My mom is a N. Korea native, the birth place of the cold buckwheat noodle soup (mool naeng myun), also known as Pyung Yang (yes, the North Korean capital) naeng myun (as opposed to the spicy saucy version known as Ham Hung naeng myun (also bibim naeng myun).
When we both got a craving for a bowl of the cold soup last night, my mom immediately voted for Chung Ki Wah. Apparently, among the Koreans who "know" naeng myun, this is THE place for mool naeng myun.
When we arrived at about 7 pm, there were about a dozen people waiting inside and about 20 outside--all happily awaiting their cold bowl. We were seated about 20 minutes later (which I thought was very fast given the crowd).
As usual, I got the kalbi + naeng myun, which comes with a generous portion of kalbi as a first course on a hot cast iron griddle, already barbequed and cut up. One can nibble on this and the salad (included in the price -- $12.95 for the combo) while waiting for the noodles. The kalbi was good, although parts were a little chewy and slightly fatty, all expected with short ribs.
The noodle soup came with a generous portion of noodles, thin as can be, slices of beef, one slice of strange pressed meat parts (my mom guessed pig's feet--I didn't care since I never eat this part anyway), one slice of tomato, and floating pieces of cucumber, radish and cabbage (kimchi). Oh, and the usual half boild egg to top it all off.
A generous squeeze of mustard and vinegar to start, and I dug in. The flavor and consistency of the noodles were far superior to any other I've had. The flavor of the grain was ever present and the texture was just slightly chewy (as it should be) but didn't require 28 chews (a common problem). The floaties provided just enough crunch for textural interest. My mom opted for the chik naeng myun. The noodles were much darker and the texture slightly softer, but overall, I didn't detect a significant difference.
The soup--salty, sweet, vinegary, mustardy, yummy. So refreshing on a hot summer day.
I was very much satisfied after the kalbi and 1 bowl of noodles, but was happy to know that they will give you more noodles (sari) for no additional charge in case I was any more hungry than I had been.
The service was quick and efficient--as one would expect. Korean restaurants aren't exactly known for tender loving care of their customers. Here's your food, here's your water. Eat, pay and leave. I like it that way. Not to say they were rude. They were just turning over tables like hotcakes for the next hungry customer.
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