I’ve been waiting for the day when someone tries to rename St. Mark’s Place as “Japan Place,” or possibly the entire East Village as “Little Tokyo.” But hold on a second, because the Korean restaurants are popping up in the neighborhood almost as quickly. In addition to the David Chang mini-empire, you’ve got old-timer Dok Suni, newcomer Persimmon, Red Mango coming soon, the funky Song 7.2, Korean Temple Cuisine, and at least a few more I can’t remember the name of right now. I’d say the area is saturated, but don’t tell that to the people who opened the stylish Boka about two weeks ago.
I really want to emphasize stylish, because as far as I’m concerned, a few very popular restaurants on St. Mark’s are far from pretty. For cheap Japanese food and beer, you can’t go wrong, but for a stylish place to take a date, you might want to check out Boka. About the food, it’s pretty cool too. The menu is about 90% Korean, but don’t expect any kimchi, banchan, etc. The seafood pancake is a twist on the ordinary and a good value too. For some reason they’ve already decided to drop the rice balls from the menu, so don’t bother asking for those.
They have a lot of varieties of bibimbop to offer, which is especially nice for veggies (see the tofu one above). I love the way this arrived at my table still simmering in the stone pot, and the rice got brown and crispy on the bottom. Sure, this place will have to iron out a few kinks in weeks to come, but I’ll be back for sure.