Cafe Amande May Not Serve Beignets, But Their Korean Food is Good
Earlier this week I reported that the generic deli named Cafe Du Monde was forced to change their name to Cafe Amande. But the far more exciting news about the place came via email from Lunch’er Amanda:
Did you know
Cafe Du MondeCafe Amande on 37th between 5th and 6th has Korean food in the back? Bibimbap to rival that of Koreatown. Comes with miso soup and extra chili sauce (make sure you ask if they don’t give it to you because they almost always do). No sides but I usually just take some kimchee from the pay per pound buffet (it’s homemade by one of the cashier ladies!)
Korean food from a generic deli? Homemade kimchee? I’m in.
A large number of the generic delis in New York City are owned by Korean families, and even though I can’t stand most of the delis themselves, I love the trend that has caught on in the past 3 or 4 years of serving Korean food. If the owners are Korean, why not serve the authentic cooking of their country for those of us who have no interest in boar’s head turkey sandwiches and pay by the ingredient salads.
At Cafe Amande, the korean food is in the back and mixed in with sushi, udon, teriyaki, and bento boxes. They have bibimbap, as well as bulgogi (and according to the menu kalbi as well, a thicker cut of beef.) On Amanda’s recommendation I ordered the bibimbap ($7.95). At a korean restaurant bibimbap is served hot in a large bowl, with a number of different ingredients (beef, veggies, fried egg) on top of rice. It’s meant to be all mixed together, along with a sweet and spicy chili paste, into a dish almost like fried rice. Order dolsot bibimbap, and the dish is served in a hot stone pot, so the bits of rice that are stuck to the side of the pot get all crispy (and then it’s really like fried rice.)
Clearly the restaurant version is going to be better than a deli version, which is more like a salad, but as deli bibimbaps go Cafe Amande’s is pretty damn good. Unlike Cafe Duke which gives you the rice on the side, Cafe Amande puts the rice in the container along with the bulgogi (Korean bbq’d beef), julienned veggies, and a fried egg.
The real point of the fried egg, is to break the yolk over the rice and mix it all in. And a lot of deli versions of bibimbap give you a cold, fully cooked fried egg, defeating the entire purpose- but Cafe Amande’s egg was cooked to order (a huge bonus).
The big drawback of Cafe Amande’s bibimbap is the lack of banchan (the little Korean side dishes you get at the beginning of the meal.) But they do give you a really good miso soup. It’s not only flavorful, but comes jam packed with stuff like seaweed, tofu, and strips of fried bean curd. Really good stuff.
I went looking for the kimchee on the buffet, but couldn’t find any. So when I got my bibimbap, I asked the guy behind the counter if it came with kimchee. He kind of smiled in a way that said, “Really! I can’t believe this white guy is asking about kimchee” and went back into a styrofoam conainer and gave me a small scoop in a cup. I almost felt like he was giving me part of his lunch, just to be nice. And he made it clear it doesn’t really come with it… but maybe if enough people ask they’ll start to give it out- or at least sell it regularly. I’m glad I asked too, it was probably the best kimchee I’ve ever had from a deli. And if it really is homemade by one of the register ladies, I’d like to meet her and shake her hand.
Part of the reason that Cafe Duke, Ambrosia, and Pro Hot Korean are such godsends is because it saves those lunchers who work in the 40s and 50s a trip to Koreatown. People who work around Cafe Amande (which is on 37th btw. 5+6th) can just walk the extra five blocks to 32nd and be in NYC’s Korean food Disney World. But take out deli bibimbap is kind of a dish unto itself… and if you’re craving it, Cafe Amande’s version is one of the better ones I’ve had.
Cafe Amande, 37th Street btw. 5+6th Avenues