Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gahm Mi Oak: Scene-setter or Cent-Stealer?


This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

After nearly shattering our vocals during three hours of intense karaoke, my friend C and I were on the hunt for victuals. Still unable to consume the more fiery offerings of Pocha 32 (notably, the kimchi and gochujang-soaked budae chigae), I chose Gahm Mi Oak for a change. From outside, sparkling white Christmas lights cast a soft glow over the people eagerly eating and chatting away within.

Gahm Mi Oak's taste palate is actually more akin to a hybridized take on Korean cuisine than straight-up Korean BBQ. In fact, Gahm Mi Oak doesn't even sell Gopdol (stone-bowl) Bibimbap, only the cold version, which C and I had. At $14.95, it was one of the less expensive items on the menu, thought it was rather light and not fully satisfying.


The decor is more classy and upscale than traditional Korean restaurants. Faux-stone walls cast a historical landmark feel to the restaurant, like an antique relic culled from an archaeological dig. Landscapes from different cities were laid out side-by-side on the walls, reminding me of the artwork from a hip Italian cafe or chic coffeehouse.


Our waiter was efficient, if a tad smug toward non-Korean customers, which made up about 50% of the clientele. He delivered a large fresh batch of kimchi to our table, then proceeded to chop it up with scissors. I found already on the table a hunk of onions, scallions and fist-sized green Jalapeno peppers encased in lettuce leaves...presumably for eating with meat, if we so desired. Next to these stood a rectangular dish of ssamjang, or an orange-red sauce made of fermented bean curd and red pepper paste. I really enjoyed the crunch and full bite of the kimchi, but I anxiously waited for the rest of the banchan that never came.

Bibimbap Close-up.

Mixed with Gochujang.

The bibimbap itself was pretty standard and scant on beef. We each received a bowl of milky beef broth soup and, at the end, a stick of Lotte chewing gum, which I found funny because it was labeled "Charming."

This isn't really the type of cuisine I dig. I could find better Korean food for cheaper at one of the dozen-odd Korean joints in Ktown. To be fair, I didn't try the meat dishes, but that would blow my wallet (most ran upwards of $23+). I hear the sulongtang is the best dish here.

Gahm Mi Oak was good for a try, but the haughty service put a sour puss on my face. And c'mon - don't be so stingy with the appetizers! I was expecting a full entourage of six or seven small trays of pickled, fermented and spicy appetizers. Didn't happen.

Final consensus: Good kimchi. Portions were on the small side. All things considered, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to make another trip here. Gahm Mi Oak was just OK.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Gahm Mi Oak
43 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

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