Bapcha Noodle Cart Is Way Better Than It Used to Be
Last week, we covered the re-design, menu revamp and subsequent price increases at the Bapcha cart (formerly known as Bulgogi & Kimchi, on 49th btw. 6+7th), though we neglected to mention the re-design of the adjoining noodle cart extension. Like big brother Bapcha, the noodle cart has received a matching make-over, though the menu and prices emerged relatively unaffected. The most note-worthy difference, however, is the food.
In my inaugural once-over of the noodle cart, I was lukewarm on the quality of the food. Admittedly I hadn’t returned prior to last week, a decision based entirely on one plate of food- a hot mess of merely adequate jjajangmyeon with truly alarming green soba noodles. And yet, over the past few months, I’ve noticed with increasing frequency the appearance of Bapcha Noodle Cart ramyun on my co-worker’s desks and the unmistakable whiff of jjampong (spicy seafood noodle soup) around the office. After overhearing a trusted foodie (and Korean) co-worker effusively gush over her order of spicy tuna kimbap, I decided it was definitely time for a revisit.
First, a simple answer to a simple question: “Did they improve?“. The answer is a resounding Yes! The jjajangmyeon ($8) is as good as any that you would find in Manhattan K-town. I could find little fault in the homemade jjajang (black bean sauce), which is liberally applied to freshly heated udon noodles. Next they add tender beef bulgogi and half of a hard boiled egg. Both the beef and the egg are unconventional toppings for this dish, but upgrade this humble bowl of noodles into a well rounded meal. A word of caution though… the jjajangmyeon sold out before 1pm on each of my subsequent visits.
The dak bulgogi ramyun also improved since my first visit. Ramyun 2.0 is now served in a wide-mouthed bowl, making the noodles far easier to consume. The quantity of dak bulgogi (spicy chicken strips) has been increased, and a handful of crunchy chopped scallions give the dish some textural contrast. Some lunch’ers may have deeply rooted issues (I fought my own inner-demons on this one) paying $7 for packaged ramyun that can be had for less than a $1 in stores. In retort to this quibble, I ask you, “Who the hell has the time and equipment to cook a packet of Shin ramyun during a busy work day?” The defense rests your honor.
The kimbap, like the jjajangmyeon, also suffers from erratic availability, but it’s worth the inquiry. On my first visit, the spicy tuna had already sold out, and on all visits, the jalapeno flavor was unavailable. But having sampled the veggie ($5) and spicy tuna ($6) kimbaps, I’ll demurely suggest that these kimbap are as good, if not better than the product available at Woorijip (E-Mo still gets the highest mark in my book). Both orders were appropriately plump, and remarkably fresh given the fact that they aren’t made to order.
Notably, the veggie kimbap isn’t truly vegetarian – ‘Krab’ makes an appearance in these – but makes for a satisfying $5 snack.
In truth, I am thrilled to report that the Bapcha Noodle Cart has improved their food and operations. The family friendly feel good story of the original cart and the noodle extension (the two cart owners are first cousins) melts my heart like a whimpering puppy or the ending of Home Alone. Finally the quality of the food is commensurate with the rest of the story.