Review - Kunjip (9 W 32ND ST , 212-216-9487)
We had a nice dinner at the chaotic, 24 hour Kunjip in Koreatown over the weekend. The place was very crowded, and to get a table for six at 8pm we had to wait about 45 min. Given that there is no bar area to wait and its small, waiting can be a drag there. I don't know much about Korean food, but the place was pretty good, but spicy even for my pepper loving palate. The interior is kind of low ceilinged and boisterous, with lots of Koreans dining there. They appear to have the barbeque pits in some tables (replate with fire extinguishing systems above) but don't seem to be using them, settling instead for the less satisfying tabletop propane powered hot plates.
After a round of OB's, we started with the Kimchee Pajun ($13), a large fried kimchee pancake. This was good, and kind of orange colored, but you couldn't really see any bits of the spicy cabbage in it. It seemed kind of pricey for what it was.
Next up was a Dukboki ($13) which are rice cakes in a kind of spicy sauce. It was pretty starchy and rubbery, which the same flavor note as the kimchee pancake. I would not get this again, even though it seemed like an ok value. We got this on a whim, not knowing what it was.
By now our piping hot Mandoo Gui ($13) were ready and we tucked into these fried stuffed dumplings. The skin was mildly bubbled from the frying heat (think of a McDonalds apple pie) but they were not all that flavorful. Again, I thought they were a little pricey for what they were.
Now they brought out the propane powered hot plate for our table and started to put the Galbi Gui ($22) on it. While the marinated short rib meat sizzled away, they brought the various sides (lettuce, kimchee, seaweed, spicy paste, purple sticky rice, etc) for it. This was quite good and considering all the extra stuff you get with it, its good value too. If you are having a group dinner in K-town, you should always consider getting one of these tableside BBQ orders just for the fun of making them, and nibbling on the sides. It uses up lots of table space though! By now, we needed another round of OB's ($4.50).
At the same time that was cooking, we got an order of the Nakji Bokum ($17) which was an excellent spicy octopus with udon dish. This was probably my favorite entree, combining interesting textures and flavors. It was a little hard to pick up with chopsticks though, since both the octopus and noodles resisted being grabbed. This would be worth trying if you like squid/octopus etc.
We also got a large plate of Jap Che ($13) which were glass noodles with beef. These seemed pretty good and were gobbled up. The glass noodles (clear and thin) were a little odd tasting, but I guess that is a feature. Not a repeat for me though, the flavors were kind of a universal panasian 5 spice or something.
Now came a platter of Myungtae Gui ($19), which was two grilled fish with a spicy sauce on top. This had been grilled (I think) back in the kitchen, and then brought to the table on an iron skillet. It was tasty, but very spicy, and a number of people on the table could not tolerate it. I think by this point we'd just had too much food; if we'd been hungrier, it would have been eaten.
During the last few dishes, a casserole of Boodae Chigae ($13) had been bubbling away on our table over some kind of Bunsen burner apparatus. It was really bubbling and was a table side stew preparation of fatty pork, hot dogs, noodles and vegetables. It was pretty entertaining to watch, but the chunks of pork fat in it were a bit offputting. This is tricky to eat with just chopsticks, and doesn't seem to be something you'd pour over the purple rice.
The place is actually pretty good value all in all, although some of the starters seem a little overpriced for what they really are while the main courses are underpriced given how much you really get. Our group of six spent $26 all in per person for food, and $20 all in per person for alcohol. (We had some non drinkers in the group, so to be fair, I separated the check into food & bev components.)
If you were going over to MSG or the Roseglen for something , this would be a good place to stop in before or afterwards, since they stay open 24 hours a day. I still prefer most other kinds of Asian food over Korean food, but its still fun to try different things. It looks like we made a mistake not trying any of the rice casseroles, called Bimibobs (?). The beers were pretty low priced when I think about it too -- $4.50 is probably a low price for dine in drinking. OB seems to be the Korean version of Budweiser; I didn't think it was anything special.