Having seen some mildly negative comments about Li Hua (the new Korean place at Grand and Baxter Streets) on the board earlier this week, from some folks who apparently surveyed the scene and decided not to eat there, I thought I'd chime in.
My wife and I actually went in and ate there last night, and we had a very enjoyable dinner.
We started out with good dumplings--goon mandoo, pan-fried little crescent-shaped dumplings stuffed with ground pork and vegetables, very tasty--and a really spectacular soup: yook-gae-jang soup, which consisted of stewed greens and thinly sliced beef in a fiery, bright-red peppery broth. We couldn't get enough of this soup, which is available in entree-sized servings as well (something we will remember come cold weather.)
We had three main dishes between us: a noodle dish, a rice dish, and meat. (I should note that we left some noodles and rice behind; portions are quite adequate and our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs.)
For noodles, we selected chap-chae, thin translucent sweet-potato noodles stir-fried with beef and vegetables; the rice dish was a stone-pot bibimbop (veggies, meat and an egg yolk over rice in a sizzling bowl, lending a nice crunch to the rice on the bottom and sides); and our final choice was a plate of marinated short ribs (galbi.) All were quite good. The sweet-potato noodles added a nice sweet and nutty flavor to the chap-chae; the bibimbop (a favorite Korean lunchtime order for me) was very good, and the ribs were just terrific.
Li Hua is owned by the same people who own Mandoo Bar (two locations, one on 32nd St in Koreatown and a trendier joint on University Place.) The new location is bright and airy; you pass the (glassed-in) kitchen on the way to your table, and it's full of shiny stainless steel and pans brimming with fresh ingrdients. The menu is relatively short compared to the encyclopedias you'll be offered in some Koreatown places, but we had no trouble finding dishes we'd like to eat there.
No liquor license (yet) but a table near us had brought their own and the staff seemed perfectly cheerful about it. Service is friendly and attentive; our water glasses never got completely empty all night. A little language barrier problem with the busboys but the wait staff speaks excellent English. Customer demographics skew young and Korean, but middle-aged fressers like myself and my wife were warmly welcomed, and we didn't feel at all out of place.
Soup, dumplings, and three entrees, plus a couple of iced teas, came to about $50. Frankly, we over-ordered, and you could easily eat here for $10-15 a person. It's pricier than some of the Koreatown places, but it offers a nice ambience and in the grand scheme of NYC restaurants it's really quite affordable.
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