For Korean Lunch in Chelsea, Kofoo Is as Good as It Gets

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Clockwise from top left: Exterior of Kofoo, eel dup bop, assorted kimbap, duk bok gi.

The Serious Eats office isn't located in the most depressing of culinary wastelands, but there's little in the way of gastronomic delight to be had in this part of Chelsea, which I think would make a good candidate for the title of "The Butt of New York City." However, we do have one shining star just around the corner from our building: Kofoo, a cheap, fresh, fast, and reliable Korean take-out that is easily the place I've eaten at the most in all of New York City.

What's Good?

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Spicy tuna kimbap and barbecue chicken kimbap with brown rice.

Having eaten most of the items on the menu, I'd say everything is good, depending on what you're craving. Bibimbap, bulbogi, japchae, and more; they've got most of your favorite basic Korean dishes.

My favorite is the spicy tuna kimbap—like sushi on steroids, filled with dangerously mouth-tinglingly spicy canned tuna—although if I'm hungrier, I'll go for an assortment of kimbap that includes one piece of each of their ten types.

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Omelet rice and its innards.

If I'm really hungry, I'll order one of the hefty special dishes, my favorites being omelet rice (a big pile of ketchup-enhanced rice and chopped vegetables wrapped in an omelet) and eel dup bop (eel atop a mix of broccoli, onion and pepper, and loads of rice). From the selection of soups, I always go for the soon du bu ji gae, where every spoonful is full of soft tofu, spicy red peppery soup, kimchi, and pork bits. It's perfect for a cold day or when you're feeling under the weather.

A few things are already prepared (kimchi, salads, some lunchtime-only dishes), but most dishes are made to order. This means you may have to wait longer than you'd expect to—kimbaps are fast, special dishes less so—but it's worth it to get something fresh.

Kimbap rolls cost about $5 each, while soups and specials range from $6 to $8. Most sides are around $2. For a little extra, you can replace white rice with brown rice in many dishes. It's not the best Korean food you'll ever eat, but it's satisfying for the price—you can't get fresh Korean food in the area for much cheaper than this.

What's Not So Good?

Since Kofoo mostly does take-out, you're best off taking your food ... well, out. If you don't have a place to bring your food back to, you might be able to score one of the handful of stools in front of the window counter to eat at. If those seats are taken, you can go around the corner to FIT's campus and sit on one of the outdoor benches if it's nice out. If it's raining and you have nowhere to go, then you're just screwed.

Aside from the kimbap, most dishes are large enough to serve two people. You could see this as a good thing—eat half, save the other half for the next day's lunch—but in my case, this tends to result in me eating, say, 1.5 servings, feeling disgustingly full, then having a useless half-serving left that can't act as a full meal. If I could restrain myself to just eating one serving, I wouldn't have a problem, but when in the throes of digging into, say, a monstrously huge omelet rice, I can't help but go overboard, then subsequently feel sick for having eaten too much and not want to keep the remaining mound of food. I've lost count of how many times I ordered a nonkimbap dish, eaten too much of it, and then wished I had just gotten a kimbap for the sake of not busting an important digestive organ.

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Can you handle the shallow bucket of cold, chewy noodles?

The single most excessive dish I've ever gotten at Kofoo is the cold chewy noodles, which could've fed three people. I stretched it out over a few days, but it unfortunately didn't keep well. Besides that, it tasted "off" as days-old leftovers, and I was just sick of it by the time I ate the last dregs (and for some reason, I felt obligated to eat it all).

Kofoo

Address: 334 Eighth Avenue, New York 10001 (b/n 26th and 27th)
Phone: 212-675-5277

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