Flatiron Lunch: H.I.T. Korean Food Hiding in Office Building Lobby
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.
As Midtown Lunchers, we are always looking for hidden gems. And this past week I found one! Of course, our type of gem isn’t the shiny kind you put in jewelry, but the kind that fills your stomach and makes you start telling your friends. H.I.T. Korean Food and Deli (but you can mostly ignore the Deli part) is one of those places. Did I mention that H.I.T. is located through the lobby of an office building, which is the next best thing to serving food on a loading dock. Start telling your friends.
Not sure what I mean by through the lobby of an office building? Well, if you look closely at the photo above, in the center of the photo near the bottom, you will see a small square sign that reads: H.I.T. Deli.
Once you get a little further into the lobby, you will see the hallway with a wall of colorful photos of delicious looking Korean food beckoning you to come a bit further.
There really isn’t much to the interior of H.I.T. once you are inside. The counter where you place your order is basically like other deli counters, complete with shelves of cookies, chips, granola bars, energy drinks and the like. With their location in the flower district, they apparently do a booming breakfast business; so the remaining counter space is devoted to muffin cases and large coffee pots. In addition to several large beverage cooler cases, they have two medium sized tables in an L shape with seating for only about 10 people. Since everything is made to order and the kitchen has only about 3 people, the food took a few minutes, but I was in good company waiting with the mostly young, hip crowd from the neighboring offices.
While waiting for my friend, I decided to order for us. My first priority was the bibimbap. I figured it is a good baseline dish to judge a Korean restaurant (like the time I ordered a margarita pizza as an appetizer at almost every restaurant during a trip to Italy. Since you can’t order and try everything on the menu, you gotta have a baseline.) As to be expected, the bibimbap came with a nice medley of veggies including white and red cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets, and seaweed. From there, I noticed the lettuces got a bit out of control. I counted 5 different types of lettuces/greens (some were spicy and some were sweet) and only one was cooked. I don’t really think of raw lettuce as a normal bibimbap ingredient. Mushrooms, on the other hand, is something I have come to expect in bibimbap, but H.I.T.’s version didn’t have any. The beef was flavorful and the egg was runny, but something was missing, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. It wasn’t until later that I realized it didn’t have that lingering toasted sesame oil flavor. It made me wonder, if toasted sesame oil is traditional or if places put it on as a way to mask inferior ingredients. Any Korean food experts out there want to chime in on which preparation is more authentic?
The bibimbap is not served with the ubiquitous cabbage kimchee (at least not the day I ordered.) Instead, it came with a side of seared tofu with scallions and spicy sauce, pickled radishes, Korean hot sauce, and soup. The soup tasted similar to salt water with a little scallion flavoring, but the tofu was outstanding. I would order just that as a meal with a side of rice.
The other item I got was listed on a yellow sheet of paper stuck to the column next to the register that read “fried chicken special with rice and salad -$5.95”. I asked about the dish and was informed that it is a secret recipe. The plate arrived with four pieces of bone-in, skin-on fried chicken. I am not sure I can guess the secret spices they add, but it was delicious and was the first thing my friend and I finished. The skin was awesomely crispy and the chicken was not at all dry. The salad and rice were mostly filler, but I would go back for the chicken.
Now about this word “Deli” in their name. While it is not prominently advertised with oversized color photo posters, they do offer a few deli type sandwiches for $6.95 (turkey club, reuben, etc). But clearly the reason you would go is for the Korean food and not the deli sandwich. In fact, during my time there, I don’t remember hearing a single person order anything off the deli menu. But before we write off the deli menu altogether, there is a single item on there that peaked my interest called the Kimchi Bulgogi Sandwich ($7.50). Intriguing, right? I haven’t had the chance to see if it is as interesting as it sounds, but I had to tempt you all to try it with a photo of it courtesy of the sandwich board out front.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I love restaurants in non-traditional locations.
- Nothing beats a good fried chicken special for $5.95.
- I am excited to try all of the menu options, including kimchi bulgogi sandwich.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- There are too many amazing bibimbaps a few blocks north to bother with strange lettuce additions.
- They should focus on Korean food and forget the deli menu (kimchi bulgogi sandwich excluded.)
- I feel that the photos are false advertising – the food looks good but not that good.
H.I.T. Korean Food and Deli, 150 West 28th Street (First Floor) btw 6th and 7th Aves, (212) 633-1531