Kimchi Stew Cure-all at Soma By Nature

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I am sick.  Sick as defined by Nyquil (I’m not getting any money from these people, but I love this shit), that is with sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, and fever.  I did not want to come to work, but deadlines were looming overhead and duty called.  So when lunch rolled around, I was looking for something that was gonna make me feel better.  Normal people might think chicken soup, but for whatever reason, not me.  Nope, my first thought was “I need to get me something spicy, something hot, something that’s going to make me forget that I’m sick.”  So stumbling down the street I saw Soma By Nature [sic] on William Street, a Korean/Japanese place I’ve been to a couple times, and couldn’t help but wander inside to see what they had to burn my face off.

Walking through the door,  meandering over to the counter, there were, of course, more than a few choices.  The menu board out front was pushing $6 specials which I might go for on another day and the menu inside really wanted me to try their bimibap, but today I felt the need for something a little more hearty.  Amid the bulgogi and soba options, Kimchi Stew jumped out at me and I went ahead and ordered it.  Given the option of either pork or vegetable, naturally I chose pork.  After a solid 10 minute wait, the lady who had taken my order came around the corner with my tray of steaming Kimchi Stew and a small bowl of rice.  This looked like just what the doctor ordered.

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I held my face over the bowl for a few minutes just to breath in the spicy, stinky steam of pickled cabbage.  My sinuses began to clear and I was already on my way to recovery.  The bowl was a bit too hot to dig in straight away, but after a couple minutes to let it cool down, I took my first bite and it was awesome.  The kimchi had the right amount of give, funk, and flavor.  It was pretty good; maybe not quite by Koreatown standards, but certainly by Financial District standards.  I probably could’ve used more spice, but maybe that’s just because the remnants of my stuffy nose somehow dulled my sense of taste.  Whether it was the spiciness of the kimchi, the heat of the soup, or my fever really cranking up the furnace,  I was sweating like crazy by the end of the meal.
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As much as I enjoyed the meal for the purposes of defeating the illness I’m currently plagued with, there are a few things that could use some improvement. First and foremost, if you look closely at the pictures, you’ll notice something missing: my damn pork.  In my feverish haze, I didn’t notice until I’d gotten up to leave and the dim bulb of my cranium brightened. Son of a bitch. Next, the word “stew,” in my mind, implies a variety of ingredients for some reason, especially when I’m paying $7.95 plus tax.  This was pretty much just kimchi with a little bit of chewy rice cake in a spicy broth.  Which brings me to my third and final point. When I say it’s “just” kimchi, what I mean to say is it’s a LOT of kimchi.  This was a big bowl.  I couldn’t eat it all, not because I was full, but because I’d just had enough of the flavor.

The place certainly has its ups and downs, but all in all, I’ve enjoyed my meals here.  They’ve got quite a few options, from sushi to bulgogi to noodle soups and a coffee ancho chili short rib dish that sounds like it would be amazing if it weren’t 22 freakin dollars.  For today, though, Soma By Nature helped me forget I was sick for a forty five minutes, which is exactly what I was looking for.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Nothing like kimchi to help overwhelm a cold
  • This is one of the few places downtown that makes decent Korean food
  • Those are some deep bowls. You know you’re gonna get a lot of food.

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • For what it is, it’s too expensive
  • I don’t care how big the bowl is, I don’t need that much kimchi
  • I’d rather wait to have Korean in Midtown

Soma By Nature, 123 William St. (btw. Fulton & John), (212) 608-8850



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