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Han Joo is a well-known Korean restaurant located in the Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill. As I’ve waxed on about in the past I love specialist restaurants because you know exactly what you’re going for and you know they are going to make it well. At Han Joo they specialize in sam gyup sal, which is Korean pork belly BBQ. They are also known for the fact that they don’t BBQ the meat on a typical Korean BBQ grill, but rather on crystal plate, which I’ll explain more about later.
The restaurant is located right in the middle of Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill, which is the real Koreatown in NY. It’s a small restaurant that like most restaurants in the area doesn’t have too much in the way of décor. The service was fine and the hostesses seemed nice although I don’t think they speak English very well (my friends speak Korean). However, the menu is translated into English (as you can see from my pictures below), so you should have no problems.
Ban chan are the small dishes that they give you for free at the beginning of the meal at Korean restaurants. Here they gave us pajun (pan fried pancake), broccoli and seaweed with gochujang (chili paste), kong na mul (bean sprouts), sweet pickled radish strips, potato salad, marinated cold eggplant and jalapeno in soy sauce. These were all good, nothing amazing, but competently made. 7.75/10
Unlike most places in NY that use the regular metal grill, at Han Joo they bring out a thick crystal plate which is propped up diagonally with a fire underneath it and you grill you meat on it. It looks cool although I’m not sure if there is a huge difference aside from the fact that your meat never actually touches fire. Although the other added bonus is that the juices from the pork run down the plate and they put kimchi at the bottom which baths in it and you eat this kimchi which is delicious.
Thick Fresh Pork Belly (Kal Saeng Sam Gyup Sal):
Han Joo offers several different types of sam gyup sal, which you can see in the pictures of the menu above. The first cut we got is the thick fresh pork belly was pretty similar to normal sam gyup sal except it was a little thicker. It had great flavor and the meat was nicely fresh. It’s pretty explanatory, but it was delicious. This is definitely among the best sam gyup sal in NY and is a “must order” dish. 8.5/10
Marinated Pork Belly With Green Tea:
My friend who eats here fairly regularly said the thick cut is the best, but we decided to get the green tea as well so I could try some other flavors. This was not cut quite as thick and was dusted with a green tea powder. The powder gives it’s a green tea flavor and makes it a little more salty. It was pretty good although I preferred the thick fresh pork belly. 8/10
The sam gyup sal comes with a variety of condiments including tenjang (bean paste), kinako powder (roasted soybean flour), sesame oil with salt and pepper, marinated onions and green onions, pickled radish, green peppers and raw garlic. Personally I like it with sesame oil with salt and pepper and some kinako powder. I also like it to wrap it up with the marinated onions and green onions in lettuce wraps and dip it in the sesame oil with salt and pepper. I love pickled radish as well, but I usually eat it separately.
Purple Rice in Pumpkin:
The rice is pretty good here; nice and al dente. I also love pumpkin so I liked this. 8/10
Tenjang chigae is a simple bean paste stew. It’s something people eat at home all the time, but for some reason restaurants in NY can never really get this right. This wasn’t very good. 6.75/10
Mul Naeng Myun:
Mul naeng myun is a cold buckwheat noodle dish that has origins in North Korea and is usually eaten during the summer. It’s served with ice, pickled radish, Korean pear and hardboiled egg. The broth is tangy and sweet and the buckwheat noodles are slippery and have a bit of bite to them, but aren’t al dente per se. I love mul naeng myun, but I find that the difference between a good version and an ok version to be relatively large. It was ok here, but nothing special. 7/10
Overall, I thought the sam gyup sal here was great and definitely worth your time. Also, they have opened a branch on St Marks in the East Village, so if you don’t want to trek all the way out the Flushing you can find it right here in the city as well.