Saturday, April 15, 2006


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Bon Chon Chicken [314 Fifth Ave., 2nd Floor (at 32nd St.) 212-221-2222]
First, I had to find the place. It's on the second floor of a small office building, a somewhat typical location in Koreatown, but unheard of anywhere else in New York. The space is far larger and more upscale than I expected. This is not a rival to KFC (although it does offer its own twist on that acronym), and this is evident from the moment you read about vitamins on the front door. But while I don't quite believe in the health benefits of Bon Chon's chicken, I do believe in the taste. The stuff is delicious. What's unique to me is the crispiness of the skin, coupled with the tenderness of the chicken inside. It's an excellent combination. Portions come with drumsticks and/or wings, and with a spicy sauce or a soy-garlic sauce. Crucially, neither sauce is slathered on, so the wings are far less messy than most, but they maintain a distinct flavor. For two people, I strongly recommend a large portion of drumsticks and wings, half spicy, half soy-garlic. This will set you back $20, but should fill you up pretty well. For a little palate cleanser, try the radishes that come with the chicken. Other food options on the menu appear to be overpriced, and since they specialize in chicken here, I say stick to the good stuff. Also, the beer is unfortunately overpriced, because it would definitely go well with the chicken. It's $22 for a pitcher ($6 for pints/bottles)!

Kang Suh [1250 Broadway (at 32nd St.) 212-564-6845]
This 24-hour Korean joint is a good place to go before or after karaoke in Koreatown. The menu is extensive, but you better eat some do-it-yourself BBQ. With numerous side dishes and plenty of meat, you will leave with a full stomach and a not-too-empty wallet.

Kum Gang San [49 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-967-0909]
Another very good Korean BBQ restaurant in Koreatown. Almost all of these places are extremely big and this one is no exception, and the front has what I thought was an 80" TV. Oh yeah, the food is good too. Stick to the BBQ, I especially liked the Special Kalbi and the Miso Soup was a good starter.

Kunjip [9 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-216-9487]
This place was jam-packed, but once I finally sat down here, I was treated like royalty, Korean royalty. The service was extremely attentive and it seemed as if the staff did not want any of its diners to lift even a finger. I started with the Man Doo Jim (steamed dumplings), before moving onto some delicious BBQ. All the regular side dishes were on display and my favorite BBQ dish was probably the Yetnalsik Bul Go Ki. All in all, an excellent K-Town dining option.

Momofuku Ssam Bar [207 Second Ave. (at 13th St.) 212-254-3500]
This is one of the more polarizing restaurants that I have been to, but as is often the case, I am somewhere in the middle on it. To begin with, if you don't like meat, don't bother showing up. Seriously. Now when you meat-lovers do show up, be prepared to wait, as the space is small and almost always crowded (this is for dinner, lunch is a whole separate story). If you can, head to the small bar in the back and start with an OB beer (or Hitachino if you want to spend big) and an order or two of the delicious and fatty Pork Steamed Buns (they taste like Peking Duck). Once you get seated, you'll have to decide on your entree, and you'll realize that this place is pretty expensive. But luckily, the cheapest entree ($10) is also the signature dish of the restaurant: Ssam. Basically the Ssam is like a burrito, and the classic option here features Berkshire Pork, rice, onions, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and a red kimchi puree. It's sort of a strange mix of flavors and textures, but they manage to pull off the combination fairly well, even though almost every bite is different from the one before it. Also, the Ssam is a filling option, meaning you won't go home hungry. Of course, as mentioned, there are a number of other options on the menu that I did not get to try this time (although my friend enjoyed the Pork Sausage), including the supposedly high-quality fish offerings, so this is not a complete review. On the whole, however, I would judge the Ssam bar similarly to the Momofuku Noodle Bar. It is somewhere worth visiting, but you probably won't want to make it a regular thing.

Won Jo [23 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-695-5815]
An excellent Korean BBQ restaurant. They have all the standards and they taste very good. Also a nice atmosphere and the grill is powered by real coals that they bring to your table. Prices are standard.

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