. Nice, juicy quarter inch goodness:
We also had some spicy, marinated rib eye. Lookin’ good!
It was seriously good quality meat. Check out the menu and see for yourself:
Yeah that’s right. Jowls. I ordered it, but our waitress said it wasn’t very popular. I asked “Yeah, but is it good?” She replied that she has never tried it, so I held off. Next time.
Our waitress fired up the meat for us at the table…
You know what? Fuck it… This is something you need to see in video. Here:
Once it was finished on the grill to perfect doneness we slapped the meat onto some lettuce wraps with some toppings. Delicious. The lettuce adds a nice crunch and cool, lightness to contrast with the meat.
That’s all I’ve got for you hungry assholes out there. If you’re looking for a good quality KBBQ joint that isn’t in the epicenter of the K-Town hustle, then this is definitely the place to go. I will definitely be back… specifically for the jowls.