I knew immediately I was in the right place the first time I walked into Cho Dang Gool. It wasn’t its looks, which are pleasant but unmemorable: wooden tables, tan walls, a few Korean musical instruments hung here and there as decoration. Nor was it the smells issuing from the kitchen or the look of the food going by. No, it was the realization, as I entered, that not a word of English was being spoken. The restaurant was jammed, and every guest was of Korean origin. As soon as I tasted the food I knew why: This was far and away the best Korean food I’d ever had, each dish better than the last, from the home-made tofu (some crafted from black sesame seeds, some from white), to the piping hot and savory bulgogi (a beef and rice stew), to the parade of small plates, which included fried seaweed as addictive as crack. The pièce de résistance was the kimchee, a dish that I sometimes find overpowering. Here it was just fiery enough, with a citrus zing that was downright refreshing. My only worry in sending you here, dear reader, is that it will spoil you for all other Korean restaurants. Yes, it’s that good.
- Pauline Frommer