A paneled ceiling design, stained glass, and simple wooden furniture inform the welcoming decor at the Korean Hanbat Restaurant. With an extensive menu of traditional dishes, the Zagat-rated and 2013 Michelin-recommended restaurant's Korean roots run deeper than a wide receiver whose brakes are broken. Its kitchen staff whips up plates of pajun, a scallion pancake with seafood, or bi bim kook soo, Korean-style noodles with beef and vegetables including strips of carrots, peppers, onion, and large chunks of broccoli.
Franchia Vegan Café on Park Avenue in Midtown is a multi-cuisine oasis for vegetarians, vegans and the health conscious set that refuses to believe their meals must be marginalized. Conceived by the proprietors of Hangawi, the interior of Franchia exudes a similar serenity and simplicity, marked by a traditional imperial Korean design structure of dark natural grain wood and Asian decorative elements. An intricate ceiling mural adds a splash of vibrant color to the dining area, while the menu itself is just as warm, offering an eclectic menu of Chinese, Korean, Thai and Japanese selections, from stir-fried rice noodles to bibimbap. At Franchia, conscious eaters can completely nourish their mind and body, particularly with an infusion of wild Korean green tea.
Woorijip offers a buffet-style alternative to the Korean barbecue joints that dot this strip of Midtown, and with prices that keep the line perpetually long. Literally rubbing elbows with strangers at the cafeteria-like tables may not make for the most comfortable dining experience, but the portion sizes will make you forget your no-frills woes in a hurry. Fill up a plate of pre-cooked dishes, like the popular bulgogi with kimchi fried rice and bean paste stew, for $7.99 a pound. And if there’s no place to sit, all you have to do is simply grab one of the pre-packed hot food boxes in the back, which sell for around $7 each. Even the imported Korean wine and beer is cheap, at around $6.99 a bottle. The only challenge is getting through the line.
Making international cuisine accessible to everyone requires a willingness to adapt recipes without sacrificing distinctive flavors. Kori Tribeca aims to transplant the foods of Seoul to Manhattan, and the New York Times praised its success in creating a menu that is "up-to-date and appealing to Americans but tied to Korean traditions."
Not only do iconic ingredients such as kimchi and Korean-style short ribs populate the menu but the pages also feature authentic cooking techniques. Bibimbap—a mixture of rice, sautéed vegetables, and proteins including pork belly, grilled eel, or organic tofu—arrives at tables in a sizzling stone bowl that continues to cook the dish tableside while diners enjoy the sounds and aromas.
The dining room takes a similar approach, melding small yet prominent aspects of Korean culture into a thoroughly modern setting. A handful of Korean musical instruments and three panels of Eastern Asian artwork adorn the walls. These accents add a distinctive character to the room's otherwise sleek combination of white brick work and black high-backed booth seating.
In the backyard of a friend's bar in 2008, AsiaDog cofounders Mel and Steve started testing the culinary limits of the hot dog. They wanted to give the street-food staple a twist that could not be found inside any pushcart. That twist came in the form of ingredients that were a mainstay of their mixed Asian backgrounds. The spicy zing of kimchi. The crisp crunch of daikon. The delicate saltiness of seaweed flakes.
These experiments ultimately gave rise to AsiaDog, a casual eatery that infuses hot dogs and sandwiches with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors. Using beef, organic beef, chicken, or veggie hot dogs as the foundation, the staff piles on toppings such as Chinese-style barbecue pork belly, crushed potato chips, and Japanese curry. They also encase corn dogs in panko breading or kimchi pancake batter, making each hot dog extra comfortable before it’s eaten.
The New York Times once praised chef Jung Sik Yim's rare "talent for forming entirely new patterns" with his cooking. A glance at the chef's New Korean menu confirms his creativity; witness such entrees as crispy pork belly in a spicy mussel broth, short rib in cucumber salsa, and Korean seaweed rice with quinoa. The chef prepares dishes like an artist prepares a masterpiece, arranging bright colors to form something beautiful that, like the Mona Lisa, would be ruined if you covered it in salt and ketchup. The food isn't the only appealing sight at Jungsik; the restaurant also hosts a gallery that displays artwork representative of modern Korean culture and customs.