Don't let the crowds at K-Town's Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong or its long name scare you off. This offshoot of a popular Queens restaurant, named after a Korean comedian and former wrestler, is serving the real deal. Just be prepared to wait for an hour or more during peak times, which on a Saturday night is just about anytime. And there are no reservations. One saving grace is that the restaurant has a full bar serving things like plum wine and a distilled Korean rice liquor that our bartender said was similar to gin. It wasn't. But after a few shots who really cares.
There are two dining rooms; one on the ground floor and another one flight up along with private glass enclosed rooms for larger groups. The space is pretty non-descript except for air vents protruding from the ceiling like the arms of the robot on "Lost in Space" sucking up any excess smoke. But you won't be hearing, "Danger Will Robinson." The only danger here is from overeating.
Start with kimchi that packs plenty of heat while managing to hold onto its crunch, pickled radish sliced paper thin, silky tofu sprinkled with chili oil and green onion, and chunks of daikon in an ice water bath with hot chillies. In a canal surrounding the grill you will find corn mixed with melted cheese. Eat it. There's also an egg mixture that transforms into a soft custard as the grill heats up. Eat that too. It's all fabulous.
There really is no reason to order appetizers here, but we decided to try two anyway. One was a traditional fried pancake packed with seafood and dipped in a soy mixture. The other, very tender grilled octopus, arrived with a tangle of rice noodles and more kimchi.
When it comes to the grilling, it's best to look, but not touch. Servers take their duties here very seriously. An attempt to grill our own meat was met with a stern look of disapproval mainly because they want everything to be perfect. Grills are swapped out depending on the cut of meat. Thin slices of perfectly-marbled brisket get a flash burn before being pushed to the side. A grill with a wider mesh is brought out to cook a thicker slab of ribeye. Meats here are among the finest in the city. My personal favorites: sirloin in a soy marinade and pork belly which needed just a dash of sea salt to bring out all of its true flavors.
And that's really what it's all about. Flavor. And you will find it along with an authentic Korean dining experience at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong.
See more on TheCitiBlog