The thing about Korean cuisine is that the more you delve, the more rewards you’re likely to find.
For some reason, unlike some other more ubiquitous Asian cuisines like Chinese or Thai, Korean restaurants don’t seem as eager to broaden their clientele by opening in non-Korean communities with prettied up menus designed to appeal to other cultures. They mostly cluster in neighborhoods heavily populated by Koreans.
The menus feature Korean language in large type with smaller English translations and descriptions below. Our experience has been that once you make the approach, your efforts are met with warm hospitality and gastronomic adventure.
Golden Piggy is a great place to broaden your Korean culinary vocabulary. It is a medium-sized restaurant on Bell Boulevard in Bayside. Its décor is somewhat Korean, but not over the top. The biggest giveaway is the charcoal burners built into the tables.
We’re always a little bemused when an eatery’s logo sports a beaming animal of the species about to be consumed. Why does Golden Piggy’s piggy, in a tocque no less, look so delighted? That being said, we still got the message, and ordered pork as our first dish.
The Dwaegi Galbim (grilled spare ribs) would make anyone grin. They were not grilled on the table, but presented fully cooked and mostly cut from the bone. Our server instructed us that they were to be eaten ssam-style: wrapped in the lettuce or perilla leaves provided along with some chili sauce, banchan (assorted kimchees and other condiments) and a little rice. The meat was sweetly succulent, infused with soy, garlic and sugar. Wrapping and stuffing made the experience fun. We weren’t sure what to do with the bits of meat that still clung to the bone, but improvised by gnawing on the bones.
With the weather we’ve been having, nothing could have been more welcome than a special menu category of summer dishes. These consisted of various cold noodled-based dishes. Our server steered us towards Mool Naengmyeon—buckwheat and starch noodles with beef broth. This is an interesting if bland dish perfect for consuming during a heat wave. The beef broth that the noodles nestle in is partially frozen, adding a nice little crunch to the slurp. This was topped with hard-boiled egg and a scattering of thinly sliced vegetables including something that was either a very sweet turnip, or Asian pear.
Bibimbap is Korea’s consummate comfort food. Its essence is a bowl of rice topped with veggies and other bits depending on the variety, then mixed together with a lashing of chili paste. Here six different varieties are offered. Having sampled the pork, we opted for a beef variety. Kimchee Dolsot Bibimbap is served in a traditional dolsot (stone bowl). The bowl is heated to a very high temperature so that when cooked rice is added, it crisps slightly where it contacts the bowl. A raw egg is broken on top. The diner mixes up everything in the bowl with the desired amount of chili paste, and everything (especially the egg) reacts to the heat of the bowl. The additions to the rice here were all fresh and appealing, and if you want to feel really Korean, this is the dish you should order.
It may have been something of an afterthought, but we couldn’t resist Hawmul Pajun, those eggy Korean seafood and scallion pancakes. Here they are served like a small pizza, and are perfect for sharing with a few tablemates.
Wash all of the above down with an O.B. Korean beer, iced tea or Soju (Korean vodka) if you dare.
Golden Piggy delivers delicious authentic Korean fare while being welcoming to non-Koreans. The omprehensive menu offers a variety of dishes that goes well beyond the familiar Korean barbecue. Many of the menu items are deeply discounted for lunch, which runs until 4 p.m. Whether you like trying new things, or are already an aficionado of Korean cuisine, the Golden Piggy will not disappoint.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Piggy/Jong Ro Bbq Restaurant
45-53 Bell Boulevard, Bayside New York (NY), 11361
Price Range: BBQ: $17.99 –27.99 Main dishes: $8.99—16.99
Setting: Typical Korean with built-in burners at tables.
Service: Friendly, informative, mostly English fluent.
Hours: Lunch & Dinner daily
Alcohol: Beer, Makioli (rice wine), Soju
Credit cards: yes
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