Shilla: trying some new things in the heart of Korean Town (and some old favorites too)

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Dear Food Diary:
I frequent K-town, but for some reason, I’ve stuck to a couple places over the years. So when the peeps at Shilla invited me to a tasting, my taste buds were ready to discover some new and some more familiar dishes.

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One of the best thing about  Korean food is having complimentary Banchan (small dishes). They only served 6, but what they had was solid. Great kimchi and spicy dry squid (top right), very chewy, sweet and spicy. A nice way to start the feast they’ve prepared for us.

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Their Haemool/Kimchi Pajun (seafood and kimchi scallion pancake) had a really nice chewy mixture loaded with squid and scallions. Like any good pajun, it was soft on the inside and crusty out. Overall a good pajun, but 
I wished the soy dipping sauce had a little more chilly and garlic for that extra level of flavor.shilla 9
The first time I had these Mul Neng Myun (buckwheat noodle in cold broth) years ago, it left a bad taste, so I’ve never gave them a second try. When the manager insisted (this is one of their specialties), I swallowed my doubts and gave it a slurp. To my surprise, I found a new appreciation for them. Its originally a very popular winter dish in North Korea. Apparently the pieces of shimmering “ice” floating on the surface isn’t your usual ice. This is made from a cold beef broth. Traditionally, the beef broth is “naturally fermented” without refrigeration, bringing it back and forth from indoor and outdoor during the cold winter months. This gives it  that desired sourness. But being in the States, of course that isn’t health department approved, so here at Shilla, they add a little vinegar instead.shilla 11
Their thin white buckwheat noodle are freshly made in house, the waitress urged us to dig in as soon as it arrived. She broke them apart meticulously and served us along with the tangy iced broth. Side of asian mustard was optional. The noodles itself were great, really bouncy, with a slight chewiness and unlike regular egg noodles, these were light and refreshing. The mustard acted as wasabi and gave it a nice little punch between slurps of noodle and sips of soup. The stainless steel bowl kept the temperature low. It had a couple julienned vegetables,  boiled egg and a piece of cold beef, but honestly, the noodle was the star and I forgot about the rest. I’m pretty sure I won’t be craving this in any zero degree weather, but summer is around the corner and this would be a great way to slurp the heat away.

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This dish was totally new to me. Agu Jjim (spicy monkfish with bean sprouts and scallions). I had really high tastepectations, but was a tad disappointed by the overcooked monk fish, chewy monkfish. Flavors were good and I love biting into the crunchy bean sprouts. All together it wasn’t a home run, BUT I got to try Mee da den for the first time! (I think that’s how you spell it) And it totally made up for it. What is that? Check out the pic below:
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Yep this is Mee da den. Scary looking? Yes. Like a fetus of a giant lips monster fish with huge eyes? maybe, but as you know, I am fearless. The staff tried their best to explain. From what I’ve gathered, this is a Korean seafood, used for flavoring. Usually comes dry, for cooking purposes only. The texture would be best described as  a rock hard jelly fish. The fun part was the pop. After the pop, a splash of the ocean washes your mouth. Just a slight chew, but you don’t actually swallow this, it would be almost impossible, unless you possessed shark like teeth. Interesting indeed. If you’ve never had it, I say this is a must try. A textural adventure for sure.

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Oh their Special Kalbi Barbecue! Beef ribs, marinated to perfection. I drooled as our waitress turned each piece of beeficiousness right in front of ma’eyes.
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Oh yeah, look at all that juice and caramelized coating. Sorry, I’m drooling again, how unlady like of me. I apologize, glad you can’t see me right now.
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Every piece was cooked perfectly, so juicy and oh so tender. With or without the soy bean paste, lettuce and pickled radish, this surely was a winner. shilla 7
Bi Bim Bap is one of those dishes that crosses all languages and palates. Everyone can enjoy mixed vegetables over rice with beef and egg. The trick is to mix the raw egg really quickly and then wait patiently for the crust like crunchy rice all around the hot stone bowl, at least that’s how I like it. Love that brown worm like mountain vegetable, it reminds me of some of our best meals in Seoul.

I’m glad I have a new place to eat at from now on. And lunch specials are around $10. How I wished I worked around there.많이 드세요 manh-i deuseyo (that’s bon appetit in Korean).
P.S. Chubby’s RATING:
37 West 32nd Street
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