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Sol Hyang Lee is one of the many northeast Chinese restaurants that have been popping up in Flushing. These restaurants are either run by Chinese who live near the border of Korea and can speak Korean or by ethnic Koreans who live in China and can speak both languages as well. Sol Hyang Lee is run by the later. Sol Hyang Lee’s specialty is BBQ skewers which you cook at yourself. My friend’s family (who is Korean) eats here fairly regularly and she was the one who told me about this place.
The restaurant is a longer narrow restaurant that is lined with light wooden booths with white walls that also have exposed brick. The restaurant looks much more like a Korean restaurant than a Chinese restaurant. Each booth has a metal box in the middle of the table where they put the hot wood charcoal that you use to grill the skewers.
The customer mix was probably half Chinese and half Korean. I’m not sure whether the staff speaks English or not, but the menu is fully translated into English, so pointing should be no problem in case they don’t speak English. They do speak fluent Mandarin and Korean; it’s pretty cool to watch them go back and forth between languages depending on which customers they are speaking to. They seemed to be pretty nice, but my friend spoke with them in Korean, so I had no idea what was being said.
Just like a normal Korean restaurant they served ban chan (small dishes) at the beginning of the meal, which were similar to normal Korean ban chan, but you could tell there were some differences in the way they spiced them.
- Pickled Cabbage and Daikon Radish: This was pickled cabbage and daikon radish in a very light slightly sweet and tangy soy sauce. It was pretty good. 7.5/10
- Bean Sprouts: This was a typical Korean preparation of bean sprouts with green onions and sliced carrots in sesame oil. The bean sprouts tasted fresh and the sesame oil was nice. 7.75/10
- Liver: This was an interesting ban chan as I’ve never had it before. It was sliced liver with celery in a slightly spicy and salty sauce. The liver was cooked nicely and was not metallic tasting or weird tasting at all as badly prepared liver can be. In fact it wasn’t liver-y tasting whatsoever. I thought it was pretty decent. 7.25/10
- Sweet Pickled Radish Strips: This was another typical Korean preparation of sliced pickled radish strips in a sweet chili sauce. Although typical in flavoring it was done well. 7.75/10
- Cucumber Kimchi: This was just a normal cucumber kimchi, however I don’t think they normally give it as a ban chan I believe it needs to ordered separately. They gave it to us gratis because the girl had forgotten our beer and apologized and then brought this out to us to make up for it. As it turned out it was excellent. The cucumbers were crispy and not mushy, the seasoning was nicely spicy and sweet, but not too sweet. 8/10
- Cumin Spice: They give you a bowl of slightly spicy cumin powder to dip your skewers in. It’s really delicious and I was basically dousing all my skewers in it. 8.5/10
- Beef Skewer: The beef was delicious, it was tender and had a good clean flavor and was kicked up a notch with the cumin spice. 8/10
- Lamb Chunk Skewer: My friend recommended this one and I’m glad she did. This was definitely my favorite skewer. It was slightly fatty chunks of lamb that were already marinated in a slightly sweet soy sauce. The meat was very tender and was melt in your mouth good. The flavoring of the sauce was really good, so you didn’t need any cumin or other seasonings. It wasn’t gamey at all and even my girlfriend who doesn’t like lamb thought it was delicious. 8.5/10
- Pork Heart: This was slices of pork heart. Heart is a muscle with basically no fat, so it has a firm texture, but it’s also a pretty clean tasting meat. The version here was good, a little chewy and salty and great with cumin. 7.75/10
- Chicken Gizzard: Chicken gizzard is very Korean; it is pretty common in Korea probably more so than any other place I’ve ever been to, so it was no surprise that it was on the menu. It’s similar to heart in texture and taste. The version here was quite good. 7.75/10
- Squid: This was just squid with a little chili oil on it. I wasn’t sure if BBQ’ing squid would make it too chewy, but as it turned the squid was actually quite tender. I was pleasantly surprised by this. 8/10
- Sauteed Shredded Pork in Sweet Bean Sauce (Jing Jiang Rou Si 京酱肉丝): This is a typical northern Chinese dish consisting of shredded pork in a slightly sweet bean sauce that is served with shredded leek, sliced cucumber, cilantro and tofu wrappers. You then take the meat put it in the wrapper with the condiments and eat it as a wrap. I have a feeling that this dish might be the basis for the “moo shu pork” you see at Americanized Chinese take-out places. I thought it was pretty good, the pork was tender and the sauce was reasonably good although I would’ve liked it slightly sweeter as it the sauce was fairly mild tasting. I liked the condiments a lot in particular the shredded leek. The tofu wrapper was decent, but a little plain. Personally, I’d prefer it in a mantou bun (steamed white bun), but overall it was a pretty decent dish. 7.5/10
- Quail with Chili: The waitress recommended this. It was quail in a sweet and spicy soy sauce with chilis. The meat was tender and the sauce was very delicious. It’s kind of like eating buffalo wings. Also, it tasted best when it was hot; it wasn’t as good once it got colder, so I’d recommend eating it when it first comes out. 8/10
- Neung Myun: We ordered this at the end of the meal because we wanted something cool and light to finish the meal. It looked quite a bit different than the regular Korean neung myun. It also tasted different to as it was sweeter, spicier and more tangy than the typical preparation. The noodles were decent, but not great. My girlfriend didn’t like it that much as she thought it was too sweet, but the rest of us thought it was decent although I’ve definitely had better bowls of neung myun. 6.75/10
Overall, this was one of the more exciting restaurants I’ve found in Flushing. Not only was it quite unique, but the food was very good. I highly recommend trying it out.
Also, my friend said that the place next door which is also is a Korean Chinese place has better dishes, but the BBQ skewers is why you come here as the restaurant next door isn’t a skewer restaurant. I’m looking forward to trying the place next door soon.
Sol Hyang Gee
136-73 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355
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