Kimchee is sacrosanct at this Temple.

Continuing with our “places you’ve possibly heard of and that aren’t too hard to get to” tour (which, I assure you, was unintentionally assembled), I’d like to yak a little bit today about Korean Temple Cuisine, number 49 on the estimable list, located on St. Marks just west of 1st Avenue.  I went for the second time over the weekend with my roommate and a friend visiting from out of town – the first time I went was in the brief period just after finding the list and before starting the blog (that would place it over a year ago, for those keeping score at home).

Unfortunately it’s still more expensive than most of the places on the list (only cheaper than AQ Café and the late and lamented Philoxenia, off the top of my head), but I’m sure that the lunch deals are more cost-effective, and it might well be cheaper than the average 32nd Street place.  The décor is nice, though, and my roommate described it as the perfect date location.  That is, as long as your date likes kimchee.

Happy to say that the food hasn’t changed from what I remember – never truly transcendent, but it’s definitely quality stuff.  I had the succinctly-monikered “pork,” which actually would be called pork bulgoki in many places ($14).  It presents a skillet full of pork in a chile sauce, a side place of lettuce to wrap them up in, and a little dipping sauce.  It kind of comes off like Korean fajitas, I suppose.  

Heathen alert: I usually eschew the lettuce part of the equation, feeling like it’s too much work for too little reward (and because the first place I ever had the dish wasn’t the kind of place that served lettuce with it).  My roommate, who actually bothered to put a wrap together, said it was a good contrast of temperatures and textures.  Bully, him!  Temple’s iteration is significantly less spicy than others I’ve had, though, if this makes a difference to you, it’s a heck of a lot more tender than average.  Despite the lack of spice, I was still happy that the meal came with a large bowl of white rice, as the portion of meat was perhaps slightly smaller than would be ideal.

My roommate ordered the bibimgooksu, a cold buckwheat noodle dish with veggies in a citrus-pepper sauce ($10).  It packed quite a kick!  The noodles themselves were quite thin, which was a refreshing change from the dreadnaught noodles that some places serve with their cold dishes.

My friend from Boston, a first-time Korean diner, was very brave to order the grilled eel dolsot ($14) – she’d never had eel before, either.  Fortunately, this is an excellent preparation to try it in, and it was probably the best dish of the evening.  White rice in a stone crock with slightly sweetened eel filet on the top, but you’re supposed to mix it up into a mishmash of flavors and textures (the rice hardens when it’s next to the stone, providing a nice crunch).  Definitely delicious, and the portion of rice is huge enough that you’ll get a bite even if someone else at the table orders it.

The panchan that came out only a few minutes before the mains were good, though I missed the non-gringo-favorites like fried minnows and mystery egg soufflé – this one substituted a potato mixture.  The cold cinnamony concoction that is served after the plates are cleared, too, is delicious – can’t tell if it’s liquor or tea, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

Definitely more of an atmosphere place than a hardcore ethnic destination, but that’s okay – if you’re tired of taking all your dates to the Shake Shack and want to add a little spice to a second or third date with someone you think can handle it, Temple will fit your needs perfectly.  

1 Comment

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One response to “Kimchee is sacrosanct at this Temple.

  1. The Management

    I think the end-of-dinner liquid is a ginger-cinnamon tea. I love that stuff. Good thing I can’t find a bottled version – wouldn’t drink anything else.

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