In my opinion Korean food doesn’t get nearly as enough attention as it merits. I’ve explored (1) Korean cuisine (2) a bit (3) on Off The Broiler in the past, but I still feel like I haven’t been doing my part in showcasing all the great Korean eateries in North Jersey. Of course, for me to really do it justice, I’d probably have to focus an entire blog to it, because we have so many. Where do you start?
Fort Lee is probably one of the best towns to start with Korean food, particularly if you are a novice. You’ve got a huge Korean population there and in the surrounding area (Palisades Park and Leonia are also big centers of Korean activity as well) to support full service Korean restaurants as well as specialist kinds of places, and there are literally dozens of restaurants to choose from.
One full service Korean restaurant I really like is Dae Ga, on Lemoine Avenue, right by the GW bridge entrance.
2053 Lemoine Ave, Fort Lee, NJ
Storefront on Lemoine Avenue. Dae Ga is a huge full service Korean restaurant which specializes in Korean barbecue.
Dae Ga is equipped with grills inset into the tables so patrons can cook their own meat. Note the air vents directly above.
There’s also a daily buffet that starts during lunchtime that you can eat at for a fixed price that has a lot of different dishes that you can try.
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Assorted banchan or complimentary Korean side dishes, which includes the ubiquitous kimchi. These are all meant to be eaten as a condiment for rice.
Saan Soju. Soju is a type of clear sprit made from sweet potatoes, rice and other grains. Stronger than Sake but weaker than Vodka, at about 23 percent alchol, its a potent accompaniment to a Korean meal. Saan Soju has a slight green tea flavor to it and I find it less harsh than some of the other soju brands such as Green or Jinro.
Classic cabbage Kimchi. This is fermented for several months in a brine with ground hot chile pepper, a ton of garlic, scallions, and salted shrimp or oysters.
Squid in a Chile sauce.
Meat and vegetables are brought to the table for grilling. We ordered skirt steak and “special” beef rib.
Skirt Steak grilling at the table. If you want to see what this experience is like, check out this short video I took.
Ater the meat starts to grill up nice, the waitress comes and cuts it up for you into bite-sized peices. These are then rolled up in lettuce leaves with scallions and raw garlic and ssamjang (chile and fermented soybean paste) and eaten with your hands.
Mushrooms and Onions are also grilled as well. Garlic and chiles are supposed to be eaten raw, but I actually like to cook it a little.
Ready to eat!
Next course, the special beef rib.
If only you could smell this.
Great Wall of China Restaurant
2024 Center Ave, Fort Lee, NJ
You can’t talk about Korean food with also talking about Korean Chinese food, which is almost an entire cuisine onto itself. Next to native Korean food, Koreanized Chinese food is probably the most popular cuisine in that country.
We’ve touched on Korean Chinese in the past here on OTB. While many Westerners find Korean food itself to be too bold because of the heavy chile spicing and use of fermented ingredients and huge amounts of garlic, I think Korean Chinese food deserves a much closer look. Many of the dishes are similar to the kind of regional Chinese food that is becoming more popular, and its not as “smack you on the side of the head” intense when it comes to chiles and garlic — the heat and spicing is tempered.
Great Wall of China Restaurant, In Fort Lee, offers a wide variety of Korean Chinese dishes, all of which are inexpensive and come in generous portions. And its mighty tasty too.
Storefront as seen from the Municipal Parking lot near Main Street.
The restaurant looks like your average Chinese restaurant, but looks can be deceiving.
No crispy noodles and duck sauce here. You start off with radish kimchi and pickles.
We started off with the steamed dumplings.
Extreme dumpling closeup.
The filling differs from a standard Chinese dumpling in that it had glass noodles in the dumpling mix, in addition to pork and scallions. The dipping sauce is a simple combination of soy sauce and chile flakes.
Fried chicken with garlic/chile sauce. Sort of the Korean Chinese take on General Tso.
A closer inspection of the dish.
Noodles with Meat and Black Bean sauce. This is combined together at the table.
Meat and Black Bean Sauce combined with the Noodles. This is a benchmark Korean Chinese dish, and I’d have to say this is one of the better versions I’ve had.
Beef Fried Rice. Served with a cabbage salad with Russian Dressing. Delicate flavor, not that much soy sauce used, and really good quality beef.