In last month's blowout thread on Flushing Korean chow, GeoJack mentioned a Korean mini-enclave that's sprung up around the Murray Hill LIRR station (41st Avenue at 150th Street). "Korean commerce has transformed this sleepy 19th century setting into what I call 'the Korean Village,'" he wrote.
"Village" is apt it's got that feel, separate from (and much smaller than) the sprawling Northern Blvd. Korean strip. My wife and I passed through on a chilly weekend afternoon with no time to sit down and eat, unfortunately, but we did see a lot of intriguing places. Here are some notes. Hope anyone familiar with these restaurants will chime in. There are one or two hof-type drinking hangouts, too, for those interested; we couldn't check them out Saturday, but one of these days ...
At least a couple of these places have turned up in past Chowhound discussions: Hamjibak (41-08 149th Pl, 718-460-9289) for barbecue, especially sam gyup sal ("three stripe" fresh pork belly), and Hanjoo (41-06 149th Pl, 718-359-6888) for shabu shabu and naeng myun and other noodles.
The place that really got us curious was Su San Seafood (40-30 149th Pl, 718-460-5414). It looks like an aquarium inside, with tanks lining the wall the length of the long dining room, aswim with crabs, abalone, sea squirt, conger eel, sea cucumber, big unidentified fin fish. Many are served raw, but there are also cooked dishes like stews and grilled stuff. Looked kind of pricey, but a group could probably split a bunch of plates and drinks at reasonable cost.
We did grab a few bites to go at Andersen Bakery (149-01 41st Ave, 718-939-2110), which may be part of the Japanese chain (the manager of this shop is Korean): A nice chewy black-sesame puff. Delicate but dense chestnut cakes that are probably meant to be eaten with tea or coffee dry and chalky Saturday, not bad today (must've absorbed some moisture). A mini-ham sandwich on a panko-crusted roll with cabbage, mayo and sweet sauce (not bad but nothing special).
Other local options:
Da Korean (41-10 149th Pl, 718-321-0014), a barbecue place with live eel in tanks.
Sol Bawoo (149-44 41st Ave, 718-445-2542): Prominent on the menu: Tojong and Yuhwang duck specials, lamb, jungol.
Cho Won Restaurant (41-05 150th St, 718-460-1266): barbecued meats, jigae, more.
Kum Sung Jingook Kalguksu (40-09 149th Pl, 718-661-3780): naeng myun (chik, momil, or ogapi), kal guk soo, jungol.
Mat Dol Tofu, a.k.a. Professional Soft Tofu (40-11 150th St, 718-353-6962).
Mapo Korean Barbecue, a.k.a. Taepungyangdolgorae (149-24 41st Ave, 718-886-6883).
Min Sok Restaurant (41-11 150th St, 718-858-5312).
Well Being Foods / Party Well Buffet / Mae Il Jinme Restaurant (148-32 41st Ave), a takeout-catering operation with a dining room.
Murray Station Hof (41-13 150th St, 718-321-8803).
Han Shin Pocha (40-03 149th Pl, 718-886-1328).
* * * * *
We were in the neighborhood to check out the takeout offerings at Maru (157-22 Northern Blvd, 718-461-2018). Following a hound tip (thanks, Lisa!), I'd dropped in a few weeks earlier and had great octopus kimbap, jun, and mushrooms. So we wanted to see how they would handle a larger order for my wife's office holiday party (she was in charge of about half the savory food).
Not all the staff speaks English, but the couple of young women who do were very helpful in tailoring our order for a crowd of guests, including kids, that was mostly unfamiliar with Korean food. For this reason (and also because there was going to be non-Asian chow and numerous desserts on the table) we wanted to avoid dishes that were too authentically fiery or funky.
We ended up with large trays of nice fresh-rolled beef kimbap, delicious rolled omelettes with seaweed and chopped onion and peppers, spicy cucumber muchim (the only chile-hot dish we got), and potato bokum, a great salad-like dish of shredded spuds, lightly boiled and still a bit crunchy, with strips of carrot and green chile. All big hits among the partygoers, who raved about everything and left little behind.
Manhattan hounds take note: Maru will deliver even to Manhattan for orders above (I think) $100. Ours was barely half that, so I picked up the food on the day of the party. That's a pretty painless round trip on LIRR Murray Hill is just 20 minutes from Penn Station, a $3 ride each way with the weekend City Ticket.
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