New Yorkers unimpressed by their local Korean restaurants often look longingly to the vast array of excellent choices in Southern California. Now Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong—a barbecue house whose first U.S. branch conquered LA two years ago—has planted its flag in Flushing, Queens. It's not only a welcome newcomer, Lau writes on Chowhound, it might just serve the best Korean 'cue in New York City.
The signature cut is premium boneless short rib, or saeng kalbi—deeply flavorful, nicely marbled, and prepared without the marinades that can mask the shortcomings of mediocre meat. As Lau says, "unmarinated kalbi is the way to go if the meat quality is better, as it is here." Other standouts are thin-sliced brisket, or chadol bagi, which cooks in no time on the tabletop grills, and premium seared pork belly, or sam gyup sal.
You'll also find relative rarities like pork collar, marinated in sweet soy sauce, and premium pork jowl, which Lau considers a must order. All come with scallions, pickled radish, bean sprouts with gochujang (chile sauce), and thick, sweet soy with onion; in addition, make a point of asking for sesame oil with salt and pepper, an excellent match for barbecued meat. Beyond the grill, Kang Ho-Dong makes surprisingly good stews—kimchi or brisket and soybean paste—that come free with some barbecue orders, as well as naeng myun (buckwheat noodles) with pickled radish and Korean pear in tangy, sweet cold broth.
Service is brisk and attentive, aided by a tableside button that you can press to summon a server ("I kind of wish all restaurants had it!" says Lau). Décor is minimal and industrial, distinguished by cartoon images of Kang Ho-Dong, the entertainer and former wrestler who's the face of this Seoul-based chain. Look for his smiling visage soon in Manhattan's Koreatown and Palisades Park, New Jersey, where the expansion-minded company plans to branch out this year.
Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong [Flushing]
152-12 Northern Boulevard (between Murray and 154th streets), Flushing, Queens
Premium short rib photo from LauHound