New York City’s Korean Town is a mecca for Korean cuisine. Most people know of Bibimbap, Japchae, Kimchi Jijae, Galbi Jjim and of course, Bugolgi – traditional Korean Barbeque. That’s all well and good, but for architect cum restauranteur, Andy Sung, he wants you to taste Korean cuisine the way it was meant to be tasted. Sung was bewildered to find out almost every other cuisine have a high end restaurant in New York City, except for Korean. Thus became GAONNURI, which means “center of the world” in Korean. GAONNURI is located at the corner of 32nd Street and Broadway, the gateway to Koreatown in Manhattan. Sung had his eye on the location ever since he immigrated to the States back in the 1980’s. He spared no expense by taking over the entire 39th floor of the building. The result is a spacious, modern and luminous eatery with a spectacular view. GAONNURI is now the world’s highest elevated Korean restaurant. They beat out Mugunghwa, which is located on the 38th floor of the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Korea.
Sung wanted to introduce New Yorkers to Korean cuisine based on traditional techniques. He noted not only the restaurant do not use MSG in their fare, they do not use vinegar either. Instead, they use old fashion methods of infusing oils and marinades with mountain root vegetables, aromatic herbs and berries; all imported from their indigenous mountain regions in Korea. Executive chef, Tae Goo Kang (also known as T.K.) devised a creative menu which will convert any food lover easily. The taste result will surprise you. It’s as if you are taking a step into the rich culinary history that Korea has to offer. Sung also noted that most Korean restaurants often do not have a dessert menu. Pastry chef, Sun Geum Kim, creates western and traditional Korean sweets. If you are a wine enthusiast, your heart will be filled with contentment upon gazing at their collection inside a 10 feet high glass cabinet at the restaurant’s entrance. You can also sample traditional Korean liquors such as Chamisul Soju, Choum Churum and Baek Sae Ju.
Here are some notable dishes you should sample:
- YUKHOE 육회 – Seasoned raw beef with sesame oil and soy sauce topped with pine nuts. It’s raw beef of the highest quality with a gentle taste of sesame oil and soy sauce at every bite.
- BLACK COD JORIM 은대구 조림 – Braised black cod with spicy sauce. This cod fish casserole bursts with savory flavor. Its spiciness is the perfect accompaniment for the autumn weather.
- MARINATED GALBI 양념갈비 – Beef short rib marinated in GAONNURI’s signature sauce. The beef is cooked medium rare on the grill at your table. The morsels are juicy, tender and succulent with taste.
- BFBA (BLACK FOREST BAKED ALASKA) – Devil’s food cake, French meringue, vanilla ice cream, cherry sorbet. It’s flame bombed with rum upon serving.
- SNICKERS BAR – Snickers cremeux, malt mousse, cocoa nib tuiles, salted caramel ice cream. It’s a Snickers Bar, deconstructed in dessert form.
Even if you consider yourself a complete novice when it comes to Korean cuisine, you should take a leap of faith and enjoy what GAONNURI has to offer. The staff members are extremely knowledgeable and attentive to your needs. It should be noted some menu items are also gluten-free upon request.
Be it a grand celebration or a romantic dinner for two, you should make a reservation at GAONNURI when you are in Manhattan. Having a splendid Korean meal with a full view of the Empire Sate Building in Manhattan, should be on everyone’s list of life’s little pleasures.