My mom has been in town for a while and I figured I should take her to a Korean restaurant at least once to see how the Korean food is doing in NYC. There has been a lot of promotional activities for Korean food sponsored by the previous Korean government, and the profile of Korean food has certainly grown in America over time. It’s just that Manhattan doesn’t necessarily offer the greatest collection of Korean restaurants (even more so in K-Town where you don’t have to have a great restaurant to be successful since there will always be a mob of Korean, Chinese and other curious American crowds flooding the neighborhood). In addition, whenever a new restaurant opens up purporting to showcase “modern” Korean food to appeal to the broader American audience, such feat is always tough to put together. The flavor and texture of Korean food is often hard to morph in the Westernized form. If I look at Goggan (equivalent of “storeroom for food” in Korean), a new modern Korean restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, I would say it is definitely closer to New American than Korean despite their message of trying to fuse modernity and tradition of Korean cuisine. That doesn’t mean, however, that the kitchen at this place is churning out some nice food. I really enjoyed the clean flavor and texture of all the dishes that I had tried on my previous visit, even though it was hard to see the authenticity of Korean taste here. On this visit with mom, the trip was just as pleasant.
While Goggan doesn’t display the kind of flair that more established and haute cuisine places like Jungsik in TriBeCa shows, the consistent level of execution and clean flavor are the winning formula here. The mushroom salad with kale and sesame dressing doesn’t really look like the traditional “muchim” salad dish in Korea, but nevertheless I had a lot to like about the nice balance of flavor. Seafood scallion pancake with shrimp, oyster, scallop and calamari had richness to the flavor without being overly heavy and all the seafood worked together quite well for another satisfying appetizer. Grilled Flatiron steak with pickled moo, scallion and ssamjang was prepared more or less perfect medium rare to display the meat’s juicy, tender texture and I really liked how the meat wasn’t over-seasoned with salt and other condiments to potentially undermine the texture.
The highlight of the night belonged to the simple-looking bibimbap, which has over time become a popular dish even among Americans, perhaps close second behind Korean BBQ. The assortment of beef, carrot, zucchini, bean sprout, spinach, shiitake mushroom and egg was spot on, and I absolutely loved how the texture of rice was just sticky enough to make sure all the ingredients came together at once on every scoop of the dish. I am always a fan of a nice bibimbap dish, and the one at Goggan was definitely a winner. After a satisfactory meal, my mom and I ended with delightfully refreshing omija (five-flavor berry) sorbet.
Getting a reservation at Goggan doesn’t seem too difficult, although the restaurant was starting to fill up in the course of our meal. The restaurant has a modern décor and ambiance that would be ideal for introducing non-Korean friends to the taste of Korea. It has an extensive wine menu plus some Korean-inspired cocktail selections (I tried the hwayo (premium soju) cocktail with yuju and tonic water and it had clean flavor to go along with the dishes pretty well). My mom lamented how it is hard to truly display the authentic Korean culinary experience in an American metropolis like New York but she saw the bright side from a modernized version that can appeal to broader audience in the country. I do feel Goggan has a lot of promise to make that happen and hope this place continues to draw more attention and thrives among extremely selective New York diners.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 364 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 315-2969