Arang Makes The Best Katsu in Koreatown

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Well before Haru Hana, Izakaya Moku and now Sake Bar Kirakuya started ‘Japanifying’ Koreatown, Arang was offering up a hybrid Japanese/Korean menu. It’s changed a lot since Zach first wrote about its buffet way back in 2006. For a while they closed up the buffet and went lunch-less, but as Zach reported after I wrote about it on my blog, they reopened with full table service and an interesting mix of Korean and Japanese dishes.

Some of my favorite dishes require a slight splurge out of the ML Price range, but there are plenty of great options under $10. Check them out after the jump.

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As usual, lunch always starts with some banchan, most often with varieties of kimchi or sprouts in sesame oil or other common snacks. Occasionally though, you’ll get some oddities like the potato salad on the front left and on the front right, the seaweed paired with barbecue sauce. I can’t say that’s particularly tasty, but it’s certainly interesting.

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For the best variety, try out the bento boxes, which come with galbi, bulgogi or chicken as the main and salad, a California roll and two pieces of gyoza all perched in their own compartments of the bento.

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Variety is great, but Arang also excels the simpler combination of meat and rice. A lot of other places in Koreatown tend to toss some flecks of meat in with veggies and rice and leave that at the low end of the price range and put all the filling dishes up at the higher price point. Not so here.

The Bulgogi Dup Bap, above, is a nice pile of steam-griddled shreds of ribeye with mushrooms, onions and scallions. The meat has a lightly sweet flavor that worked even better when I added some of the smokey, spicy hot sauce to it. There are plenty of other similar dishes, mostly around $8.95 that will stuff you.

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Really though, the dish that has had me going back to Arang since I first discovered it is the katsu. I’ve been a big fan of katsu since I first tried it on a trip to Japan years ago. How could I not be? It’s Japanese schnitzel! When it’s done right, it’s a thing of beauty: a crunchy panko exterior and delicious, tender pork inside and the sweet katsu sauce works really well with the pork.

Arang’s katsu is the best I’ve had in Koreatown. It’s pricing is about the same as other places on the block at $9.95 without a topping and $10.95 for your choice of either cheese or curry.

In this case, I find it to be worth the splurge. The cheese katsu seemed odd when I first saw it, but I was quickly converted with my first bite. It’s gooey and crunchy and wonderful.

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The curry katsu surprised me. I was hoping for something along the lines of Go Go Curry, with its thick, muddy gravy. Instead, the curry sauce is something else entirely. It’s thinner and mixed with carrots, potatoes, onions and beef. It’s a heartier mix that pulls in the flavors of all its parts instead of being dominated by one. It’s nothing like it and it’s better for not trying to be.

Arang’s lunch menu just seems to go on and on. Even after several visits, I’ve put off writing about it here because I always feel like there’s one more thing I want to try. One area I’ve steered clear of though is the dollar sushi special. I’m sure it’s just fine, but I’ll leave the cheap sushi deals to Mamacita.

The +

  • The best katsu in Koreatown.
  • Korean meat on rice dishes don’t skimp on the meat.
  • Dollar sushi is a great deal.

The -

  • The Katsu toppings cost an extra buck.
  • There’s no way I’m eating dollar sushi.
  • Seaweed and barbecue sauce just don’t work together.

Arang, 9 w. 32nd St. (btw. B’way+5th Ave. on the 2nd Floor)

13 Comments

  • nice write-up! Also, I covet your 30D.

  • That’s korean style curry rice. which is usually more yellowish…i make that a lot at home.
    That kalbi looks kinda bad. it needs to be grilled not steamed or boiled. O_O

  • Mmmm the curry katsu looks awesome.

    Also, thanks for reviewing food and bringing back the (+) (-).

  • yumyum. i love when they give the potato salad as a banchan! .. and can’t tell from the picture but is the katsu sauce the gravy kind or the bulldog kind? say bulldog!

    • Not sure about the two types of sauce. This is a slightly thicker version of the usual katsu sauce. It’s sweet and a little sticky.

  • bulldog? gaegogi? O.o

  • boshimtang. :) kidding. never could eat dog. tho i hear i would’ve grown more if i had.

  • Oh man, I remember their lunch buffet. Ridiculous. I swear I went there once and they had a Hot Dog Roll. Seriously, it was rice with a hot dog in the middle and ketchup and mustard. So when it was sliced you can just imagine. It was meat with a dot of yellow and a dot of red. I shudder, then I made the mistake of using the bathroom there once and walked by the horrible fish tanks full of dead fish and slime. That was the last time I ate there. but it was 10 bucks for all you can eat sushi… so… I was in my 20′s so sue me!

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    It’s probably not barbecue sauce. Seaweed usually comes out paired with korean “chojang” which is a sauce commonly used for dipping seaweed salad and korean style sashimi “hwae”. It can kinda taste barbecue sauce-esque depending on the recipe (unless they made a mistake and really put barbecue sauce instead but I highly doubt that). mMm Cheese katsu looks delicious.

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    Went there for lunch today and got the bulgogi bento. Really good. I’ll be back for sure.

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