I haven’t blogged for a while, K-lovers 미안합니다! But there is a reason for this: I’ve been on some travels. And Korea has remained at the forefront of my heart and mind.
Rewind 3 months, when I was told by my work that I’d be working from our New York office for a week. What an opportunity! That time whizzed by, and before I knew it I was on a plane to JFK, filled with anticipation and excitement about visiting a new city. I was definitely going to make the most of this work trip.
When I arrived, I noticed hints of Korea cropping up in nooks and crannies all over the city, just as they do in London. It was intriguing to see these glimpses appear in different ways and places, after all The Big Apple’s style is not the same as The Big Smoke’s. I couldn’t help but compare the two as I took in New York Korean charms.
An example is the way that real Korean kimbap and mandu would pop up in New York’s delis, salad bars and cafes alongside bagels, falafels and burgers. This is not something I’ve seen anywhere in London, where Korean umshik (nomnom) keeps itself very much to itself.
This is true for ingredients, too. Sure, London has kimchi sliders, but this is a purposely-Korean food novelty. When I went to Williamsburg food market (the Brooklyn version of Borough Market I suppose) , you could get a kimchi and seaweed hotdog, alongside other options of Japanese katsu curry, and Mexican chilli.
There were Korean-run mini-marts and grocery stores all about town, so I guess that the Korean population and influence is more widespread in New York than in London. One reason may be that London’s Korea Town is a lot sparser than New York’s, which appeared to revolve around one street.
Another big difference is that NY’s K-town is very touristy, and seems to mainly cater for non-Koreans, in direct contrast to London’s New Malden. I’ve heard that another area of New York, Flushing, has a high Korean population and a more authentic feel, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go there as I had far too much work to do 😦
I did, though, spend a thoroughly enjoyable evening in K-town itself, and here are my highlights of the night:
The K-town restaurant that I went to, Don Bogam, was very trendy and upmarket, particularly in comparison to my usual Tottenham Court Road haunts. I usually prefer somewhere rawer, but this place didn’t lack personality at all. It oozed style and the food was great if a little overpriced. The best thing about it was the helpful nature of the staff, which seems to be an unwavering Korean trait, no matter which corner of the earth you happen to be in!
2) Me Rooftop Bar
On the 14th floor of the LaQuinta Hotel is hidden (speakeasy-style) this awesome Korean bar. It has a very laid-back, perfect-for-the-weekend feel, and is situated right below the Empire State Building for the ultimate NY/K experience. The strength of drinks is generous, making this a sublime pre-norebang hang-out spot.
I know I sound like a broken record here, but norebang prevailed again. It was amazing to see the very same folder of songs that one would find in a Seoul as well as London norebang right there in New York!
Again, the place (MK Karaoke) was rather anonymously hidden away on the fifth floor of a building, and we had to be directed there. This just added to the thrill, though.
Once inside, it had a much brighter, more banging “disco” atmosphere than comparatively basic London establishments. Again, I get the feeling this was all for the touristy clientele. I’m not sure I would go there on a regular basis due to its garishness; however it was completely suited to the party feel of my night in K-town.
It was just as much fun as a London nore-night, plus the server gave us a bowl of snacks just for speaking some basic Korean. Now you definitely wouldn’t get that in London!
As it turns out, the t-shirt was right: I ❤ NY. Now that I’ve been, I know that I would definitely be able to live there someday (I’m dreaming, I know), as NY’s Korean flavour is as full and delicious as London’s, if with a somewhat different taste.
- Korea Town is located in mid-Manhattan and bordered by 31st adn 36th Streets, and 5th and 6th Avenues. I hope to go there again!