Takashi

Takashi has been on my list for a very long time. When it came time to pick a restaurant for my birthday dinner, I knew exactly where I was going to go! Takashi, located on Hudson Street in the West Village, is a marriage between Japanese yakiniku and Korean barbeque. A lot of the dishes feature traditional Japanese dishes paired with Korean flavors.

We had reservations for 4 people (they actually only allow reservations for 4+ people) and was seated right away. At 6:30pm, all the tables were full and most of the counter spots were taken as well. They take your jackets and store them in closets so they don’t smell like barbecued meat, which I thought was very nice.

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We opted to start with a few shared appetizers and then move onto the yakiniku. Our first appetizer to arrive was their Instagram-famous Niku-Uni ($26), which features raw chuck flap topped with sea urchin and served on top of a shiso leaf and seaweed. I really enjoyed each bite (spoiler, I had 2). The uni was really fresh and creamy, and all the flavors meshed really well together.

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We also decided to be adventurous and try the Testicargot ($12), or cow balls cooked escargot-style with garlic shiso butter. I’ve had bull penis as well as turkey balls before and neither of them was a good experience, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one either. It was actually quite pleasant! To be fair, the cow balls were smothered in the garlic shiso butter sauce so you couldn’t really tell what you were eating. But, I did enjoy the texture and taste a lot more.

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Our last appetizer was the Stewed Beef Tendon Casserole ($16), which was more stew than casserole. I really enjoyed this dish. The beef tendon was very tender and the stew was extremely flavorful and fragrant. I kind of wish the dish was a little bit bigger because I wanted more beef tendon!

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We sampled a variety of meats during the yakiniku phase of our dinner. We ended up trying:

  • Kobe Kalbi, or short rib ($26)
  • Kobe Ribeye ($26)
  • Beef Belly ($20)
  • The Tongue Experience ($25) with Tan-saki, Tan-suji, and Tan-moto
  • Sirloin

All of the meats we ordered were really good, but I think our favorite of the night was the Kobe Ribeye, which we ended up placing a second order. Everything tasted really fresh and a lot of the meats practically melted in our mouths (except for the tongue, of course).

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They only have one kind of dessert here – Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Soft Serve ($5), which you can add a variety of toppings. I went with the, “I’ll have it with the works” ($10), which has every single topping and your choice of a syrup. It comes with Shiratama (mochi), Kurogoma Kinako (black sesame and soybean flour), and azuki (red beans). I opted for the green tea syrup, which helped to cut the sweetness of the ice cream. It was really, really good and made me think of my time in Japan last year where the soft serve is definitely better than it is here.

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Service was attentive and they changed our grill a few times during dinner, which helped prevent the meat from sticking. At most barbeque places I’ve been to, they have to grease the grill. Here they don’t grease it at all, which I guess speaks to the quality of the grill. I did enjoy yakiniku more in Japan, but I think Takashi was definitely my best experience in the US.

Atoboy

When it came time to decide on a restaurant to have our annual pre-NYE dinner for my sister’s birthday (because who wants to have to deal with prix fixes on the day of!), she decided she wanted to try out Atoboy, a Korean-inspired small plates restaurant in the Flatiron area. Opened by the former chef de cuisine of Jungsik, the menu at Atoboy features your choice of 3 plates for $36. The tasting menu comes with a bowl of white rice or you can add on their seasonal rice for an extra $2.

I arrived earlier with my mom but they seated us while we waited for the rest of our party. Both the hostess and our waiter confirmed with us that we were celebrating a birthday, a note I had put in our Resy reservation. I love this small attention to detail – something that might be or has been overlooked at other restaurants. Our waiter waited until our entire party had arrived before reviewing the menu with us, as we were new visitors.

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Pom Pomme Cocktails with complimentary seaweed chips

 

We all wanted to try something different from the menu, so we tried to diversify our tasting menu choices as much as possible. For our first course, we picked:

  • Tofu with Soybean, King oyster mushroom, and Mustard
  • Littleneck Clams with Avocado, Rice cracker, and Gochugaru
  • Fluke with Moo radish, Pomelo, and Sesame seed
  • Beef Tartare with Oyster and Potato

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The tofu was the biggest dish of the bunch, but I think my favorite was the Littleneck Clams. The avocado puree-like sauce that it came with was really complimentary to the spicy sauce they used for the clams. The Beef Tartare was also really enjoyable – good quality beef with a great marinade. My least favorite was definitely the Fluke – I’m not a big grapefruit fan so the pomelo was a turnoff.

For our second course, we picked:

  • Asparagus with Spicy cod roe, Shallot, and Egg yolk
  • Egg with Sea urchin, Watercress, and Quinoa
  • Corn with Taleggio, Bacon, and Doenjang
  • Squid stuffed with Pork and Shrimp, topped with Salsa verde

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My favorite dish is a toss up between the Egg and the Squid. I opted to pay an extra $10 for fresh Californian Sea Urchin instead of a puree and it was well worth it. The crispness of the cucumber in the egg really contrasted with the smooth texture of the egg and sea urchin. I really liked the taste contrast as well – the egg had a light and fresh taste while the sea urchin was salty and a little sweet. The squid stuffed with pork was very fragrant and flavorful. It was possibly the most flavorful dish of the night. In fact, all dishes in our second course was spectacular and I think it was my favorite section of the night.

For our last course, we picked:

  • Octopus with Kimchi, Chorizo, and Parsley
  • NY Strip Steak with Arugula, Poblano, and Wild sesame oil
  • Brisket with Foie gras, Ginger, and Garlic

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We ended up with two orders of the Brisket because we were very attracted to the concept of foie gras brisket! Again, all the dishes in this course were spectacular and really delicious. I had a brisket dish to myself and boy, oh boy, was it good! The brisket came apart the moment you bit into it and was not stringy at all. The foie gras made it a very, very rich dish. I actually ended up dumping my entire bowl of rice into the leftover sauce (Side note: The seaweed rice was phenomenal and I highly recommend selling out the extra $2 for it!).

For dessert, they have three options (not included in the Tasting Menu). We opted to go with the:

  • Honey Panna Cotta with black rice vinegar and pomegranate
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake with yogurt and pumpkin seeds.

Our waiter brought out the Pumpkin Cheesecake with a candle in it for my sister and comp-ed us their third desert, Sujeonggwa Granita with burrata and walnuts. I honestly do not have a single bad thing to say about any of the desserts! However, if I had to pick a clear favorite it would probably be the Pumpkin Cheesecake, which was silky and smooth. The Sujeonggwa Granita was also a brand new experience and I’m so happy I got to try it. Sujeonggwa is a traditional Korean cinnamon punch, which they made into fine granita to top the burrata. The result was a sweet and cinnamon-y topping for the otherwise flavorless burrata. The inclusion of tiny fruit cubes and walnuts added texture to the gooey burrata.

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Service was attentive, personable, and on point. We really felt like we were taken care of and as I mentioned earlier, I really appreciate that they made my sister’s birthday dinner special. I’m not one to expect comp-ed desserts or what not for birthday celebrations, but I really do appreciate it when I don’t have to pretend to use the bathroom in order to find my waiter/waitress to ask them if we can add a candle to a dessert.

Another HUGE selling point for me: the music was low and tasteful. We were able to talk and hear each other perfectly find without having to shout at each other. And finally, extra points for being so well-lit. Sometimes, candlelight is romantic. But there’s a difference between being romantic and having to use my iPhone flashlight to read the menu!

All in all, 5 out 5 for Atoboy. In fact, I’d say they’re a 10/5!

 

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

The Columbus Circle Holiday Fair opened up on December 3rd so the Boyfriend and I decided to pay them a visit. We’ve been going regularly for the past four years because they always offer an nice alternative to dining around the area. There’s always something new to eat every year!

This year brings some newcomers as well as some tried and trusted regulars:

  •  Two Tablespoons Vegustation
  • Seoul Lee Korean BBQ
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Red Basil
  • Arancini Bros
  • German Delights Bratwursts
  • Hong Kong Street Cart
  • Mighty Balls
  • Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen
  • Macaron Parlour
  • Wafels & Dinges
  • Mmm Enfes

Red Basil, a regular, serves up delicious Thai food and I’m always drinking 2-3 of their Thai Iced Teas ($2.00) every time I visit the market.

German Delights, another regular, is also one of my usual stops. They have hot apple cider, hot gluwein, and delicious bratwursts.

Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen is also another regular who participated in the Holiday Market last year. They have a rotating menu of gourmet grilled cheese and are opening up a flagship shop in Brooklyn soon!

This time, we opted to try Seoul Lee Korean BBQ, which serves up Korean themed burritos, tacos and rice bowls. I had their rice, shortrib, and egg taco, which was absolutely divine ($4.00). It looks like it would be messy but it’s actually not. It also looks tiny but it’s really pretty filling. The spicy mayo drizzled on top gives the taco a slight heat, which is great for mild-spice eaters like myself.

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We also tried three balls from Mighty Balls. I’ve had their meatball sliders from the Union Square Holiday Market before but it was only one flavor. We found out that if you get their three balls option, you can get three different meatballs in three different sauces ($7.50). We went for the turkey meatball in cranberry horseradish, beef meatball in brown sauce and pork meatball in sweet & spicy sauce. My favorite was the brown sauce but the Boyfriend thought the cranberry was the best.

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With so many more food options this year, I’m definitely going to be back to try out some of the other vendors. Perhaps I’ll go for Hong Kong Street Cart next time!

Dokebi

After watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on California’s Korea Town, I was craving some good old Korean food. The Boyfriend’s parents have had Dokebi in Williamsburg before so we decided to go there. The parentals like Dokebi because, unlike K-Town in Manhattan, there’s always space for parking and the service is always better.

We arrived around 6:30 and were seated right away. Our waitress brought over a series of banchans – including kimchi, pickled radish, potato salad, bean spouts, spinach and fish cake. We finished our first set pretty quickly since we had 5 people and they were really nice about bringing over a second set. I love it when a Korean restaurant doesn’t huff-and-puff about bringing over more banchans.

It’s not on their official menu but they do have Happy Hour from 5-7pm and it features $4 drafts and $5 well drinks. The best part is that they have Stella Artois on draft! I don’t often see Stella on draft at a restaurant and when they do have it, it’s not often part of Happy Hour specials. Another extra point for Dokebi!

We opted to start with two seafood pancakes ($7.00 each). The pancakes are smaller than those you’d get at a typical Korean restaurant but they were pretty good. Both pancakes weren’t as crispy as I like them but they do satisfy the craving.

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Since everyone raves about the tacos here, I opted to try their Short Rib taco ($4.00 each). The taco is stopped with short rib sautéed in their Korean BBQ sauce and served on two soft corn tortillas. It was absolutely delicious! After watching the show and seeing the Korean tacos served on the famous Koji Korean-Taco truck, I was really craving tacos and this one definitely hit the spot. I can see why some of the other tables only ordered tacos and nothing else. The short rib was so tender and flavorful that I didn’t even need to add hot sauce (but it did taste extra good with some hot sauce). I can definitely see myself coming back just to eat the tacos.

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We decided to order one Soondobu ($12.00) to share since we also wanted some other things on the menu.  Their soondobu comes with purple rice, which is a lot healthier for you than the traditional white rice. I also really like the taste of the purple rice because it has a different texture than the traditional white. And now onto the soondobu, which was super spicy. I’ve had my share of soondobu before but this one was extremely spicy! It’s definitely best to mix it with some purple rice before eating.

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We ordered two Bibimbaps – the Pork Bibimbap ($13.00) and the Mushroom Bibimbap ($12.00). Their bibimbap comes in a hot iron bowl, which causes the rice on the sides to get hard and crunchy. Best part of bibimbap! I was the designated mixer since I bibimbap is my usual go-to-order when it comes to Korean food. I noticed that were was very fair ratio between ingredients and rice in each bowl. Sometimes, when I’m mixing, I notice that there is too much rice in comparison to vegetables or meat. This was not the case here. I thoroughly enjoyed the bibimbap at Dokebi because I had a spoonful of veggies and rice with each bite.

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We also ordered one Japchae ($12.00) for the table. We often get Japchae in other Korean restaurants and we wanted to see how Dokebi was compared to the others. I thought Dokebi did a fairly good job. It wasn’t the best Japchae I have ever eaten but it was definitely pretty good. The big issue with the dish was the usage of cabbage. I don’t often see cabbage in Japchae and I actually love cabbage. But they severely undercooked the cabbage in this dish and it gave off a very bitter aftertaste.

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They don’t have any special desserts here but they do have some tongue-soothing gelatos and sorbets. I opted to share the Passion Fruit sorbet ($4.00) with the Boyfriend so we could cool down our tongues after the spicy dinner. The sorbet was very smooth and the semi-sweet and sour taste worked very well after the heavy salt and spice in our dinner.

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All in all, Dokebi provided us with a very good dinner. It’s definitely not as authentic as the restaurants in Manhattan or Queens but it definitely hit the spot. Dokebi will satisfy your Korean food cravings and give you something new to try

Muk Eun Ji

Every semester, the club that I am in at school holds three dinner outings to different Asian restaurants around the city. For this semester, we had agreed on a Korean restaurant. We had been to two restaurants in KoreaTown in the previous semesters so we wanted to try a new one – Muk Eun Ji. Making reservations was extremely easy – even for our large group of 20 people. We arrived about 20 minutes early but they were able to seat us. The outside might look small but it’s actually pretty large on the inside. There is a second floor, which was where we were seated. The prices are pretty reasonable for the portion sizes. We decided to start off with some appetizers for the table. We ordered their Fried Dumplings ($9.99), which were hot and crispy. Our waitress gave us the recommendation for them since they were homemade. We also ordered some seafood pancakes and kimchi pancakes for the table, which came out crunchy and piping hot. The kimchi pancakes weren’t too spicy at all, which I appreciated. IMG_2655 We also ordered a plate of Ddukbokki to share ($15.99). The Ddukbokki was spicy, but not overly so. The spice was just enough to give your taste buds a kick without requiring an obscene amount of water to cool down your tongue. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish – the dduk was soft and chewy while the fishcakes were well cooked. IMG_2658 The Boyfriend ordered their Kimchi Soon Doo Bo, or kimchi tofu soup ($11.99). They crack an egg into the soup for you before they serve it to you, which is perfect. The egg has extra time to cook inside the soup – unlike the restaurants that allow you to crack the egg into the soup yourself. The tofu soup wasn’t too spicy despite its bright red color. The Boyfriend finished his entire bowl of rice before he even finished his tofu soup, which just goes to show how delish the soup tasted. IMG_2656 I went with the Kalbi Bibimbap ($14.99), which was unbelievably delicious. I have only ever had bibimbap with ground beef before so this was a pleasant surprise. The juicy kalbi gave the rice a lot of flavor. I didn’t even really need to red pepper paste in order to give the rice flavoring. Since the bibimbap was served in a stone pot, the rice and toppings remained warm throughout the entire dinner. The egg was also nicely cooked due to the stone pot’s heat. IMG_2657 The service was fast and we all received our orders in a timely manner. In fact, we were all astonished how fast they got all our orders to us since we were such a large party. The banchans were a plenty and they were more than willing to provide us with more kimchi when asked. In fact, we had to keep asking for more kimchi because it was so good. We were all in agreement when we said that we would definitely be back for dinner here. Everything went incredibly smoothly and all the dishes that we ordered was delicious.

So Kong Dong

After almost nine hours of shopping at Woodbury Commons, the Boyfriend, his parents and I arrived in Fort Lee for some good Korean chigae, or tofu soup. So Kong Dong is their go-to for chigae whenever they’re in the area. It’s funny because despite the fact that the wait is long and the service isn’t all that attentive, they still keep coming back. I think it’s the fact that their cucumber kimchi and tofu chigae is the best, or at least the best that I’ve had. There is something about their tofu that is so silky and smooth that I can just eat it straight from the pot.

Their way of doing the menu is to print it on placemats that you eat on top of. That way, the table is cleaner and they don’t need to come by and take your menu. Their menu is too simple to even really need a major, lamenated menu. There is 9 types of tofu soup and the only other dish they serve is Galbi, or Korean BBQ Ribs. All tofu soups are $9 each and it comes with the Banchan, or side dishes, and rice

Since the Boyfriend’s mother ordered before we sat down, once we were seated, the Banchan came. There’s kimchi and various other side sides but my favorite has always been the cucumber kimchi. Despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of spicy foods, I can never say no to cucumber kimchi. We even got an extra container to take home for dinner the next day.

The Boyfriend and I shared a Mushroom Tofu Soup, in which we popped two raw eggs into since there were two of us. The waiter brought over a huge pot of rice, which he scooped out into smaller metal bowls for each of us. The Mushroom Tofu Soup is one of my favorites because I personally love mushrooms. It’s healthy and not too oily. I know Koreans eat their chigae by putting the rice into the soup but for me, putting tofu soup over rice is the best. I can easily eat more than a bowl of rice with it.

We also ordered a Beef Tofu Soup (Left) and a Seafood Tofu Soup (Right). The beef is a bit oiler and salter than the mushroom but it is still very good. The Seafood is jam-packed with ingredients. There are shrimp, clams, and oysters all inside this little pot of soup. My favorite is the clams because by the time I drink enough soup to reach the clams, they have already absorbed so much flavor from the soup. So delicious!

So Kong Dong’s menu is very simple but I like it that way. It allows me to purely focus on the Tofu Soup and nothing else. I don’t have to think about choosing to eat Bibimbap or BBQ or the many other Korean dishes. I can just enjoy the delicious tofu. The service isn’t very attentive and your hair and clothes will come out smelling like Galbi but I wouldn’t have this place any other way.

BCD Tofu House

Trips to Woodbury usually mean dim sum in the car on the ride up and fast food in the food court for lunch. Trips home from Woodbury usually mean tofu chigae up at Fort Lee. The Boyfriend and his parents usually head over to So Kong Dong for some of their infamous soondooboo chigae but they wanted to try something new this time around. This is why we found ourselves trying to locate BCD Tofu House by GPS and almost failing miserably. Tip: You have to drive UP the ramp and into the parking lot. By the time we got out of the car, we already smelled Korean food so we were pretty hooked.

We were seated right away in their very spacious dining room. Here’s one big difference from So Kong Dong – you don’t have to wait 20 minutes for a table and then be squished together with 50 other hungry people. Many Yelp reviewers mentioned cute waitresses, but we didn’t run into any. Liars!

BCD Tofu House serves a large variety of Ban Chans, or side dishes. They had a broccoli-crabmeat side, kimchi, kimchi onions, and pickled carrots. Each patron also got their own small, fried fish! Another major difference between BCD Tofu House and So Kong Dong is the menu. While So Kong Dong only serves chigae and Galbi, BCD Tofu House has noodles, bibimbap, various meats and many appetizers. We still wanted soondooboo so we decided to order two – their Seafood chigae, which features clams, shrimps and mussels, and their Pork chigae ($8.99), since the Boyfriend’s mom doesn’t eat beef. Each entrée order comes with a side of rice, so prepare to be stuffed!

 

We also ordered a Bibimbap to share – the Boyfriend’s mom loves that they give you the option of ordering each dish with or without beef. We ordered our bibimbap without beef but it was loaded with vegetables – sautéed spinach, shitake mushroom, carrots, zucchini, radish, and egg ($14.99). They leave you to mix it yourself so you can add however much red pepper paste as you want. This was one of the most loaded bibimbap bowls I have ever had!

We also went ordered their Daeji Bulgogi, or spicy pork belly ($16.99). It was delicious! The serving size was huge! The pork was very tender and chewy. Despite the heat from this dish, we all kept eating it because it was so good. I’m not usually a pork eater – I prefer beef over pork- but I couldn’t stop myself from eating it – even when I was full!

The service at BCD Tofu House is kind of the same as So Kong Dong. I don’t see any drastic differences. The waitresses kind of just appear when they need to deliver food and then disappear. The busboys are the ones that clear your table and pour you more water – I saw them more than I saw our waitress. In terms of food, BCD Tofu House definitely has more options but I think So Kong Dong’s chigae is by far more delicious .When you order a mild at So Kong Dong, it really is a mild. When you order a mild (half a pepper icon) at BCD Tofu House, you get chigae that’s very spicy. Even the Boyfriend, who can normally take spice, thought it was too much. We were all contemplating how we would order next time since the next level of spiciness after mild is regular.

If you asked me which restaurant I prefer, I would no doubt tell you So Kong Dong. The service sucks and it’s cramped, but their chigae is as advertised. They also have those heavenly kimchi cucumbers that I absolutely love!