Flushing is home to a number of Asian communities. Before driving home later in the day, we returned with Michael for another lunch, though this time at only one place – Mapo Korean BBQ at 14924 41st Rd, just down the street from the Golden Shopping Mall and the Tianjin Dumpling House. Mapo is just not the kind of place to go and sample a few small items only then move on. Go to Mapo BBQ for a full meal. There really is not other way to do it justice.
The main draw at Mapo BBQ is their barbecued meats. Each table has a small round hole in the center in which a bucket of hot charcoals (real wood charcoal – most places use gas grills) is placed to cook the meat to be eaten directly off the grill. Kalbi, marinated beef short rib cut off the bone before grilling is the star, but the other selections shouldn’t be ignored. To cook on the table grill, two grilled meats needed to be ordered. For just one order, they would have cooked it in the kitchen and brought it out when done. That would have missed half the fun.
Banchan, small plates of Korean specialties including a variety of kim chees, sprouts, mountain vegetables, marinated cooked beef, boiled octopus and broccoli, daikon, salad and other tasty morsels are included in the meal and are paraded out early and quickly. There were enough to fill our spacious table.
Corn in a creamy sauce came to the table in a cast iron pan after having been broiled until it was bubbling. This was rich and tasty.
An egg custard was light and delicate with a texture like a souffle.
We also ordered a couple of extra dishes. Soon Doo Boo Jigae, silky house made tofu came out in a seafood broth along with clams, straw mushrooms and a small variety of seafood as well as another with chili paste.
Michael spooned some of the seafood stew over rice and the lovely ladies who served us ladled it into individual cups for us. This was very good, but got a little lost amongst all the dishes on our table.
My favorite dish outside of the grilled meats was Nak Ji Bokkum, pan-fried octopus with vegetables and Korean hot, spicy sauce. This also had thick, chewy, long noodles. The flavors were simply marvelous. The dish had spice, but wasn’t overwhelming. We had let our server know that we welcomed the spice. The combination was both a textural and flavor tour de force.
Watching the grilling process and the anticipation it elicited from us was almost as much fun as eating the meat itself. both the kalbi, beef short ribs, and the pork ribs had been removed from the bones. Our server leaned deftly across the table to place the whole cuts of meat on the mesh grill over the hot charcoals, which had been brought out just before and placed in the special receptacle in the center of the table.
As the meat cooked, the server used shears to snip the cuts into smaller bite size pieces, which continued to sizzle atop the hot fire. Eventually, she determined when the pieces were ready and proceeded to place some on each of our plates. The beef was ready first.
We would take the meat and place the pieces on a lettuce leaf along with some chili paste and marinated onions to create a wrap. I alternately enjoyed eating the wraps and the plain chunks of meat. The kalbi had been treated with a soy and Asian pear marinade before. The meat was exquisitely marbled which left the cooked version moist, tender and sublimely delicious.
The pork was also delicious in its own porky way. It had been marinated also. While it was wonderful, its deliciousness relative to other pork barbecue was not as outstanding as that of the beef short ribs to most other beef barbecue that I’ve had.
This was a most pleasant and delicious experience that left me hungry to try more at another time. The service was warm, friendly and very helpful. The owner, Mrs. Han, had taken a personal interest in us and it showed. We left satisfied – full, but not over-stuffed. Thus, our two-day foray into Flushing’s Asian food scene was concluded. I can’t wait to return to try more!