While the Manhattan location remains a favorite among chefs, food writers and non-Koreans alike (owing largely to the kitschy piano player atop a fake rock formation, and its proximity to Penn Station), the downtown Flushing outpost is one of the more beloved and largest barbecue restaurants in the city. The barbecue in question cooked table side on a large gas grill is excellent. The galbi (short ribs), served sheared of bones, is some of the most tender you will find, melting in the mouth like pats of butter at an August picnic. But before the grilling begins, there’s the banchan prepared by an army of friendly women at a shop next door. It’s extensive. A foot-long fried sardine, fishy in the way it’s supposed to be, is a rarity in Manhattan but it’s the drill here. There is pickled zucchini, jalapeno peppers, marinated conch and a house specialty: white cabbage kimchi (which is mild, but still flavorful). It’s made daily in the basement. Also make sure to request the funkier red version as well. Slow service can be an issue if you catch the restaurant on a busy day (weekends are typically packed with groups of Korean families breaking bread). A lounge in the back serves as a waiting area when things get crazy.
Outside of KFC (Korean fried chicken), poultry is rarely served in Korean restaurants. The exception is samgyetang, which is absolutely textbook at Kumgangsan. A whole young chicken is stuffed with garlic, sticky rice and dates, a combination known for its energy-boosting properties. Order a bowl, relax, recharge and ask your server to bring you naeng- myeon (cold noodles) made from buckwheat and served in a chilled broth of beef stock and dongchimi (radish water with kimchi). It’s the traditional way to end a barbecue feast. Make sure to toss in plenty of hot mustard and vinegar.
By now you are likely really, really full. But wait, there’s more. Don’t groan, it’s for your own good. The server will bring you a bowl of free frozen yogurt. It’s a house specialty, con-sumed to aid digestion. End-of-meal treats are pretty standard in Korean restaurants - from sticks of weak chewing gum to sliced oranges to frozen yogurt.