Flushing: Taking Stock in Beef Broth at Geum Sung Chik Naengmyun
You may wonder why we write in such effusive praise of Korean restaurants in the neighborhood of Flushing. After all, there are perfectly fine Korean dining options within Manhattan's Koreatown, and I certainly have my favorites on 32nd Street. But the devil is in the details and the yearning for something special. It's what lures us into Flushing in search of something inspiring to eat. And for years, I've returned to Geum Sung Chik Naengmyun in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Flushing, which specializes in their namesake dish, chik naengmyun, cold arrowroot noodles. But what makes this preparation of chik naengmyun truly special is the base of irresistible home brewed beef broth, yook soo, which they expertly ply into a variety of classic Korean dishes.
The restaurant's spotlight may be on the noodles, but one's attention is held rapt by the yook soo. It's not a particularly fatty or unctuous broth, nor is it salty or overly redolent of aromatics and herbs. Instead, this moo juice conveys clean beefy flavors which elevate anything it touches. It even comes in a teapot, meant to be consumed during the meal, complimentary along with your standard assortment of banchan. Yes, hot beef tea—simultaneously low-brow and brilliant, and you'll want to drink teapot after teapot of this stuff.
To fully appreciate Geun Sung's yook soo, try an order of halabuhji kimchi bulgogi ($18.99). The same broth is condensed and poured into the outer ring of a copper dome, and set over a gas flame. Then they pile on thinly sliced ribeye, lightly marinated and beautifully rife with marbled fat. That comes right after a bed of well aged kimchi, crunchy scallions and fat white mushrooms has been set in place. When heated, the meat simultaneously sizzles on its loft, while receiving a beefy steam bath from the moat of yook soo. Unlike a traditional bulgogi, which is easily overcooked to grainy disappointment, this technique produces a velvety tender and moist bite of beef.
Yook soo also makes an appearance as the soup base in bowl of chik naengmyun ($12.99). It's difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes this preparation stand out from its peers. The yook soo certainly has a great deal to do with it, but some credit is due to the perfectly pliant and toothsome arrowroot noodles. And the well orchestrated balance of textures and flavors of crispy bae (Asian pear) and sliced cucumbers, as well as an appreciable spike of vinegar and a sucker punch of sinus clearing hot mustard, certainly play a role.
The thought may be fleeting, but if you've had the oft wan and gummy bowls of naengmyun found in the kitchens in Manhattan's Koreatown, you'll think you may have found New York's best preparation of this dish at Geum Sung. Indeed, it isn't that these dishes are unique to Flushing, but the commitment to authenticity and craftsmanship found at restaurants up and down Northern Boulevard is compelling cause to eschew Manhattan's K-town. The Flushing restaurateur needn't be self conscious in appealing to the masses, nor does their menu need to look like an un-abridged encyclopedia of Korean dishes. They have carte blanche to do one or two dishes, and to do them exceedingly well. And that is certainly something to take stock in.
Geum Sung Chik Naengmyun
40-07 149th Pl, Flushing NY 11354 (map)