Korean Food @ Pro Hot Bagel (?!?!)

There seems to be a new trend emerging in Midtown.  Korean food is taking over!  It seems as if everywhere you go, someone is serving Korean food in an unlikely place.  It is almost as if the Korean restaurant owners in Midtown have realized, “We don’t have have to serve Mexican food and Sushi!  Our food is delicious, and people will eat it!”  Sure, a lot of people still don’t know what Bulgogi is (it is Korean BBQ’d beef by the way), and Bi Bim Bap sounds like weird Jazz… but it doesn’t change the fact that if you like Asian food, you should not be afraid of Korean.  It’s delicious, and this is a welcome trend. 

For me, the whole thing started with Cafe Duke.  I thought it was so awesome that they had this Korean station inside an otherwise generic Midtown deli.  Then the fried fish cart on 46th started serving Bulgogi, and the Bulgogi Sandwich cart opened on 49th.  A few weeks ago I noticed a sign on Ambrosia, a deli on 45th St., offering Korean food (right next to the sign that touts their awesome Mexican Fiesta food… unfortunately it’s a little too pricey for my tastes).  When I finally stumbled upon Pro Hot Bagel, I realized that something big was happening.

Pro Hot Bagel, a deli on 56th btw. 5+6th has been taken over by Korean & Japanese food.  It started slow when a few months ago they added a small sushi bar to their mammoth list of sandwiches (and bagels).  But recently they have gone all out, adding a Udon/Soba station, that also serves Bento Boxes, Bulgogi Boxes & Bi Bim Bap.

Pictures and a +/- after the jump…

I’m all for a good noodle soup, but considering this place is right next to Men Kui Tei (one of my favorite Japanese Ramen places) I decided to stick to the Korean food.  The Bi Bim Bap was not bad.  For $7.50 you get Spinach, Shredded Carrots, Lettuce, Radish, Shredded Scrambled Egg, a few pieces of Tempura zucchini (???), shredded seaweed and a very small amount of beef.  The red “sauce” they give you on the side was a little too much red bean chili paste, and not enough oil to thin it out- so it made it hard to pour over the food, but I guess it’s a little healthier that way.  They also give you a large thing of white rice, and a free miso soup. 

If you have never had Bi Bim Bap before, the idea is to mix all the stuff they give you with rice and the sauce to form a Korean mixed rice dish.  At nice Korean rice restaurants they have a version that is served in a hot stone pot, so what you get is similar to fried rice when you mix it all together.  It normally has a sunny side up (or over easy) egg on top that you crack all over the dish (delicious!).  Obviously delis like this only serve a cold version, but it is still good- and for me, probably the healthiest thing I would be willing to eat for lunch in Midtown.  (Look at all the vegetables I’m eating Mom!!!)

The Bi Bim Bap is good, and the Bento boxes looked fine, but the real star of the show is definitely the Bulgogi Box.  I realized that despite all my writing about Bulgogi Carts and the such- people still may not know what Bulgogi is.  It is thinly sliced Korean BBQ’d beef.  It’s slightly sweet, and usually cooked with scallions or onions.  Th Pro Hot Bagel version (I’ll never get used to saying that) is on par with the rest of the fast food delis and carts in Midtown, but what makes it special is everything that they give you for your $7.95.  In addition to the Bulgogi (and free Miso soup that comes with everything), you get rice, seaweed salad, two pieces of Tempura sushi, 2 fried pot stickers and a steamed shumai.  I’m a big fan of variety, so this kind of thing gets a huge thumbs up from me.

While I still hold out for a Koreatown style fast food Korean place opening in Midtown, that serves hot, fresh Bi Bim Bap & Bulgogi for super cheap prices- I’m all for this new Korean food taking over Bagel places trend.  Or any Asian food for that matter.  Where’s the Vietnamese food up in this piece?  Is anybody listening…

THE +

  • Cheap & Quick Korean & Japanese food
  • The Bulgogi Box has a ton of variety (a mix of Korean & Japanese stuff)
  • Everything comes with free Miso Soup (and it’s pretty good!  Not that watered down crap you usually get for free.)

THE -

  • The Bulgogi is not made fresh like at Cafe Duke or the various carts
  • The food is no better or worse then any of the other cheap Korean options… (so it really comes down to which place you are closer to)
  • The red sauce you pour over the Bi Bim Bap was too thick to pour (too much Red Bean chili Paste, not enough oil)
  • You don’t get a lot of meat in the Bi Bim Bap

Pro Hot Bagel, 62 W. 56th St. (btw. 5+6th) 212-397-9104

14 Comments

  • In Korean food, the “red sauce” is supposed to be thick, so that actually may be a “+” of the place. The “sauce” is hot red pepper paste called gochi jang. A little hard to mix but very spicy and flavorful.

  • went to Ambrosia a couple of times for their Korean food. They started off pricey and shruggable. But they recently lowered their prices, added more dishes, offered more banchan, and the taste has significantly improved. Definitely worth a try and that’s coming from a korean gal.

    Thanks for the info.  I had a feeling they would lower their prices soon enough.  Over $10 for Korean food that is served out of the back of the deli isn’t going to sell!!!  -Zach

  • i work right in front of pro bagel so i decided to give the bibimbop a try a few weeks ago.

    the rice is hard (probably made the day before), not enough meat, stramge combo of veggies and the gochujjang isnt made right.

    i probably wouldnt eat it again. i would rather go to ktown for dinner and have good bibimbop!

     

    The rice might be a crapshoot.  Mine was fine… but you are right about the strange mix of veggies- every cheap deli version of Bi Bim Bap has a weird mix of veggies.  -Zach

  • I found out the other day that Global Kitchen on 52nd bet. 5th and 6th has Bulgogi at their grill station in the back. Anyone tried it?

  • I went to pro bagel today and was disapointed with what I saw. The prepared bibimbop and bulgogi bento both had that “dried out” made the night before look. Really tiny portions in the bento. Luckily I left and kept walking east towards 5th. halfway up I found “Utopia” deli which had a banner saying they served Latin food. While far from the Korean i had set out for I gave it a shot and am happy to say they have a 10 item steam table each day that is as good or better then cafe Ciello. I had the pernil and it was perfect! Rice, beans,plaintains, all available. It looked like they were doing some nice cuban pressed sandwichs – i saw one being put together with some fresh roasted pork that looked really good. They also have the usual deli stuff like subs and salads in case you bring co-workers that like such things.

  • Oh cool, you comment back in italics now… nice touch! Maybe bold though to really differentiate that it’s you?

    Yummm, Korean food! I always think of Korean food as so expensive! Wonder why that is. Hmm. Maybe it’s time for Korean food!

  • Stopped in the other day and got the soft tofu seafood soup. Nothing to write home about – watery, tasteless with a little bit of heat and one or 2 anemic looking pieces of shell fish floating around. Pass.

  • Check out this site… it compliments this blog very well. Keep u the good work!

  • Just had a sun dubu at Pro bagel which was supposed to have seafood in it, but what i got was only tofu cubes and green onion and onion floating in a bland tasteless broth. It wasn’t even spicy. I added salt to try to make it work, but I couldn’t finish it. Not recommended for korean, if this is indicative of their other dishes.

  • hey. would u mind to introduce more restaurant?? keep on writing. dun stop.

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