Does Food Gallery 32 Make Better Kimbap Than E-Mo?
Kimbap is an ideal lunch item for me. It’s cheap, travels well, packs an even and flavorful dose of carbs, proteins, veggies, and it doesn’t suffer if I get pulled into a meeting and it sits on my desk for hours until I finally get to it.
Whenever I get the hankering for kimbap and I’m close to Koreatown, E-Mo (‘Aunt’ in Korean) has always been my go to. I get sentimental when it comes to this place as well – it’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall that’s been around forever, and the old Korean lady that assembles the kimbap to-order is as sweet as can be (at least when she’s not scolding me for my embarrassing lack of conversational Korean). It may not be the best kimbap I’ve ever had, but compared to the other options in K-town, it always held its own. That is until Food Gallery 32 opened up across the street, and started selling its own version of made-to-order kimbap at the Boon Sik Zip stall.
A comparison between the two was inevitable, so we set off to do a head-to-head assessment in our highly unscientific analysis.
For consistency sake, the bulgogi kimbap at both restaurants were used for this study, and both items were ordered during a fairly busy lunch service, ensuring sufficient product turnover and freshness. Food Gallery 32’s version (on the left) rang up at $5.99 + tax, and credit cards are an acceptable form of payment. E-Mo’s bulgogi kimbap (on the right) was a flat $5.50, and it should be noted that they’re cash only. Side-by-side, Food Gallery 32’s kimbap is clearly more food compared to E-Mo’s. Also, E-Mo doesn’t include a side of danmuji (pickled daikon), which gives a nice contrasting crunch and zing to the kimbap.
A glance at the cross section also reveals a clear winner in terms of fillings. Food Gallery 32’s kimbap (on the left) is nearly all fillings, with rice making up perhaps only 20% of the body. I also noted that Food Gallery 32 warmed their bulgogi in the microwave (E-Mo served theirs luke-warm), and that the resulting kimbap was juicier and more flavorful than E-Mo’s. I also picked up more distinct hints of sesame oil in Food Gallery 32’s version, and the rice had an edge in freshness and fluffiness.
At this point, the scales are tipped heavily in Food Gallery 32’s favor, and comparing the complimentary bowls of odeng guk (fish cake soup) won’t help E-Mo’s case either. E-Mo’s (on the right) soup was certainly refreshing, but a tad on the salty side, wan, and lacked any actual odeng. On the other hand, Food Gallery 32’s version had 4-5 generous strips of odeng, and was a decidedly richer and more flavorful.
As much as it pains me to write and publish this, E-Mo’s era of kimbap dominance may be coming to a close. Food Gallery 32’s version, while $.50 more expensive, edges out E-Mo’s kimbap in almost every category – size, flavor, freshness, and ancillary factors (soup, danmuji, method of payment, etc). The nostalgic and sentimental side of me will always prefer E-Mo, but the practical side of me must admit that Food Gallery 32, without a doubt, serves a better version.
Food Gallery 32, 11 W 32nd St (btw. B’way+5th)
E-Mo, 2 W 32nd St (btw. B’way+5th)