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Palisades Park has the biggest concentration of Korean restaurants in North Jersey, from soft-tofu and barbecue houses to restaurants specializing in hand-made noodles.
Editor's note: This branch of Gam Mee Ok closed, but the stylish original still thrives in Fort Lee.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
I put together a group of 10 to check out Gam Mee Ok in Palisades Park, a branch of the popular, 24-hour restaurant in Fort Lee with a unique kimchi service.
The stylish restaurant, hidden away on the second floor of a building on Broad Avenue, opened without fanfare early this year.
The original Gam Mee Ok (pronounced GAM-yo) is in Manhattan.
A server brings cabbage and radish kimchis to the table in what looks like a small vase, cuts the long pieces of cabbage with a scissor and places them in a dish, adding more red-pepper sauce from a metal tea pot.
The cabbage kimchi, in particular, combines a pleasant sweetness with the usual spicy notes, adding an unusual accent to the meal.
The restaurant doesn't serve the variety of free side dishes found at most other Korean places, but does put out cabbage leaves and hot green peppers.
During our meal, we also got shredded radish kimchi and bowls of the restaurant's signature beef-bone soup, a bland, milky white broth you season with salt and chopped scallions from containers on the table.
Other members of the group tried a variety of dishes from the open kitchen, including steamed pork-and-vegetable dumplings ($7.95) and barbecued kalbi or short ribs ($16.95), which they ate out of hand or wrapped in the tender cabbage leaves, instead of the usual red-leaf lettuce.
I ordered a seafood pancake ($12.95), as well as dolsot bibimbap ($13.95), a one-dish meal of rice, vegetables and egg served in a hot stone bowl, asking the kitchen to hold the ground beef and cook the raw egg that usually come with it.
You add a mildly spicy red-pepper sauce call gochujang and mix up all the ingredients before eating it with a spoon. True comfort food.
My wife and son tried a spicier version of bibimbap with kimchi and pork, and loved it (also $13.95).
I also tried a ring from a large squid served on a hot metal plate, but found it too chewy ($19.95). We brought our own wine and beer to this BYO.
We paid about $23 each, including tax and a 20% tip. I also took home a large container of Gam Mee Ok's delicious cabbage kimchi ($7.44).
Gam Mee Ok, 110 Broad Ave., Second Floor, next to Chinese Mandarin Restaurant; 201-945-6300.
BYO, free parking on side streets.