Is it possible for a Jewish kid from Virginia to be nostalgic for Korean food? Dok Suni was one of the first reviews I wrote on this site, a mere four years ago. It was one of my first experiences with Korean food, and it was one of my first restaurant crushes here in NYC. After I moved out of the East Village I stopped going as frequently. And of course there are many more Korean restaurants here, many of them better, many of them more traditional — but still, in my heart I have a soft spot for Dok Suni. I was recently in the East Village with my friend Jess looking for a place to eat when I spotted Dok Suni and suggested it. Jess had never been there but loves Korean food, so we ended up having a late dinner there. How did it measure up to my memories?
The d’uk boki (tubular rice cakes in a spicy sauce) is one of the dishes I remember best, and one that I remember loving. The chewy rice cakes were perhaps a little more grainy than I remember, but it’s still a great dish. The hot red pepper sauce is sweet as well as spicy, and the dish manages to activate all of my pleasure zones.
Hot stone bibimbop (a melange of rice, vegetables, and protein in a fiery hot bowl) is another of my favorites at Korean restaurants, though I don’t recall ever ordering it at Dok Suni. I was surprised that the egg on top was fried rather than raw, but the yolk was still quite runny and when I stirred it into the rice the yolk coated everything. The rice got nice and crispy on the bottom, which is the best part. Yes, I’ve had better versions, but this was still pretty good. The comforting warmth of the rice, along with the fresh veggies and the spicy/sweet sauce, make it a winner. Also there’s something fun about the cook-it-yourself activity that hot stone bibimbop gets you (bibimbop is also available cold, which is also good but nowhere near as fun).
As I said earlier, there are better, more authentic Korean restaurants in Manhattan. And yet Dok Suni retains a special place in my culinary memory bank. My most recent visit confirmed reminded me of why — it’s comfort food, even for a Jewish kid from Virginia like me.
Dok Suni — 119 First Ave, Manhattan