Lined with busy shops bearing Korean-language signs, Palisades Park's Broad Avenue is the "epicenter of life in Korean New Jersey," according to food blog Serious Eats. Nestled on this bustling strip is Hanbat Restaurant, the sister location of the Michelin-recommended Manhattan eatery of the same name. Hanbat's menu reveals its chefs' commitment to traditional Korean cuisine: iconic ingredients like kimchi and L.A. kalbi or marinated beef short ribs help chefs add their distinctive flavors to select dishes, and the barbecue section spotlights everything from grilled brisket to duck. The dishes' presentation also adds to this deeply rooted sense of authenticity: in addition to serving rice in hot stone bowls, chefs also stir-fry a couple of entrees tableside, incorporating pork belly, vegetables, and a choice of seafood into the mix.
At the center of the platters of miso-soaked steak, intricately marbled Kobe-style short ribs, garlic shrimp, and fresh veggies that crowd any given table at Gyu-Kaku sits a yakiniku grill, ready to bring all these flavors to life. At more than 700 locations worldwide, parties choose from a cornucopia of ingredients, tell their servers how they'd like them marinated—in sauces ranging from the strictly traditional to basil pesto—then begin searing their feast over the smokeless gas grill. New York magazine admired how "dominoes of harami skirt steak, marinated in sweet dark miso, turn caramelized and succulent on the hot grill." If protein overload looms, there are stone bowls of bibimbap and ramen to add balance. Patrons can wash down their meals with super-premium daiginjo sakes, sweet Japanese plum wines, and Asahi Super Dry beer, known to enhance its imbibers' deadpan witticisms.
Kang Suh specializes in authentic Korean cuisine, and takes care to create a welcoming atmosphere surrounding every aspect of the dining experience inside. The main dining room is brightly lit and simply decorated, with firm red chairs, a charcoal gray color scheme and square dividers similar to the natural wall panels found in Korean Hanok architecture. Food is served up in a traditional Korean style, presented in clean white bowls to emphasize the colorful ingredients. Hot items, like cha dol bae gi, a thin, non-marinated beef brisket, are cooked in front of you on a circular Korean barbecue, but with over six pages of dishes to choose from, diners could spend many meals at Kang Suh without every trying the same thing twice. Order up an array of kimchi, seafood pancakes, noodle soups and more, all of which can be shared amongst family and friends in the traditional Korean style.
Chom Chom's chefs serve up authentic Korean entrees, sushi rolls, and shareable Korean small plates, or kapas, in a chic, modern restaurant. Nimble fingers stuff homemade dumplings, and a stone bowl of dolsot bibimbap arrives to the table crowned with a fried egg. The 5,000-square-foot eatery rambles over two floors and seats 120 diners, whose optic appetites are sated by walls bedecked with yellow horizontal light fixtures and backlit cross-sections of tofu tree. Signature cocktails flood martini glasses with flavors such as green tea, lychee, and traditional soju as wooden spoons and chopsticks at each place setting lie in wait of post-meal stilt races.
Sleek, modern, and smokeless, Kristalbelli stands counter to what most people expect from Korean barbecue. So do the shiny crystal grills from which the eatery gets its name. But though the New York Times Critics' Pick might be like nothing you've ever seen before, tradition falls into step with innovation here under the guidance of Chef Kay Hyun. Trained at SoHo's French Culinary Institute, she long dreamed of making Korean food as ubiquitous to Americans as Italian and Mexican. With Kristalbelli's appealing mix of traditional and fusion dishes and outstanding staff?The Michelin Guide touts the restaurant's "well-trained service team and very talented kitchen"?she's made a great start at making her own wish come true.
The Grill: Made of natural stone, Kristalbelli's crystal grills cook meat two to three times faster than traditional metallic grills?and look good doing it, too. Each translucent cooking surface is inset in the round belly of a golden buddha-like figure, who smiles up at diners from the center of their table. Since the food cooks so quickly, servers watch over the grill themselves, stirring and flipping morsels to ensure each one cooks evenly. The high temperature of the grilling surface gives each slice of meat a nice sear, while infrared rays from within the crystal help heat penetrate deep inside.
Don't Skip: * For a traditional Korean cold dish, try the gujeolpan. Known as traditional empress cuisine, it's akin to a Korean taco: crepes wrapped around assorted vegetables and minced beef. * Chef Kay loves to mix and match cooking techniques from different cultures, most notably the French she studied in culinary school. One of Cho's favorites is the steak tartar pasta, whose unusual combination of raw steak and ricotta cavatelli pasta looks like a mismatch, until it hits the palate.
In 2012, S. Pellegrino named Momofuku Ssäm Bar one of The World's 50 Best Restaurants. The impressive accolade—along with masterful interpretations of Korean cuisine—catapulted Momofuku's East Village location into a destination for epicureans. Patrons call in advance to order group-size platters of duck and slow-smoked pork. The latter of these two meals, bo ssäm, requires nearly a full day of preparation. An entire pork shoulder cures overnight before chefs coat it with a rub made from brown sugar and slow roast it for up to eight hours. After servers arrange the spread, groups gather round, make wraps out lettuce and pork meat, and share the meal. The attention-to-detail shown during bo ssäm's preparation extends to the walk-in lunch and dinner menus. Chefs roast ducks—adding subtle accents of pork—and sprinkle pine nuts over charred spanish octopus. The tour de force of flavor doesn't necessarily end with the meal; guests can head over to Booker and Dax, an onsite bar mixing up inventive cocktails.