My first Korean BBQ experience at missKorea BBQ

I am no stranger to restaurants where food is cooked in front of you, whether I do it myself or someone is doing it for me. Back in college, I used to frequent a hotpot restaurant many a time with my favorite people as we huddle over a table surrounded by meats and vegetables, boiling hotpot soup, and custom-made sauces by yours truly. The chatter accompanied on the table and the sound of the rolling boil of the pot was all I noticed as I would eat to my heart’s content.

I kept reminiscing about those times once I was settled in missKorea BBQ, a Korean BBQ restaurant in New York City’s Koreatown. I was a stranger to was Korean Barbeque as it was my first time going to one and partaking in it; seeing thinly cut meats and veggies being cooked rather quickly on a super-hot grill. However, there’s a first time for everything and this did not disappoint in the slightest.

After ordering, the grill and exhaust fan were quickly turned on, and the meats made way to our table fast. Since all I was used to was seeing people cook their BBQ themselves because of social media, I attempted to place a piece of meat on the grill (and had trouble doing it for some reason). Luckily, the staff was able to come quickly and take over.

The sounds of sizzling meat and tongs scraping the grill was all I could focus on as the staff worked swiftly to make sure everything was cooked quickly. Watching the staff work so quickly was mesmerizing and the sounds made up for my focus and silence on my table, adding to the atmosphere of music and chatter from other patrons alike.

The option to get main rice dishes, noodle soups, stews, or lunch combos are offered, but the BBQ combos for two are also offered for fixed prices as well, each labeled A, B, and C, all with different options. $130 allowed me to get the “B” combo, which included marinated BBQ cuts of Beef Short Rib, Spicy Pork Belly, Chicken, and Beef Sirloin Bulgogi.

The beef short rib was tender and extremely flavorful, and so was the spicy pork belly, both with hints of char to them from the grill. The beef sirloin bulgogi was lacking a little in flavor, but still holds its own.

Typical banchan, or side dishes, such as kimchi, paejori (green onion salad), and other vegetables. The scallion salad with sesame oil was very refreshing and absolutely worth the breath afterwards. Ssamjang, a spicy paste made from fermented soybeans and red chili made for an addicting sauce.  Lettuce wraps called ssam were present as well, being used to wrap up cooked meat, vegetables, and whatever else you can fit on it to wrap and put in your mouth. I went for a more untraditional method of eating ssam with my meat, inspired by seeing this video many years ago.

One other thing that seemed to lack in flavor and meat was the Spicy Organic Tofu Soup, which came with our BBQ Combo. The soup lacked both spicy flavor and sourness and had very little shrimp compared to the massive amounts of Tofu taking over in the dark orange bowl of soup. For contrast, the steamed egg, which also comes with the combo, was light, fluffy, and extremely hot; its steam lasting for quite some time as it sat on the table for a while to cool down before we could eat it.

Tteokbokki, or spicy rice cakes were not bad here either. Soft and chewy rice cakes pair with mozzarella cheese were extremely chewy and the spice sneaks up on you. Very savory as well. They did have a sort of funky taste to them, which I hope was just a general flavor of the rice cake and not a sign of lack of freshness. While it was a starter item, I would not consider getting it unless you have at least more than 2 people and can share all the food (BBQ Combo + starter). Just getting the combo with the all the meat, soup, and eggs were enough to make me full, and the rice cakes was while good seemed like an almost unnecessary add-on to a good meal.

There was no dessert present, but the beautiful thing about being in Koreatown is the ability to leave one restaurant and go to a place that serves sweets right across the street, like how Grace Street is right across the street from missKorea. Luckily, I am not a stranger to Grace Street either and find myself slowly turning into an occasional visitor. This time I went to try their Burnt Matcha Cheesecake, which was flavorful, soft, and moist.

Going to miss Korea to experience Korean BBQ for the first time left me full, satisfied, and happy. While a bit pricey($200 overall for the combo, the tteokbokki 1 drink plus tip), it was a fulfilling and appetizing experience worth going back at some point if given the opportunity. Or perhaps the newfound experience of eating at a KBBQ restaurant may spark the hunt to find other KBBQ restaurants in New York.

missKorea gets a 7.9 out of 10.

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