It’s been a goal of mine to start exploring NYC’s boroughs – after living right across the river in Hoboken, NJ for 7 years, I think it’s about time, don’t you?
I’ve traveled up and down Manhattan, Hudson River to East River, but haven’t ventured into Queens, the Bronx (‘the’ or ‘The’?) and Staten Island but a few times. (Why is Staten Island a borough, but Long Island isnt’? I think I’d rather explore Long Island than Staten Island. Do you know of any reasons for me to think otherwise?)
Even though Brooklyn’s not as unfamiliar (I used to have a friend in Williamsburg and I worked at a bar there for a short time, but this isn't the Brooklyn I'm talking about), I haven’t spent enough time checking out the many diverse neighborhoods.
This weekend I sought to familiarize myself with a part of the city with which I'm quite certain I need to become much more intimate: Flushing, Queens. My peeps are there! I read a bunch of reviews about a Korean restaurant known for it's sam gyup sal (sahm- gip- sol) located right across from the train station (Broadway stop on the LIRR). Despite the pretty much “pork-only” theme (see photo above), I cajoled Jef (veg) into joining me (he wants to explore the city more thoroughly, too), and Erin and Canaan were game as well.
Sam gyup sal is a Korean dish featuring thin-cut pork belly (Korean version of bacon), which is grilled at your table, along with some garlic slices, jalapeno pepper slices, and sometimes bean sprouts and kimchi. You pick up a piece of leafy green lettuce and hold it in your palm. Then you pluck a juicy, sizzling piece of meat from the grill, dip it into a little bowl containing toasted sesame oil and salt and place this on top of the lettuce. Dip a sliver of grilled garlic into some miso paste if you’d like, add to the meat, along with the jalapeno sliver and/or a little black peppercorn, some kimchi, bean sprouts, and pickled radish, too. Roll all of this up into a little package and push the whole thing into your salivating mouth. The cool lettuce, hot, salty pork, spicy cabbage, and crunchy radish and bean sprouts meld together into a seriously delicious bite. You can bite it in half if you think this is going to be neater and you’re embarrassed to stuff your face in front of your companions, but you’ll soon realize it’s much messier to go this route. Chipmunk cheeks is the only way to go.
This spot wasn’t as good as what I was expecting from all of the rave reviews on Yelp and Chowhound, but it was better than average. Plus, the ajuma (older Korean woman) was so nice – she kindly showed Erin and Canaan how to assemble their little flavor bombs. Soju and conversation flowed. (Jef ate the one vegetarian option on the limited menu – tenjang chigae, a spicy miso-based tofu soup. I was glad he had to try something other than his standard bibimbap.)
Speaking of which, when we couldn’t pick up another piece of pork, for an extra $1.99, the ajuma added some kimchi stir-fried rice and nori to the grill and this turned into a delicious bibimbap-style ending.
Service here was spotty, but it just felt like that kind of place - very casual. The prices seemed fair and I’ll definitely be exploring Flushing more in the near future. I need to make my way to the J & L shopping center where I hear one can find the best and cheapest Asian food in NYC...
Tong Sam Gyup Gui Restaurant (the name is only written in Korean, in English underneath it says "N.Y. D.D.M. Migliore Restaurant)
162-23 Depot Rd
Queens, NY 11358
Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Broadway (Port Washington line). It's directly across from the train station (waiting room side).