Wonjo: 23 West 32nd st. New York, NY


Last night was Gabriel’s birthday and I wanted to take him out for dinner at his favorite restaurant, Woo Lae Oak. What a bummer to try to make a reservation there to find out they’d closed last spring! Oh no! Now what?

We decided that going for Korean BBQ in Koreatown would be a fun alternative. Although it doesn’t have the fancy atmosphere that Woo Lae Oak had, the BBQ food and charcoal grills on the table made for a similar experience. After asking a bunch of my foodie friends for their suggestions, we settled on Wonjo because it’s one of the few left that still uses real charcoal instead of gas.

We were seated within just a few minutes of our arrival (without a reservation) which was great- especially since it was very crowded and pretty much every table was full. We’d been warned that service could be a bit gruff, but we disagreed. Our waitress was friendly and smiley, and between her, another waiter and a bus boy, we were very well attended to. I ordered a glass of white wine and Gabriel asked for a bottle of sake and then the fun began.

We got our food all almost all once and it totally covered our cozy, corner table; the seafood platter, the vegetable and mushroom platter, an AMAZING seafood scallion pancake that was oooohhhh so good, edamame, and tons of little appetizer-y salad-y things that traditionally accompany Korean food. I’d try to describe all of them, but since I really didn’t know what most of them were, your guess is as good as mine. I can say that the kim chee was delicious as was the vinegar daikon, the steamed egg, and a bunch of other misc dishes that were interesting and totally enjoyable. I think this is a case where the pics can tell you a lot more than I can.

The production of hot coals being poured into our charcoal grill was dramatic and we quickly felt the warmth it provided. The waiter and waitress did our cooking for us, carefully placing salmon, octopus, shrimp, clams, mussels, mushrooms and vegetables on the grill and occasionally coming back to flip or remove them for us. Everything was so fresh and tasty, and a really healthy meal overall. (except for the scallion pancake which was worth every greasy calorie) It wasn’t until the end that we got a tip from our neighbors that if you winked twice and asked for it, you could have a bowl of wonderful sticky rice with your meal. Oh well, now we know for next time.

This is not a cheap dinner, but a very worthwhile one and I’m quite sure we will be back. It’s not just the great food, but the total dining experience that people come here for. It’s a meal and an activity all in one! What could possibly be better than that?!?!


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