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“Scene-setter or Cent-stealer?” – Review of Gahm Mi Oak

BY SARAH IP

Gahm Mi Oak
43 W 32nd St.
(between 5th Ave & Broadway)
Koreatown
(212) 695-411
3

Bibimbap.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Bibimbap. Photo by Sarah Ip.

After nearly shattering our vocals during three hours of intense karaoke, my friend C and I were on the hunt for victuals.  Still unable to consume the more fiery offerings of Pocha 32 (notably, the kimchi and gochujang-soaked budae chigae), I chose Gahm Mi Oak for a change.  From outside, sparkling white Christmas lights cast a soft glow over the people eagerly eating and chatting away within.

Gahm Mi Oak’s taste palate is actually more akin to a hybridized take on Korean cuisine than straight-up Korean BBQ.  In fact, Gahm Mi Oak doesn’t even sell Gopdol (stone-bowl) Bibimbap, only the cold version, which C and I both had.  At $14.95, it was one of the less expensive items on the menu, though it was rather light and not fully satisfying.

Décor.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Décor. Photo by Sarah Ip.

The décor is more classy and upscale than traditional Korean restaurants.  Faux-stone walls cast a historical landmark feel to the restaurant, like an antique relic culled from an archaeological dig.  Landscapes from different cities were laid out side-by-side on the walls, reminding me of the artwork from a hip Italian café or chic coffeehouse.

Kimchi.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Kimchi. Photo by Sarah Ip.

Our waiter was efficient, if a tad smug toward non-Korean customers, which made up about 50% of the clientele.  He delivered a large fresh head of kimchi to our table, then proceeded to chop it up with scissors.  I found already on the table a hunk of onions, scallions and fist-sized green Jalapeño peppers encased in lettuce leaves…presumably for eating with meat, if we so desired.  Next to these stood a rectangular dish of ssamjang, or an orange-red sauce made of fermented bean curd and red pepper paste.  I really enjoyed the crunch and full bite of the kimchi, but I anxiously waited for the rest of the banchan that never came.

Bibimbap Close-up.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Bibimbap Close-up. Photo by Sarah Ip.

Mixed with Gochujang.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Mixed with Gochujang. Photo by Sarah Ip.

The bibimbap itself was pretty standard and scant on beef.  We each received a bowl of milky beef broth soup and, at the end, a stick of Lotte chewing gum, which I found funny because it was labeled “Charming.”

This isn’t really the type of cuisine I dig.  I could find better Korean food for cheaper at one of the -odd-dozen Korean joints in K-town.  To be fair, I didn’t try the meat dishes, but that would blow my wallet (most ran upwards of $23+).  I hear the sulongtang is the best dish here.

Gahm Mi Oak was good for a try, but the haughty service put a sour puss on my face.  And c’mon – don’t be so stingy on the appetizers!  I was expecting a full entourage of six or seven small trays of pickled, fermented and spicy appetizers.  Didn’t happen.

Final consensus: Good kimchi.  Portions were on the small side.  All things considered, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to make another trip here.  Gahm Mi Oak was just OK.

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