I forget exactly who volunteered me to plan a Korean food crawl out to Palisades Park, NJ, but apparently I’ve gotten a reputation for knowing the right spots and maybe a thing or two about the cuisine. Yes, I knew plenty of good Korean restaurants in the area to try, but my biggest concern was the transportation. Multiple cars coming from all over the tri-state area… this could have gotten tricky. Well, if the worst thing that happened was that Jess and Lon arrived about 40 minutes early, that’s not bad at all. And being the intrepid foodie family that they are, they just settled into the bakery in the Super H-Mart shopping center and started eating. You can see some of the pastries they tried before the rest of us arrived here.
Even if you’ve been to the H-Mart on 32nd Street in Manhattan before, you have no idea what awaits you in Jersey. There is an entire mini mall inside the market building, with a bookstore, the bakery, a liquor store (where I stocked up on soju of course), clothing stores, a children’s dance studio, and more. And then the actual H-mart supermarket is so large, there’s a multi-vendor food court hidden in the back. That was our first stop before shopping. I ordered a couple dishes of dukboki (spicy rice cakes) to whet everyone’s appetites. Then Lon (I told you he and Jess are hardcore, right?) ordered a crazy pork dish that Jackie astutely likened to schnitzel. The food went fast, and then we all went shopping.
Next we all got back in our cars and drove to my long-time favorite Korean restaurant, So Gong Dong for serious eating. The menu is pretty limited here — I’ve always preferred restaurants that do a few things really well versus ones that try to do it all. The banchan comes first — I especially love the cucumbers here, which is saying a lot considering I can’t stand cucumbers normally (true story…).
Once the beef ribs arrived (they’re unbelievably good here, by the way), the real action started. Liza was adeptly styling the placement of the scissors and tongs while Maggie started shooting. You gotta love food bloggers in action.
The quietest of the bunch was Caya. Yes, I am talking about a baby in a busy restaurant being quiet… angelic even. Seriously, someone give the adorable Caya a best-behaved-baby award now.
In addition to the ribs, I ordered mandoo (dumplings) and pajeon (seafood pancakes) for everyone to share. Some bulgogi made it to the table too, and then I let everyone order the amazing (and seriously spicy) tofu soups for themselves, which arrive at your table while still literally boiling.
What a great way to spend a Saturday, with some awesome foodie friends. Let’s see if I can name everyone from left to right: Mark, who managed to visit Barcade in Jersey City recently and did not call me to meet up; oops, next is Maggy’s nice friend in the shades and long dress, but I forgot her name because we just met that day for the first time!; Maris, who flew all the way from Chicago to come along… well, she did fly in from Chicago that day, but it was more of a really lucky coincidence; our Chinese New Year food crawl leader Jess and the sweet Caya; Jackie hidden way in the back — this was the second time this week that we’d dined together, so it was a good week; the quiet but lovely Erika; Lon, up front, a man who thinks the same way I do about food; my buddy Maggy who probably has no idea how much I appreciate her thoughts; Liza’s cool husband, Brendan; Sarah, an Aussie who is just about the most enthusiastic foodie I know; the insanely talented and two-time Beard Award nominated Liza; and then some weird guy on the far-right who must have crashed the event. Thanks everyone, for coming and making the crawl so awesome. I can’t wait for the next one.