Koreatown’s newest barbecue house is also its best, declares Lau. It’s the Manhattan outpost of Madangsui, a three-year-old restaurant in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where folks know their Korean ’cue.
The house specialty is saeng kalbi (unmarinated short ribs), whose spare seasoning highlights the meat itself; Madangsui promises high-quality, never-frozen beef, a cut above the competition. The result is splendid: buttery, delicious, and better than any other piece of meat in the neighborhood, says Lau, a hard-to-please veteran of LA’s world-class Korean scene. Sam gyup sal (pork belly) is another standout, flavorful and luxurious. Panchan is fresh and plentiful and includes relative rarities like fluffy steamed egg and wine-marinated raw blue crab. The attentive servers might even bring around free portions of kimbap (rice rolls) or denjang jigae (bean paste casserole).
K-town regulars have been talking recently about Third Floor Café, a loungey hangout that overlooks Fifth Avenue and 32nd. Several years old but rarely discussed by hounds, it offers a short menu of snackish bites and comfort food. traceybell likes its seafood dukboki (rice cakes) and omurice (“omelet-covered stir-fried rice with vegetables” on the menu). Other choices include Western snacks (fries, onion rings, cheese canapés), various stir-fries and noodle dishes, the ever-popular Korean-style spicy chicken, Japanese-style fried pork cutlets, and Japanese-Korean-Western mash-ups like doria (rice with cheese, cream sauce, and kimchee, seafood, or bulgogi). bigjeff endorses the Tuesday night happy hour special: $14 for all the Bud or Miller Lite you can drink and all the fried chicken and pork cutlets you can eat.
On a sober note, there’s bad news from 33rd Street. The mostly unsung Yangpyung Seoul Haejangguk, which made nice dumplings and soups—including namesake specialty haejangguk, a meaty brew reputed to cure hangovers—has gone belly up. And it gets worse: Yangpyung’s replacement, a Korean-Chinese place called Beijing, is off to a highly disappointing start. Lau ranks it behind even the hit-or-miss Hyo Dong Gak and Shanghai Mong.
Madangsui [Herald Square]
35 W. 35th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), Manhattan
Third Floor Café [Midtown]
315 Fifth Avenue (at 32nd Street), Third Floor, Manhattan
Beijing [Herald Square]
Formerly Yangpyung Seoul Haejangguk
43 W. 33rd Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan