so on a tip from squid kun that Arirang was opening a branch in Manhattan (the original is in flushing) we decided to try it out tonight.
It's fairly difficult to find b/c the sign isn't that big and its on the 3rd floor above NY Komtang (southside of 32nd street), 32 W. 32nd St. Its a wooden interior and reminds me of the interior at Seoul Garden, but its smaller, probably 15-16 tables. The owners were very nice although i had no idea what they were saying (they talked to my gf the whole in korean), apparently they were asking how the food was, how we found the place, how hard it was to find etc (they were worried people wouldn't know where it was) and they are probably justified as it's not obvious at all that there is a restaurant there (go so it doesn't go out of business). The service is pretty good as well.
They only give you kimchi and ggak dugi at the beginning of the meal (like gam me oak), their kimchi and ggak dugi was good, but too sweet (it probably would've been very good if it wasn't so sweet), my gf thinks people from seoul put too much sugar in everything (her family isn't from seoul)...but any which way their kimchi and ggak dugi was better than most ktown restaurants.
The menu is a very specialist restaurant (i love specialist restaurants). It's a short menu. They have several versions of kal gook soo, which is a handmade noodle soup. You can get chicken (which i believe is fairly traditional), anchovy, seafood or kimchi. You can then choose whether you want noodles, su je bee (which is a sort of handmade rice cake thing) or both. They also have tak dori tang (which is a big semi-sweet korean chicken stew/casserole type thing) and sam gae tang (which is a big korean ginseng chicken soup that involves a small whole chicken), kimchi dumplings and pajun (korean pancake). I believe the place is also some sort of chicken specialist as they have a big rooster painted on the wall.
On to the food:
- chicken kalgooksoo: this is what i got and i got it with both noodles and su je bee. It also contains thin strips of chicken meat and long thinly sliced scallions. The broth is excellent, slightly thick, great chicken flavor, not too salty...think of a really good chicken noodle soup (unlike alot of korean food this isn't spicy at all). The noodles and su je bee were both very good especially the su je bee, which was quite thin for su je bee (which i liked). Both the noodles and su je bee had that good al dente quality that good handmade noodle products have. The noodles are semi thick if you're trying to think of what its like. They've got two different condiments that you can put in, one is a drier chili paste with garlic, scallions and green onions, the other is a more liquid-y soy based chili sauce with garlic, scallions and green onions. Hit it with both and some black pepper and you've got a really good chicken noodle soup. Anyhow, I enjoyed this a lot and it actually tastes very similar to a famous kal gook soo place in LA that i go to sometimes when im home.
- kimchi kalgooksoo: my gf got this and its fairly similar to mine except the broth is kimchi based, so its much more tangy and slightly spicy. She liked hers better, but i liked mine better, so u can decide
Overall, I love specialists restaurants and this is a good one. I'd say its one of the few restaurants in Manhattan ktown that is good on an absolute basis for korean food (the other is gam me oak). Now you may or may not like the dish itself, but the dish is well made. I highly recommend trying this place.
For people less familiar with korean food, this dish is probably quite a bit different than what most people are used to thinking of korean food (i.e. its not bbq or a spicy soup), this is more sort of home cooking type thing (like i said think of a really good chicken noodle soup).
I'm looking forward to coming back with more people to try their sam gae tang and tak dori tang (i like tak dori tang quite a bit)