East Noodle and Izakaya – More Than Meets the Eye

You know those restaurants you walk right by? The ones that seem just a little too cheap, or where the menu is jut a little too big, or where the deal just seems a little too good to be true? Most of the time you are right to pass those by. Most of the time, you just keep on walking to a smaller, more authentic place, and you are sure to get a better value for your time and money.

BUT…

sometimes, you should go into those places. Like when there are 5 of you who are cold and hungry and just on the verge of whining. Like when this place has a huge table just waiting for you. Like when the atmosphere is jovial and fun, not to say rowdy.

Like when you pass East Noodle and Izakaya on St. Marks. From the outside it’s a tourist trap. From the inside, it’s a melting pot of student teachers form NYU, families with kids, couples on dates, and lone diners at the bar.

It’s ideal for a delicious but inexpensive meal.

Though you could get the agedashi tofu, creamy and custardy within its crisply fried exterior, saturated in salty sauce, or the thick and hearty vegetable pajeon, that isn’t why you come here. You come here for the many delicious yakitori. Here are just a few of my favorite skewered meats and vegetables:

Chicken thigh with scallion

Simple but supremely done. Moist and tender chicken, slightly bitter from the char marks on the outside. Tinged with salty soy and separated from the bite of sharp scallions, this is a delightful skewer.

Chicken thigh with yuzu

Oh, get this. The thigh is rough and charred from the fire, bursting with savory juices within. Atop, it is brushed with sour yuzu juice that is so spicy that it makes the lips tingle. Not overly fiery, it definitely announces its presence, and it’s hot and sour taste compliment’s the meat’s natural sweetness.

Pork belly

Pork, come to mama. Supremely fatty and sweet, with a garlicky bbq sauce on the outside that picked up the savory notes of the pork. If you don’t like pork belly or visible fat, don’t get this. But if you love the natural taste of pork and the  mushy taste of well caramelized fat, then jump on this skewer and ride it to the end of the line.

Chicken hearts

Like grilled liver but a bit less chalky and more bouncy. That minerally, iron-heavy taste combined with salty-sweet teriyaki sauce. If you like liver, you will absolutely love chicken hearts. Get over it people…if you have eaten hot dogs, you have eaten offal.

JapChae

Yeah, i know I said it was all about the skewers. But this Korean holdover really deserves mention. Glass noodles sautéed with vegetables. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But these noodles are something else. Tender and slippery, with a good bite. Coated in salty, umami forward sauce that is sweet without being cloying and savory without being aggressive. Sweet onions, soft zucchini, and other vegetables rounding out the dish. This is really something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Bravo to the chef.

Bibimbap

Traditional? No. But delicious? Yep. Soft and sticky rice, crisped by the dolsot, blended with spicy gochujang, bits of softened vegetables, and strips of long, thin, delightfully fatty gyudon beef. Don’t miss it…it’s addictive.

This whole place is addictive. I defy you to spend more than $30 a person here, with each person leaving stuffed to the gills. The service is fast, the atmosphere is fun, and the food, while not revelatory, is really tasty.

You will be so glad that you stepped into a restaurant that you would normally pass over.

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