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I was an American in Seoul.
It all happened at the new Seoul Plaza on the corner of Northern Boulevard and 150th Street in Flushing. The Seoul Plaza a brand new, modern building, a complex of high-end stores with merchandise from Cartier, Ferregano, Burberry, Gucci and such. You can buy a fur wrap or golf clubs with bag from Japan or book a ticket on Asiana Airlines.
On the second floor (ride the escalator, after valet parking your car in the rear), is Young Bin Kwan, a 300-seat Korean restaurant and the adjoining Crystal Ballroom accommodating 500. If youre lucky, and I was, the doors to the Crystal Ballroom will be open as they complete the set-up for a celebration: lace clothes on round tables circled by white satin-draped chairs. Two seats for the honoree are on the dais table heaped with pyramids of colorful sugar candies, oranges and flowers.
Next comes Young Bin Kwan. You notice a sushi bar, then a small cocktail bar. You enter and you are standing in awesome space with brown marble tables set on a tan marble floor with high-backed dining chairs. Theres luxurious space between the tables, and when two fours are side by side, theres a low shield of smoky glass between. Up a dramatic, wide, high stair case, theres balcony trimmed with of gold fabric and blooms by the bowlful. The room, light sand airy, has tall green plants (diefenbacher, palms) placed judiciously. Waitresses wear floor-length attire. One hostess wears a traditional Korean gown of organza that billows out from the bosom.
Settled in for a Sunday night supper, I studied the table card and ordered an OB Beer imported from Seoul rather effervescent with a delightful tingling sensation. After pacing the order, the traditional condiments arrived. These were like no others that Ive sampled. How can I describe them? Four bright green, cabbage sushi rolls set in pale pink beet juice- blanched strips of cabbage rolled around a bit of red cabbage and carrot, tied with chive. Mashed potato logs with a crispy, honey glaze. Pale green tea gelatin slices with a special sauce. And two slices of fish cake.
An avocado salad sounds usual. It is not: thin slices of avocado arranged overlapping on lettuce with an awesome dressing and a mound of tiny, coral roe that explode into deliciousness when you bite into them.
My noodles were warm and thin and very gelatinous. The head hostess in a smart black pants suit and pale lips outlined in dark brown who visits each table, said they were sweet potato, hence the golden glow.
Chicken in the pot was never more exciting. Picture this: A Cornish hen stuffed with special rice, water chestnuts and fruit, simmered until meltingly tender. With knife and fork, the hostess separates it. The rice melts into the broth. The chicken is easily eaten with chop sticks, with a spoon for the broth. Sticky rice is the accompaniment.
A fruit plate with a wedgelet of cantaloupe, a chunk of orange under a half moon of peel and a sectioned strawberry is dessert.
The lunch special ($13.99) changes every week. On a return visit, the four condiments were: A three-inch length of cucumber slashed at intervals then marinated. Raw cauliflowerettes made into a potato like salad plus shreds of crab (delicious), kimchi big piece and whole green beans. Interestingly, the hostess glided over and snipped the cucumber with shears for chop-stick ease. A good-sized piece of mackerel with the skin crisscrossed from pre-grilling was delicious. A cold noodle dish followed with rice noodles, a hard cooked egg half and greens in broth. Again the hostess used shears to snip the noodles in manageable pieces. The piece de resistance was short rib of kolbie, grilled, then sliced lengthwise. With its smoky flavor, it was terrific.
The fruit plate included a Korean cookie a ball of chewy gelatinous rice. A few sips of cold Korean tea flavored with cinnamon and ginger with pine nuts afloat was a delightful, sightly sweet, conclusion.
If youve never experienced Korean food, Young Bin Kwan is the place to go. A round grill is in the center of each table.. So if you wish to have the traditional Korean barbecue prepared before you, just say so.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Escalator to second floor of Seoul Plaza, an upper-end shopping complex. Seats 300. Also Crystal Ballroom. Fine Korean and some Japanese specials. Korean barbecue at table. Waitresses and hostess in traditional Korean gowns.
Y.B.K. Special (bullgoki, rib eye steak barbecued at your table)...$18.95
Seasonal Special Soup (whole chicken stuffed with sweet rice, chestnuts, dates, garlic, ginseng in chicken broth...$13.85
Special Set Menu (sushimi, fried jumbo shrimp, sliced octopus h seasonal vegetables, sliced fish casserole, barbecued rib eye, cold, chewy buckwheat noodles in cold broth)...$39.95
Lunch Special (changes every week)...$13.95
Sushi, Sushimi and Japanese Specials
Cuisine: Korean (some Japanese specials)
Setting: Second floor. 300 seat
Service: In traditional garb. Caring Hours: 7 days L&D
Reservations: Yes L
Parking: Valet. Rear
Dress: Business casual
Credit cards: Yes
Noise: Happy. Moderate
Handicap accessible: Yes
©2001 Community News Group
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