HIT Korean Food & Deli: Kimchi and Reubens in a Chelsea Office Building
Bibimbap and Reubens from one deli? That you have to walk through an office building, past a doorman to find? It's a little confusing, but something of a Korean deli speakeasy, and just a five-minute walk from SEHQ.
When Ed first brought us back the menu for HIT Korean Food & Deli on 28th Street near 7th Avenue, we all sat around and oooh'ed, envisioning the whimsical, and potentially awful, fusion possibilities. Korean cheesesteaks? Omelets with kimchi and bulgogi? It's not Korean-deli fusion, though. The Korean menu's on one side, the classic NYC-style deli items (all the sandwiches you'd expect, plus the colorful beverage fridge and packaged cookie rack) on the other.
Owner Kevin Kim and his wife opened in November of 2010, but before that, they ran a smaller coffee shop in the same space. They still do a morning menu, including breakfast sandwiches and even free coffee with every order. But so far, we've just been for lunch. And we've been back multiple times—there are very few days we don't crave a big bowl of bibimbap with tangy, tongue-kicking kimchi.
"I grow that lettuce in my backyard," said Kim as he was bagging up our bibimbap, pointing to the leaves in the bowl. How's that for a locavore Korean deli owner? Once his kale is all grown, he'll be adding that too.
This bibimbap ($7.95) encompasses almost everything that's wonderful about the 'bap: a crunchy medley of bean sprouts, carrot slivers, and other veggies, with a fried egg, big mushrooms that are as meaty as the beef, all on a bed of fluffy white rice. "Don't forget to mix in the red sauce and kimchi!" Kim reminded us (and, naturally, we did, though the veggies are vibrant enough on their own).
Whatever you order, be it a Turkey Club even, make sure to grab a mini tub of Kim's homemade kimchi. (When asked if it's homemade, he made one of those oh-are-you-kidding-me faces, and shook his head for at least four seconds.) It's also what makes the kimchi-bokkeumbap ($6.95) so good. The fried rice dish turns red from all the kimchi mixed in. It's like a bowl of salty, briney kimchi fell into your fried rice leftovers. Except the rice is tender and moist, not Rice Krispies-texture.
The kimchi pancakes (oh, kimchi, what won't you make better?) come three 'cakes to an order ($2.75). Full of mung beans, they're crunchy inside with a floppy body. Very munchable, but not the most exciting use of kimchi here.
Mapo Tofu ($7.95) was one of the few non-kimchi-bearing dishes we had on the Korean side of the menu. If you're used to the Chinese take on Mapo Tofu, this isn't that. The only real similarities between the two: both have tofu, both are spicy.
Now, onto the left wall: the deli menu. We didn't spend as much time on this side, since all the Korean food sounded more exciting, but a Reuben seemed like the right litmus test.
You have your choice of corned beef or pastrami (we chose the latter) with melted Swiss, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye. The sandwich wasn't that inspired, but fine for a lunchtime reuben in Midtown West. It's as good as any good reuben you'd find in Boston (no offense, Boston) and hits the spot, but not worth a detour. The Korean side of the menu on the other hand, worth walking through an office building to find.
HIT Korean Food & Deli
Hiding inside the office building at 150 W. 28th Street, New York, NY 10001 (near 7th Avenue; map); 212-633-1530