Seoul-searching in Manhattan’s Koreatown
While the strip of 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue has long been known as a late-night haven for karaoke, spa treatments and at-table BBQ, Korea Way has much more to offer culinary adventurers than fried chicken.
Kimbab at E-Mo
(2 W. 32nd St.)
Kimbab is what you might call Korean sushi. At E-Mo, tuna, beef, sausage, squid (and sometimes SPAM) rolls are made to order by the husband and wife team who man the tiny shop. The rolls (all $6 or less), served with a cup of clear miso soup, are at least a lunch’s worth of food — they may not look like much, but you might struggle to finish your last slice. Like Mandoo Bar next door, this is a good option for vegetarians — try the shiitake kimbab.
Pork Feet at Pan
(319 Fifth Ave., second floor)
Catty corner to Korea Way, Pan serves traditional fare in a hip, minimalist (and as yet uncrowded) space. Look for a tiny marquee announcing “PORK FEET,” climb to the second floor, down a shot of soju for strength, and then tuck into a plate of those pork feet.
Noodles at Arirang
(32 W. 32nd St.)
This casual, second-story nook specializes in kalguksu: rustic, handmade noodles cut in long strands or dumpling-like scraps (“dough flakes”) served in a rich soup. Both are delicious, and filling — a bowl of noodles and one of their exemplary kimchi pancakes are more than enough for two. You can download a coupon for a half-priced kimchi pancake from their website, www.koreanrestaurantnyc.org.
Everything at Woorijip
(12 W. 32nd St.)
To try a little bit of everything, head to Woorijip for its hot and cold buffets, noodle bar and fridge full of bottled soju. Lunch at Woorijip is packed, so turnover at the buffet is high, which means that the food is always fresh. “Woorijip” means “our house” in Korean, and seating can be family-table tight, but it’s worth it to brave the crush and fill your tray with something warm, something cold, something pickled and something sweet and glutinous for dessert.
Dumplings at Mandoo Bar
(2 W. 32nd St.)
These thick-skinned dumplings are prepared right in the window of the Michelin-recommended Mandoo Bar. Pork, seafood and vegetable varieties are served boiled (“mool”) or pan-fried (“goon”), and come with electric-yellow pickled daikon, which cuts the doughiness. Seating can be tight during lunchtime, so bring takeout to nearby Greeley Square.
Vegetarian (and gluten-free) fare
(12 E. 32nd St.)
This is Koreatown’s vegetarian oasis, where you can slip off your shoes and sit down to meatless bibimbap, steaming clay pot stews, ginseng salads and gently sweet vegetable porridges. Gluten-free and organic menus are available, as well as a sophisticated selection of teas. The fare may be lighter, but the flavor is no less intense.