Tag Archives: ktown

Miss Korea

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.

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First was a simple salad to get the juices flowing.

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Then a bowl of rice porridge with dried fruits and nuts. This was refreshing and light.

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Next up was a trio of Modeum Jeon pancakes: corn, kimchi, spinach.

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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!

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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.

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Very soul-warming, satisfying, and totally unique.

Then came the onslaught of banchan: small dishes and bowls of pickled items (kimchi) and veggies.

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These are used to dress up your lettuce wraps, in which you place the finished BBQ meat after its all grilled up nicely.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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That cold soup (green noodles) had some sweetness to it from the shaved winter melon within.

And then there was dessert. Little puffy, sweet and soft logs of fried dough with a cup of cold and sweet rice juice.

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Between tax, tip and drinks I dropped another $50 on this meal, but for an all-in grand total of $120 (including the $70 we paid for the flash deal), this was a steal. I highly recommend this joint.

MISS KOREA
10 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Muk Eun Ji

Matt BruckSeolbin Park and the folks at SB Groupe and EatersDrinkers invited me to a pretty cool aged kimchi tasting at Muk Eun Ji recently.

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.

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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.

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Dish 1: Crunch Muk Eun Ji – washed aged kimchi seasoned with sesame oil. This was mild and really tasty.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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MUK EUN JI
34 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Kang Hodong Baekjeong

The delicious world of KBBQ has exploded in New York. In the last few years new places have popped up all over, and not just within K-town in NYC. I’ve seen several joints pop up out on Long Island, deep into Suffolk County. Long Island still has no Vietnamese restaurants, and the discovery of pho and banh mi by ordinary white folks started years ago. But there’s something about KBBQ that took hold fast and quick. Perhaps it is the fact that a grill is involved. The invigorating smell and smoky visuals of raw meat hitting a red hot grill just resonate with Americans. Burgers, dogs, steaks… we understand.

So all that crap aside, this place is a welcome addition to the panoply of KBBQ joints. Really nice quality stuff, not overcooked, treated just right. Let me get down to what we tried:

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On the beef angle, we had a large order, which comes with three items for $99 (a bit pricey, but I promise it is good). Sliced prime rib eye, boneless short rib, and brisket. Here they are, in that order.

Rib eye:

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Short rib:

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Kalbi marinated short rib:

Brisket:

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On the pork angle, we also got a large (3 items for $99), which consisted of jowls, thick belly and thinly sliced belly (which came out separately, pre-cooked and dressed in sauce – not for the grill).

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The sauced, pre-cooked item was a bit over-sauced and heavy to eat, but it was also last in the meal, so maybe that’s why it felt heavy. We were getting fucking full.

Aside from all the meat, we had the usual starter items that come in millions of little dishes. Kimchi, fish cakes, tofu, salad, pickled radish, etc.

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The grill even had these neat little side-channels where egg and corn + cheese were cooking as side items:

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We also ordered kimchi stew and seafood + brisket stew, both of which were a tomato base with really awesome flavor.

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And a rice “lunchbox,” which is crispy rice with kimchi, seafood, egg and sauces/spices that they shake the fuck out of for you, table side, to mix it all together:

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Lastly, I will share this pic of some of the booze we had with dinner. We must have had three bottles of the glass one (soju), and one bottle of the thing that looks like soda (bubbly, sweet rice wine). Both were awesome.

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UPDATE 7/31/17

The only thing new and different that I tried on my second visit, which was an influencer event for Instagram, was this really tasty cold spicy noodle dish. Delicious!

KANG HODONG BAEKJEONG
1 E. 32nd St.
New York, NY 10016

Seoul Garden

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.

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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.

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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:

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Then there was the sauteed peppers, onions and squid in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. Really delicious.

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This potato and Asian pear “salad” was dressed in a slightly sweet mayonnaise and was really refreshing and light:

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The bean sprouts had a great texture; fresh snap to the stems and a good nutty crunch to the bean.

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Seoul Garden serves up a really good kimchi. It’s spicy and crisp, crunchy and zesty. Almost bubbly or effervescent.

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The only downer for me in this entire meal was this bitter green item: possibly dandelion  or mustard greens?

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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.

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The servers also brought out some lettuce for wrapping up the BBQ meat, and spicy scallion shreds for topping.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beneath the surface is an ensemble of seafood consisting of mussels, squid, head-on large shrimp, teeny tiny baby shrimp, mushrooms and silken tofu.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Next was marinated (same flavor as above) boneless beef short rib, sliced thin, with mushroom, red bell pepper slices and fresh garlic.

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Look at how awesome that interior looks. A purpley medium rare!

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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.

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Standard operating procedure at these joints is a slice of orange as a post-meal cleanse. Clean that mouth out with some citrus, bitch!

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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.

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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!

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SEOUL GARDEN
34 W. 32nd St.
Second Floor
New York, NY 10001

Spot Dessert Bar

Up on the third floor of a K-town food mall, this little dessert outpost serves up some really nice treats. The Vietnamese coffee cupcake was pretty good, though I didn’t get a lot of that distinct chicory and sweetened condensed milk flavor that I expected.

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The other items were pretty good though, like these things which I thought were churros with icing at first. HA! They were just eclairs

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Everything else under the glass looked delicious. Lots of green tea stuff, as you might expect at an Asian style bakery. Also some really tasty ice creams/gelatos.

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SPOT DESSERT BAR
11 W. 32nd St.
New York, NY 10001

Don’s Bogam

This Korean BBQ joint is pretty good. I’ve been here twice now, and I had a good meal each time. While I find the prices of many of these places to be a bit on the pricey side, if you go with enough people you can defray the heavy costs. This time I took some shots of the pork belly. So good.

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The other dish is thinly sliced beef, noodles and yummy broth (the noodles are under the surface of the liquid).

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DON’S BOGAM
17 E. 32nd St.
New York, NY 10016

Madangsui Korean BBQ

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:

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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.

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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:

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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!

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For the bbq portion we had two different meats. First, the pork belly. Nice, juicy quarter inch goodness:

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We also had some spicy, marinated rib eye. Lookin’ good!

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It was seriously good quality meat. Check out the menu and see for yourself:

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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…

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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.

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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.

MADANGSUI
35 W. 35th St.
New York, NY 10001

Sik Gaek Seafood Hot Pot

Me, my wife, and some of our friends went to this pretty crazy Korean restaurant in Woodside called Sik Gaek. Good luck reading the website if you can’t read Korean. However the pics are nice under the “Delicious Table” drop down menu. They have some nice looking meats and fish.

I say “crazy” not to be judgmental of other cultures, but rather to demonstrate the purely subjective boundaries which I needed to cross to actually partake in the ingesting of food here. It’s crazy for ME, in other words. I typically eat my food cooked (with the exception of sushi, ceviche, shellfish and tartare). Not only that, but I usually eat my animals and fish AFTER they are good and dead (again, with the exception of shellfish). Also – my food usually isn’t MOVING. As you’ll see below, these western culinary conventions are thrown out the window at Sik Gaek. And that’s a good thing.

This place (the Flushing location rather than the Woodside spot we went to) was actually featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show on the Travel Channel called “No Reservations.” The show is now off the air, as he has moved to CNN with “Parts Unknown” (it’s essentially the same show). In the “No Reservations” episode clipped below, he was in the midst of doing a tour of various “hidden” Asian food and culture spots around Queens with renowned chef David Chang. Watch as he eats still-moving, live, marinated and chopped octopus:

It makes me think of a shocking scene from the Korean film Old Boy, which has one of the most fucked-up twist endings ever, and is one of the most fucked-up but excellent movies of our time. No doubt this film will garner even more attention when Spike Lee fucks it up upon the release of his remake later this year, starring Josh Brolin:

Anyway… on to the actual food that we ate. It turns out there was a huge disappointment. They were out of live octopus. So after all that babble above, I didn’t really get to test the limits of my culinary tolerances. We did enjoy some delicious food though, and some of it was still moving while it cooked in the hot pot. Check out the pics below.

First, the drinks. Two types of beer, two types of soju, and a watermelon full of vagina juice (watermelon punch):

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Almost forgot the Psy shot glass:

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Next, the starters. First up, eggs and veggies:

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Then rice cakes and tofu skin with spicy sauce, along with some pickled items and dips:

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Then we had some thick cut pork belly:

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Then we moved on to the seafood hot pot, which contained lobster, blue claw crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, razor clams, abalone, baby octopus, squid, udon noodles, bean sprouts, and cabbage. They even give you a trash bucket beside the table to throw all the shells in.

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And YES – the lobster was still moving at our table while it cooked:

Since they knew we were there for the live octopus, and we had made the reservation and tried to reserve a ‘pus for the table way in advance of getting there, they felt bad and gave us a plate of bacon wrapped mushrooms on the house:

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One of the best parts of the meal was using the broth pan to cook fried rice. Packed with flavor, and nice and crispy:

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Two more shots – one of the restaurant space, and one of a little kitchen flood:

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SIK GAEK
49-11 Roosevelt Ave.
Woodside, NY 11377