Tofu House Warms the Body and Soul – Review of BCD Tofu House

BY BETH KAISERMAN

5 W 32nd St  New York, 10001
(212) 967-1900 / www.bcdtofu.com/

Friendly smiles greeted guests as I stepped into BCD Tofu House on opening night in late April. Delightful Korean fare was being prepared in the kitchen at BCD’s new bi-level restaurant in Koreatown.

Soon Tofu

Soon Tofu

Located at 5 W. 32nd St., BCD Tofu House (formerly down the street at 17 W. 32nd St.) is a popular fast casual restaurant that’s been around since 1996, with most of its locations in Southern California. The brand is known for its traditional Korean tofu soup, known as “Soon Tofu Soup.” This yummy, hearty bowl of pork tofu soup was the highlight of the night, made with chili powder, bean paste, tofu, cabbage and salt water. I chose the seafood version, with mussels and shrimp, as opposed to the pork one. Served piping hot, attentive servers came around with eggs, which we cracked into the clay pot bowl. Covered with the steaming hot soup and a ton of hot seafood, the egg cooks itself at the bottom of the bowl. Talk about feel-good food; this dish is amazingly tasty and healthy at the same time.

LA Galbi

LA Galbi

 We also tried LA Galbi, awesome BBQ short ribs with the bone on, my second favorite dish of the night. Other tastings included jabchae, glass noodles with vegetables and tofu, spicy raw crab, fried dumplings, shrimp potato rolls, and grilled tofu skewers.

Longtime BCD fan Helen Kang attended the event. Born in SoCal, she’s hooked on BCD’s tofu soup, and said that’s pretty much the norm in SoCal.

“If you’re going to go anywhere for tofu, that’s where you go,” she said.

She liked the layout of this new location, with its long wooden tables and chairs.

“The idea here is Korean traditional,” she said. “Wood is very important.”

BCD stands for “Buk-Chang-Dong,” a city known for its prosperity, according to a press release. The ribbon was cut on Thursday, and BCD Tofu House is now open to the public.

BCD Tofu House on Urbanspoon

 

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

Dumplings Galore – Review of Mandoo Bar

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Mandoo Bar
2 West 32nd Street
K Town
212-279-3075

Making dumplings at Mandoo – Photo courtesy of Cerebral Decanting Blog

Making dumplings at Mandoo – Photo courtesy of Cerebral Decanting Blog

Mandoo, or Mandu is the word for Korean dumplings.  Mandoo bar in K Town serves up freshly made dumplings in a variety of fried and boiled flavors.  Different than your average Chinese dumpling or Japanese Gyoza, Mandoo has a distinctly Korean flavor much lighter than that of its Asian counterparts.

Mandoo is a staple in my Manhattan restaurant repertoire.  Whenever I’m in the mood for some delicious Korean food, but don’t want to shell out the bucks for Korean BBQ, I stop by Mandoo.

Although the shabby digs could use an update and the staff could stand to be a little friendlier, I sure have a hard time passing up a dumpling filled with kimchi, pork, and scallions (Kimchee Mandoo, 10 pcs. for $10).  While not every dumpling offered tops my favorites list, like the seafood mandoo, boiled and filled with shrimp and imitation crab meat coming in a little on the bland side, Mandoo Bar is a great place to take a few people and share dumplings with, especially if they have never tried Korean food before.

Mandoo Soup at Mandoo Bar

Mandoo Soup at Mandoo Bar


On my most recent trip, I tried the mandoo soup ($11), a large bowl of clear beef broth with pork dumplings and bits of shredded beef and scallion.  Although not the most appetizing looking thing that has ever been placed in front of me with its pale broth and equally as pale dumplings, the mandoo soup was quite good after spiced up a bit with
sriracha.  The flavors were light, but it was a completely comforting dish that my friend claimed cured the cold she had been fighting!

Mandoo Bar is a K Town staple that I will forever come back to for a dose of Korean comfort food at affordable prices.

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Mandoo Bar on Urbanspoon

Sushi Cafeteria – Review of Ichi Umi

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Ichi Umi
6 East 32nd Street
K-Town
212-725-1333/ichiumi.com

With all-you-can-eat buffets a rare sight in The City, I had been waiting for the perfect time to gorge myself on Sushi at Ichi Umi.  After a short trip to Connecticut, I walked down Madison Avenue to 32nd Street and into the much anticipated megalith of Sushi and other Japanese/Korean fare that housed Ichi Umi.  Walking in to the enormous sushi cafeteria we had about a 30 minute wait ahead of us.  The place was packed, and it was mostly with Asian people.  Most always a good sign when you’re getting ready to dine at an Asian restaurant.

The interior was pleasant with a painted ceiling to look like a blue sky and other shades of blues and greens lining the walls and various lighting fixtures, all designed to mimic the waves of the ocean.  Not so pleasant were the ugly tables, sticky with who knows what, set up in a cafeteria-like inspiring fashion.

Buffet at Ichi Uni

Buffet at Ichi Uni

I went up to the buffet and filled my plate about three times before I hit maximum capacity. [Read more...]

Under the Green Tent: Korean Street Food – Review of Pocha 32

BY SARAH IP

Pocha 32
15 W 32nd St, 2nd Fl
(between 5th Ave & Broadway)
Koreatown
, NY  10001
(212) 279-1874

Green Tent.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Green Tent. Photo by Sarah Ip.

Imagine yourself bundled up in layers in the dead of winter, sitting on a stool outdoors under a plastic green tent with gurgling pots of kimchi -infused casseroles, soups and spices mingling around you.  Soju bottle in hand, pouring your sunbaenim (elder, in Korean) a shot and knocking the vodka-like substance back with a hearty “Kanbei!”…followed by a loud, vehement clearing of the throat.  Slurping down ramyun like it was a race to the finish, burning your tongue in the process because you want to eat the noodles while they’re not soggy. [Read more...]

The New KFC: Korean Fried Chicken – Review of Bonchon Chicken

BY SARAH IP

Bonchon Chicken
207 W 38th St
(between 7th Ave & 8th Ave)
Koreatown
/ New York, New York
(212) 221-3339
www.bonchon.com/eng/index.php

Original Soy & Garlic Fried Chicken.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

Original Soy & Garlic Fried Chicken. Photo by Sarah Ip.

I love KFC.  That’s Korean Fried Chicken (and not that other, Colonel Sanders-style chicken).  No, this isn’t Southern fried chicken with grits and collard greens on the side.  You’d more likely find it served with daikon (pickled radish).  It’s not dipped in batter twice and fried to a crisp.  Instead, Korean fried chicken is made with a delicate soy and garlic marinade, resulting in a light crunch. [Read more...]

“IHOT: The International House of Tofu”* – Review of BCD Tofu House

BY SARAH IP

BCD Tofu House
17 W. 32nd St.
Koreatown, NY 10079
(212) 967-1900 /
bcdtofu.com

BCD Tofu House Menu.  Photo by Sarah Ip.

BCD Tofu House Menu. Photo by Sarah Ip.

J, my friend from Boston, came to visit New York City.  He, DY and I set off to embark on a Manhattan tour, stomping from Soho to midtown, in search of interesting sights and sounds.  Mesmerized by the lights of Broadway, we continued on to Koreatown for a little something to fill our bellies. [Read more...]

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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. [Read more...]