Sunday, December 29, 2013

Trying casual Korean food in Palisades Park

Spicy Fried Shrimp at Bunsik Nara, a Korean restaurant in Palisades Park that moved to a larger space on Broad Avenue, below.

Outside, the captions for food photos are in Korean, but inside, you'll find bilingual menus and servers.

Editor's note: Today, I report on a meal at Bunsik Nara in Palisades Park, the closing of one of my favorite Korean restaurants and a visit to the Super H Mart in Ridgefield.


I am still trying to figure out how I can accommodate my long love affair with Korean food -- which is based largely on rice -- while keeping faithful to a diet that limits my intake of carbohydrates.

On Saturday, I visited Bunsik Nara, a restaurant in Palisades Park whose name translates loosely as "land of casual food."

At the next table, a man in his 20s said Bunsik Nara is known for serving "street food." 

The extensive menu includes sections for Italian and Chinese food; dishes made with cheese, and lots of traditional Korean items, including seaweed-and-rice rolls, soups, stews and barbecue.

One dish pictured on the menu is a mound of fried rice covered in cooked egg and decorated with a latticework of ketchup or gochujang, a spicy red-pepper paste Koreans use like ketchup.

A deconstructed seaweed-and-rice roll with spicy squid and radish kimchi, and three free side dishes at Bunsik Nara.

I ordered a seaweed-and-rice roll called Choong Moo that came with spicy squid and radish kimchi on the side, and it was one of the few without ham ($8.99).

I also ordered Spicy Fried Squid, a dozen crustaceans that had been dipped in tempura batter and bathed in a sweet-and-spicy sauce ($19.99).

On my receipt, they are called Kkanpoong Shrimp.

Free side dishes were cabbage kimchi, yellow Korean pickles and a crunchy iceberg lettuce salad with mayonnaise.

I liked the roll and the shrimp, but they could serve two or three, and I took home plenty of leftovers.

The restaurant's interior is brightly lit. Most of the customers are young, in their 20s and 30s, as are the servers. The soundtrack is Korean rock. 

Bunsik Nara, 254 Broad Ave., Palisades Park; 201-944-2544. Open 7 days. Meters must be fed until 9 p.m. Free parking on side streets.

The sign on the door of Woochon, one of my favorite Korean restaurants. The restaurant, in a former bank building, had a sushi bar and a tank of live fish. I especially liked the grilled mackerel, and the array of colorful side dishes.
Around the corner in a Korean bar, a separate business that was accessible from the restaurant, the Guatemalan cook said Woochon has been closed for about two months, but he didn't know why.

Woochon closes

Before I stopped at Bunsik Nara, I took a photograph of a sign telling customers that Woochon at 280 Broad Ave., one of my favorites in Palisades Park, is closed "until further notice."

Here is an account of a wonderful lunch there in June 2012:

This lunch made us forget about dinner

Behind the displays of colorful, tasty prepared food at the Super H Mart in Ridgefield, employees fill big plastic bags with spicy cabbage kimchi that is made in the store.

Super H Mart

The Super H Mart is the Korean chain's biggest supermarket in Bergen County, and you'll find more of everything there -- from free Korean food samples to bigger crowds to fewer empty parking spaces -- even on a day like today, when it is pouring.

I drove over after a brief visit to H&Y Marketplace in Ridgefield, a smaller Korean supermarket that was relatively empty.

A large tray of stewed tofu from Pinocchio Catering in Flushing, Queens, was $5.49 at H Mart.

At H Mart, I picked up a 5-pound box of Bagu Clementines from Spain for $6.99, a tray of 12 fuyu from Sharon in Israel for $8.99 and stewed tofu for $5.49. A head of red-leaf lettuce was 99 cents.

At the free fruit station, the woman said a fuyu should be eaten when it turns orange, and she peeled the fruit before cutting it up for sampling.

On the bottom of the box, the instructions say fuyu should be "eaten like an apple," which sounds like the skin is edible.

Super H Mart, 321 Broad Ave., Ridgefield; 201-943-9600.

Sharon calls the fuyu "nature's candy."

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