Flushing: A Goat Feast at Bangane
"Given the dining trends, we're apt to see additional in vogue restaurants, perhaps somewhere in the Village, introduce a large-format goat feast in the near future."
The New York dining scene follows a constant ebb and flow of trends. Consider the large format meal, arguably the most well known being David Chang's bo ssäm feast at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Paying respect to the whole animal and primal cuts can now be seen as a feather in the fedora of a restaurant's coolness and credibility. Or consider goat—once a meat for squares, but now in vogue. You can probably see where I'm going with this. Should the adventurous epicure with an outsized appetite aspire for a large format feast addressed to goat meat, a sojourn to Bangane in Flushing, Queens, is a must.
The restaurant's curtailed menu includes Korean classics such as ori gui (duck), samgyeopsal (pork belly), or galbi (marinated short ribs), all grilled with flourish at the table. But the pride of Bangane is baebaji sooyuk —the restaurant's slang for the boiled belly and rib portion of goat meat. An order ($55.90) is meant for two diners (although it could easily satisfy three). $55.90 for a dinner for two may seem pricey for the area, but reflected in this price is actually a 3-course prix fixe dinner with all the indulgent accord but none of the daintiness and frivolity of Western degustation.
The first course arrives as an entire side of boiled on-the-bone goat, impressively large and gloriously primal. The serving vessel is nothing more than a massive cutting board, which they find room for on your table amongst a sea of colorful and generous banchan. The waitress disassembles the beast, flaking the meat into bite-sized morsels, while paring off the recalcitrant strands of unsavory connective tissue and fat. She then layers the meat into a buchu (chive) lined steamer basket with solemn efficiency, only cracking a faint smile when a diner audibly swoons with delight.
Patrons who are versed in goat will appreciate the assertively meaty and earthy flavors in this simple preparation. We huddled around the steamer basket, ravenously stabbing with our chopsticks at the cooked goat belly, which is subsequently tucked inside a sangchu ssam (lettuce wrap). Condiments can be applied—as much as the individual eater feels appropriate—including pa muchum (scallion salad) or a dab of ssamjang (spicy bean paste) which has been stippled with deulkkae garu (perilla seeds). This method of dining does much to tame the richness of the meat, creating a wondrous balance of flavors and textures. And look, Mom, we're eating our vegetables!
On to the second course. After two-thirds or so of the steamed goat belly has been picked through, the remaining meat and buchu is transferred to a vigorously boiling jungol, a hearty stew composed of a confidently spicy but not antagonizing broth, cooked strands of ssugkat (edible chrysanthemum), more deulkkae garu, and other vegetables. This time, our waitress takes a pair of spoons and deftly mixes the stew—the sharpness of the broth and the crunch of vegetables compliments the meatiness and gaminess of the goat, resulting in an outstanding bowl of soup.
A dining companion muses out-loud that, after tasting the jungol, she didn't believe it possible for the next course to trump the previous—this notion was tested by the final course. Table service is concluded with a course of bokkeumbap, fresh rice that's been lightly fried in the remaining jungol and dressed with strips of roasted seaweed and a squirt of sesame oil. The waitress ladles bowls of the steaming hot rice for each diner, and then excuses herself with a polite bow. At this point in the meal, we've stuffed ourselves to bursting—not only on the ssam and jungol, but also on the generous parade of banchan and excellently done gyeran jjim (steamed egg), of which we've ordered seconds and even thirds (complimentary). But the rice is too luscious and too fragrant to ignore, so push forward past the limit of sensibility in the ignoble pursuit of indulgence.
After the final self-congratulatory glass of soju was gulped, the bill settled, and the unenviable 20 minute return voyage on the LIRR underway, I noted with slight regret that such an exultant dining experience is so distant for most city-dwellers -- Resto seems to be the only Manhattan restaurant with a large format goat option. However, I maintain the prediction that given the dining trends, we're apt to see additional in vogue restaurants, perhaps somewhere in the Village, introduce a large-format goat feast in the near future. Until that happens, one can dine splendidly and fashionably at Bangane.
16519 Northern Blvd, Flushing, NY 11358 (map)