Big Bowl Mul Naengmyun at Food Gallery 32 – NYC
I’ve been eagerly waiting to go to Food Gallery 32, the new Korean food court in K-Town. Finally, last week, I took a trip down. Twice to be specific. If you’re familiar with the food court in H-Mart on Broad Avenue in New Jersey, it’s similar, but much, much bigger. Like in H-Mart, you order and pay at one station, and then go to the restaurant from which you ordered to pick-up your food. At Food Gallery 32 though, you also get the added bonus of a buzzer (à la Outback Steakhouse). When the buzzer flashes and vibrates, it means your food is ready for pick-up. I’m kind of used to this type of ordering system, so I thought it was pretty straightforward, but when I ran into Gordon and the lovely ladies of Lunch Studio on a visit, they told me it was confusing. I guess it’s even more so if you’re not too familiar with Korean food and need to refer to pictures or visuals at the individual restaurants.
So far I’ve only tried Big Bowl at Food Gallery 32. Kal Guksu (칼국수, knife cut wheat noodle soup; $6.95), was way too salty, but I was really happy with their Mul Nang myun (also spelled mul naengmyun, 물냉면, noodles in icy cold beef broth; $7.95). I know, I know, it’s winter and most sane people don’t want to eat bone-chillingly cold naengmyun now, but I was still in a warm island frame of mind last week. The naengmyun at Big Bowl is a smaller, food court version of the chik naengmyun (칡냉면, naengmyun made with arrowroot noodles) at You Chun in Palisades Park, which is served in a sweet and spicy beef broth. However, Big Bowl’s has ice cubes rather than shaved ice and also a good dollop of gochujang (고추장, red pepper paste) sauce on top. In addition, the noodles may or may not be arrowroot noodles. When I asked, the woman at the restaurant counter seemed unsure. I personally prefer less chewy Pyongyang-style buckwheat noodles in a broth that isn’t so sweet or spicy, but for what it is, the price, and for a food court, the naengmyun is damn good. The naengmyun comes with a small bowl filled with vinegar and hot yellow mustard. Add as much vinegar and mustard to your naengmyun as you wish. I like to add a decent amount of mustard. It adds another dimension of spice; cool, nose-clearing spice (think wasabi) on top of mouth-numbing heat from the gochujang. To describe it in one word, refreshing.
I can’t wait to go back. As of now, there are seven restaurants inside Food Gallery 32. One down, six to go.
UPDATE I (3/30/2011) – 1) They got rid of the centralized ordering system, so now everything is $1 more expensive since they had to hire a cashier at each restaurant. 2) Big Bowl changed their name to Noodle 32.
UPDATE II (7/11/2011) – They now serve buckwheat naengmyun but the broth has changed for the worse. Way too gingery.
Big Bowl (formerly Big Bowl, now Noodle 32)
Food Gallery 32
11 W 32nd Street (b/n Broadway & 5th Ave; map)
NY, NY 10001