Most New Yorkers have, at one time or another, brushed up against Korean food, usually in the form of grilled beef or fried chicken. But the city has an enormous Korean community, and the best of their restaurants are almost awe-inspiring in their power and finesse. Here are a few to start with.
Most of the Korean fried chicken places are operating on roughly the same plane of quality. This one is a little better, but realy, I just like the name so much. (Plus the sauce isn't too sweet.)
Kim chee, kim chee, and more kim chee at this amazing kim chee specialist. If you've only had the stuff in the jar, you are in for an awakening.
A specialist in the obscure art of hot tofu, this Korean practitioner doesn't have great atmosphere, or much meat, but the tofu is all that.
Korean grilling, for most non-Koreans, tends to appear mostly as little marinated pieces of steak cooked over gas grills. At Takashi, they are using gas grill -- there's nothing you can do about that -- but on the other hand the man does every imaginable part of the cow, including three different kinds of stomach. Talk about snout to tail! It's all good, too.
Hot tofu still, inexplicably, remains a secret to New Yorkers. If they got down to this Queens restaurant they might feel differently; this isn't the flavorless paste they have come to expect.
Here's the thing about korean BBQ. Either they use real coals or they don't. That matters more than everything else put together. And Mapo BBQ is one of the few places that uses coals -- and also some fine meat.
Korean food generally appears on New Yorkers' radar as barbecue or kim chee, but there is a noble noodle tradition in that country, and Arirang its primary celebrant in New York.
A Korean seafood restaurant best known for its live octopus, Sik Gaek has many things better than that freakish dish (although it's a lot better than it sounds.)
Small plates and a menu that is both intensely authentic but which also accomodates American tastes marks this Queens meatery, which is a great entry point for those curious about Korean food.
Small, chic, and catering to a somewhat jaded clientele, this Korean tapas restaurant provides small, intense bites of delicious, if somewhat undistinguished, Asian food in a cool setting.