Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
Grill Your Own Dinner
My girlfriend and I love the kind of restaurants where you cook your own food, specifically anything with a tabletop grill. I guess it's the interactive part that we find really fun. Any ideas? I'm sure there are great choices in the outer boroughs but I'd love any Manhattan ideas especially.
Do you like pork belly? Do you like pork belly drippings on kimchi? How about the idea of cooking on crystal? If you're nodding, head to Hanjoo, in Flushing, Queens if you're so inclined, or to their East Village location since you wanted Manhattan recs too. While the menu is extensive, it's really the pig you're here for. Go for a pork combination platter and you'll have a thick quartz slab erected on your table, heated by a gas burner, and a plate of raw pork brought to you. Drop each slice on the hot crystal and watch it sizzle, as the fat runs down and collects in the kimchi at the bottom. Eat one slice in a time, wrapped in a perilla leaf if you choose, and save that pork-saturated kimchi for the end.
While Hanjoo may look a bit pricey on first glance, a combination meal is easily enough for two; and as in so many Korean restaurants, it's served with an array of free banchan, no sides or apps really necessary.
If beef's the thing, you couldn't do better than Takashi. The classy but quirky West Village restaurant (you can't miss the cartoon blackboard sketches) specializes in yakiniku, tabletop grilled beef, and their offerings are remarkable. Inclined to try the cow's third stomach, or grill up some intestines? Have at it—but their more conventional offerings are incredible too, including the short rib kalbi, tongue, or cheek. With its friendly service, sharp aesthetic, and great roster of appetizers (and a killer soft-serve for dessert), it's also just a great date spot by any standard.
But there's plenty more fun to be had in the outer boroughs, namely Queens. Hop the LIRR to Flushing if you'd rather not spend an hour on the 7 train, but then take your pick: fabulous kalbi at Mapo BBQ in Murray Hill, Queens, where the short ribs are lightly marinated, deeply marbled, and cooked on glowing coals in front of you. Pork belly fans will love Tong Samgyeop Gui—spot it by the slightly-too-cute pig cartoons out front—where the super-rich pork grills along with bean sprouts and kimchi. (Get some fried rice at the end of your meal and cook it on your already pork-glistening grill). Or opt for one of our Korean Flushing expert's new finds, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, a Korean barbecue spot opened by a comedian, where you'll make a meal of slushy chilled soju, incredible cuts like pork collar, and a ring of raw egg around the grill, which slowly cooks as it absorbs the smoky, porky flavors around it.
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