I've been meaning to go here for a long time as my friends have been telling me the sam gyup sal is good. I finally went for a friends going away dinner (i planned it, somewhat of an ulterior motive since i really wanted to try it haha).
You may have not noticed it b/c while it is on 32nd street, its between 5th and madison not bway and 5th with the rest of ktown restaurants. It's actually a reasonably slick looking restaurant and probably one of the nicer restaurants in ktown (decor-wise) with kind of gray stone interior and fairly modern looking. I was actually sort of skeptical b/c the decor would suggest that it might be trying to cater to Americans, not discriminating here, but when asian restaurants tend to look nicer there seems to be a correlation to having bad food.
They also have grills that have a vent that they pull down and goes almost directly over the meat, so you don't smell like a bbq at all after the meal.
The menu is mainly bbq with a few apps (like pajun) and a few chigaes (soups), but this is clearly a bbq focused restaurant.
The service was just okay, our server was sort of inattentive, but halfway through we got a new one, who was very attentive.
On to the important part the food:
- panchan: the panchan was pretty standard and I thought it was generally on par with most ktown restaurants, but nothing outstanding
- haemul pajun (seafood pancake): i had no expectations for this and it was one of the best pajuns ive had in ktown although the competition is weak as most ive had are awful. It was nice and crispy and not gooey like most places in ktown, the seafood tasted fresh and overall it was just good.
- kalbi (beef short rib): this was quite good, the meat was well seasoned, but not overly marinated and tasted fresh and was very tender. This was probably as good as madangsui...i wasn't really expecting much given this is supposed to be known for its sam gyup sal, but i'd recommend getting this as well
- sam gyup sal (pork belly): this is the house specialty, they marinate it in a wine white I believe (this is actually fairly common, i've had sam gyup sal several times that was marinated in wine). This is very good, the sam gyup sal is probably more tender than most places and has great flavor; once you grill it and get a bit of a crisp going, its delicious. It's sort of self-explanatory as its simply grilled pork belly, but its very good.
- daegu tang (spicy fish stew): we just ordered this b/c we wanted a chigae (soup), but this was actually surprisingly quite good. The soup was quite spicy, which was great b/c i feel like a lot of ktown restaurants really water down their chigaes, it wasn't ovreally salty and the fish tasted great with a good flavor and not "fishy" tasting, i'd highly recommend this if you like fish stews.
Overall, i was happily surprised by the quality of the bbq, pajun and the daegu tang and I think this maybe the best bbq in ktown and one of the best korean restaurants in manhattan ktown, it also happens to be nicer than most. Highly recommend.