Tag Archives: koreatown

Ichi Umi: 6 East 32nd st. New York, NY

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If you’re ‘friends’ with me on yelp.com, you’ll know that my username is “Miss. I can eat my weight in sushi”. Ichi Umi is the perfect place for me to prove that fact, and reaffirm that I truly deserve the nickname. Gabriel and I had overheard some people talking about all-you-can-eat crab legs last weekend at brunch, and we craned over to ask them the where/when and how. When they told us about the $31.95 AYCE spread at Ichi Umi, we were totally sold and VERY psyched to check it out. We invited 3 other couples to join us and made reservations for the following weekend.

When we arrived to a crowded little waiting area, we were told that we’d have to wait until our whole party arrived to be seated. We weren’t thrilled about that, but it turned out that once 5 of us were there they ended up leading us to our table. It’s pretty darn noisy in there, and we quickly learned that a table of 8 was not going to have the easiest time conversing. Just a few moments later, when we began our feast, we realized that having perpetually full mouths also didn’t lend themselves to much chatting, so it was all okay.

My first step was to simply survey the block-long buffet to see what I definitely wanted to try, and what I should probably skip. Three different rice choices? Nah. Not worth the stomach space. Beer or sake? Also not worth the precious space as far as I was concerned. Plates and plates of oysters, sushi, sashimi, and crab legs? BINGO. I headed down into sushi/sashimi land to start…as you will see from the one plate pictured. That was my first plate of 5 or so, and the only one that I actually remembered to photograph.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of fish. It was really quite good, beautifully prepared and very fresh. Especially the salmon and the scallops which were the big standouts to me. Some of the best scallops I’ve had actually- which is saying a lot since they are one of my  favorites.

The restaurant is VERY crowded and so the chefs are constantly turning platters out with newly sliced delicacies on them. The chefs are a real treat to watch, there must be about 30 of them behind the buffet, efficient and precise, and ready to tsk tsk at you if you (shudder) don’t put the tongs back where they belong. (Yes, that happened to me. For shame!) The display of the whole buffet  is impressively clean and organized, with neat labels telling you exactly what everything is.

Knowing that I had an 8 mile run ahead of me the following day (I’m currently in training for the NYC half marathon) I was treating this dinner as a total free-for-all. I indulged every culinary curiosity on that buffet, having small tastes of just about everything, and going back for 2nds of my favorites. Aside from the raw salmon and scallops, those 2nds included the crab legs, the blue point oysters, the various seaweed salads, the Japanese fried chicken, the bok choy and mushrooms dish, and the green tea ice cream. The various gyoza choices were also really tasty and fresh, but since I missed their presence my first time around, I only ended up with enough belly room to have one of each type.

The desserts are only so-so, aside from the mango, green tea and red bean ice creams, so I would recommend skipping them and filling up on seafood instead. Not a hard thing to do. And hey, there’s always room for one more oyster.

Enjoy!

Wonjo: 23 West 32nd st. New York, NY

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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?!?!