January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A Korean place with one of the best kimchees in town.

No. 100: Gom Ba Woo

How does this place, with only a handful of tables and a tiny two-page menu, make the 100 Best cut? Here’s how: The atmosphere has so much charm and warmth, you wish the decorators of slicker restaurants would drop by for a lesson; the gracious staff takes care of you as if you were family; and the Korean cooking is homey, uncompromising, and satisfying.

The kimchee is superb—leaves of fresh, crunchy cabbage pungently spiced and lightly pickled. Load up on it or on the rest of the (gratis) array of  panchan, or make room for the Sul Leung Tang, a wonderful shin-bone and shin-cartilage stew that looks milky, tastes beefy, and is brimming with green onions, drizzled egg, chewy rice noodles, and vegetable dumplings.

Either way, your final target is the barbecue. Here there is no rigging up a portable grill on the table and wooing you with grease-spitting theatrics—the barbecuing is done in the kitchen. It’s just as well: You can’t get this kind of smoky, charred lusciousness when the waitress is pushing the meat around on the grill top every couple of minutes. The pork belly (pork with red-pepper sauce) is irresistible—greaseless, crisp-edged slices of fatty bacon that you’ll keep eating long after you’re full. The meaty short ribs are nearly as good. Spoon either onto a brilliantly green lettuce leaf, add a scoop of house-made bean paste and maybe a garlic clove, fold the whole thing up, and savor one of the best sandwiches around.

Don’t scratch your head in wonder. Go.

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