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Friday, September 11, 2009

Choong Moo Ro (CLOSED)

In fact, I believe they are officially listed as "Chung Moo Ro", but "Choong" is actually a better transliteration of the first syllable (yes, I'm a total geek and learned the Korean alphabet many years ago). (8/2010: the place has been re-modeled and is now called Miss Korea... unclear if it's the same management or not)

I love the fact that there is an entire sub-genre of "24-hour Korean BBQ restaurants" in New York! This is probably my all-round favorite restaurant in Manhattan's Koreatown, and I had another good meal there this evening with a tenor friend (who's dating a Korean girl, no less, and proclaimed it much better than the Korean restaurant she took him to!). Sure, some things may be a bit better at other restaurants in the area, and a beloved menu item or two they may not have at all (for the unutterably fabulous spicy black goat meat stew, you gotta go to Kang Suh... and pay those prices!), but I find myself returning to Choong Moo Ro more often than any of the others. And it doesn't hurt that the prices here tend to be a couple of dollars cheaper than those of most of its neighbors.

Service is pleasant and efficient (okay, I had crappy service once, but I've never seen that waiter there again). The panchan (or banchan--the little dishes that come out first to accompany the meal, and almost always includes a couple of kinds of kim chee) are plentiful, well-prepared, and fresh--this last quality can most definitely not always be assumed at all Koreatown joints!

People usually want to know about the barbecue... in fact, I would never order the barbecue here because, like most other places in Koreatown, their table-grills are gas and not the traditional wood embers. Only Wonjo, across the street, still uses wood embers, so that is my default barbecue of choice. But that said, the barbecue here looks very good (a suprisingly accurate gauge, I've found) and I hear, although I missed it on the menu by not even looking at the barbecue section, that they offer a special barbecue combination of 3 meats, plus a stew dish, for $48. This should easily feed 2 big eaters, and ought to be enough for 3 with an appetizer or two, making it pretty damn good deal. This is almost certainly what the neighboring table this evening ordered, and they were enjoying it immensely.

Me, I'm a sucker for jae yook bok eum (stir-fried pork and vegetables in hot pepper paste), and it's great here--my favorite version of the probably dozen I've tried in Koreatown. My tenor friend's jap chae (clear noodles with suateed beef and vegetables) was also excellent. All the soup/stews I've tried have been very good (if only they had black goat meat... but mae woon kal bi tang--beef short ribs in a spicy broth--is a decent second choice). This is also a very good place to get dol sot bi bim bap: rice with meat or seafood, and/or vegetables, served in a hot stone bowl--you mix it up when it arrives and it finishes cooking in front of you. Their pa jeon--Korean pancake, with various ingredients cooked in--is much better than most places, too.

And... they're always open!

Choong Moo Ro
10 W. 32nd St., New York 10001
between Broadway and 5th Ave.)

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