Flatiron Lunch: Take 31′s Lunch Menu is Under $10, Despite Being Hipster Korean
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
What is it about Korean food that has us obsessed? I am not complaining, but have you seen the Midtown Lunch archives on Korean food?? Seriously. I am guilty, and since K-town Proper is technically in the ML boundaries by a block (just one block!), I think it is only fair that we have our own Korean restaurants in the Flatiron District (not that we can’t and don’t walk that extra block to partake in the joys of K-town.) A few weeks ago, as I walked the northern most Flatiron boundaries, I spotted a small place hiding under scaffolding and went in to investigate further. It was dinner-time, and every table was filled with young, hip Koreans. I asked to see a lunch menu and didn’t see a single item over the ML budget, which isn’t surprising for K-town, but was for such a design-y, trendy spot.
I met up with a few friends for lunch, and they all immediately liked the vibe of the place. The exposed brick with slightly mix-matched furniture made the interior very cozy and casual. Since it is kind of hard to tell from this one photo, they apparently have a YouTube channel that you can see for yourself. Not sure the purpose of the YouTube videos, but I guess it is part of their young, hip vibe. It feels like the type of restaurant that serves updated, comfort food. The staff was all young and good-looking, and I know this might be a huge turn off for some readers, but the vibe reminded me of Penelope. (Yes, Penelope. The over-priced comfort food on Lexington and 30th. Except Take 31 is not overpriced.)
This is the lunch menu when we visited a few weeks ago. Actually, this was the one for non-Korean speakers that included short descriptions and ingredients of each dish. They didn’t have many copies of this at the time (and one less since I took one…hehe), so we all had to share which means it took forever to order. If you know the names of your favorite Korean dishes, you will be better off. The service (along with the lack of extra menus) was fairly slow. They had two other tables of 5 or more, but otherwise not a full house. Perhaps they are going for that slow, relaxed vibe, but I hope, for the sake of the ML’ers that have only an hour, they speed up the service.
A walk-by this week had different menu in the window, which is also on their website. Since they only opened a few months ago, I am sure they are still working out what menu items sell which is probably why they streamlined the menu. Everything is still under $10.
One friend ordered the Odeng Udon with shrimp added. The dish started at $6.95, and I think they only charged her $2 extra for 6 pieces of shrimp. The Udon was the right chewiness, and the dish came with a couple pieces of pickled daikon which provided a nice textural palate cleanser for the dish. It looks like this Udon preparation might not have made the cut to the new menu. They did keep the Myungran Udon with Cream Sauce – Udon noodles are cooked with sautéed shrimp and scallops and combined with cold fish roe in a Parmesan cream sauce for $7.95 with free coffee (eh? Is coffee good with Korean food. I don’t get it.) Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this cream sauce. I am not sure I could bring myself to order it when I go back, but I applaud any of you readers who order it. PLEASE post in the comments how that turns out.
Another friend ordered the Crab-meat Nachial Bokkeumbap. (On the current menu for $6.95) Which was a pile of rice sautéed with crab meat, corn, onion, served just slightly warm with a layer of sweet mayo over the top. I was skeptical, but she thought the crab flavor was distinct yet well integrated with the rest of the dish. It came with pickled daikon and a small “house salad” of romaine hearts dressed with a little mustard flavor.
I ordered a special, Don Kimchi Jigae ($8.95). It was listed as a spicy stew with pork and kimchi. This strikes me as a good cold weather dish, so I wouldn’t expect it back on the menu for months. The pork reminded me of pork belly, and it wasn’t too gelatinous despite not having a good sear. In addition, I counted at least 10 pieces in my bowl, but might have missed a piece or two through the red kimchi broth. I was most impressed by the presentation and sides with my dish. The whole meal was served on a massive tray with three small dishes on the side holding pickled daikon, egg scramble and small house salad. In a separate corner, I was served toasted seaweed papers in a mini saucepot.
The most impressive dish in terms of taste and presentation was the Saessak Bibimbap. It was a bed of rice with beautifully placed servings of bulgogi, scrambled egg, carrot matchsticks, lettuce and sprouts. On the side, she got a little bowl of Korean spicy (sweet) sauce, kimchi, pickled daikon, and small dashi broth soup. In my opinion, this meal had the best flavors, and I had a serious case of order envy.
For the table, we ordered two orders of the Vegetable and Gim Mari Fritters each. They were devoured so quickly, we didn’t even get a photo. The veggies are shoe-stringed, lightly battered and then fried. They were perfectly crispy without being too heavy. The Gim Mari were vermicelli wrapped in nori, and then lightly battered and fried. Also, delicious, but if you can only pick one fritter (why would you do that?), I recommend the Vegetable Fritter.
While discovering Take 31′s YouTube videos, I also saw a few photos of insane looking chicken wings. Koreatown is always looking for the next hottest Chicken Wing so I plan to give these a try…you never know!
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I like a modern take on Korean food.
- The relaxed, hip environment is a nice contrast to most of K-town.
- Take 31 gets 5-stars for presentation, especially at those prices.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I prefer more traditional Korean food.
- Why wouldn’t I walk an extra block to get all of this food, plus some, at Woorijip?
- The service is too slow for ML.
Take 31, 15 East 31 Street btwn Fifth and Madison Aves, (646) 696-8901