Yoon Haeundae Galbi (New York, August 2019)

We’ve been curious about the Korean food scene in New York for a while. Koreatown in Los Angeles is usually our stomping ground when we’re there, and it is, of course, a rather hardcore Korean enclave. But New York has a sizable Korean population too and we were interested to see how the food would compare. The boys’ vote, of course, was for Korean barbecue. I looked around online to see what the options were and hit upon Yoon Haeundae Galbi, a recent’ish Manhattan outpost of a restaurant in Busan. Located in Midtown, it was the perfect pick for another evening when we needed a dinner close to a play the missus was going to and when we needed a place that would be an easy sell to some old friends that we were meeting for dinner. And a good meal it proved to be.

It’s not a very large restaurant—at least not the part of it we saw (I’m not sure but I think there may be another level). The part we were in is basically one long, narrow dining room as you walk in. It’s done up quite smartly with lots of wood and tile. Though not as large, the Los Angeles place it puts me in mind of in terms of feel is Chosun Galbee; in other words, it feels upscale—and has prices to match. The dinner menu is compact: one page of meat selections for the grill (all beef) and a couple of pages of other popular Korean dishes, small and large, traditional and trendy. Surprisingly, they don’t have any mul naeng myun on the menu. Ending barbecue meals with a bowl of cold naeng myun always feels right and would have been better still in the middle of a hot and humid week in New York.

From what they do have we chose three of their meat combos. For details on the meat see the slideshow below. We added on a bowl of their jigae with pork belly and another with soybean paste (both were very good). A decent selection of banchan and things to dip and wrap meat in showed up in short order and they got the grills going. We were a large group and had two grills on the go simultaneously. As is not unusual at barbecue places of this nature, servers do most of the grilling for you. On the one hand, this left us more time to chat; on the other, it also meant I lost track of what meats were going on the grill at any given time. I can tell you that it was all of a very good quality. The meats were excellent as was the kimchi—always a bit of a test at Korean restaurants with a significant non-Korean customer base.

For a look at the restaurant and the food, please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for notes on service and cost and value and to see what’s coming next.

Service was friendly and present. There was some oddness in that some of the staff we interacted seemed neither fully comfortable in English nor very willing to talk to the missus in Korean. None of that had much of an effect on the evening once we got past the ordering stage. Oh yes, drinks: one large Sapporo and a 375 ml bottle of a soju made in New York and finished in American oak barrels (it was quite nice). Those plus some teas and all the food, tax and included tip came to $487. We were nine of us but the equivalent of 8 adults eating: so just over $60/head. That is probably very good for Manhattan for a large meal comprising a lot of very good beef—indeed, I ate a far inferior Indian dinner the next night that cost a fair bit more—but we pay far less in Los Angeles for Korean barbecue that is comparable in quality. Though not an apples to apples comparison, for reference, our dinner at Ahgassi Gopchang in January came in at just $30/head (and we liked that better). But Manhattan’s gonna Manhattan, I guess. Thankfully, one of my friends insisted on paying for everyone.

Next up from New York: a much cheaper and far more casual meal on the Upper Westside and a fancy Italian meal. Those will be next week; but first a return to In Bloom in St. Paul—that’ll probably be on Tuesday.

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