If you want to eat a lot of inventive, delicious food while drinking good cocktails, gather your friends and head to Palpal. With its easygoing service and inoffensively industrial space, this Korean tapas spot in Nomad is the perfect blank canvas for your next night out.
Almost everything at Palpal is prepared in a wok over live fire, and the open kitchen is the most eye-catching detail of the dining room. The drink menu has five different highball variations, three cocktails, a slew of canned and bottled beer, and a selection of sool. The vast majority of drinks are $14 or less. Combined with small plates that seem designed for soaking up alcohol, this is a natural choice for a dinner that’s also kind of a party.
Ordering two to three small plates per person is not a new idea, but Palpal manages to make this tired concept feel fresh again. Start with an order or two of fresh cilantro kimchi from the street food section, which is where you’ll find other sharable nibbles like nurungji rice cakes and “ugly dumplings.” There are eight other menu sections, including seafood, meat, and noodles, and you should order something from each.
The portions here are relatively small, encouraging you to try a lot of different things rather than simply tucking into a giant bowl of black bean noodles—though this particular dish is so good, we wish we could get an XL version. Any dish that highlights seafood is a solid bet, too.
The menu is pretty big, and not everything hits. This is our primary complaint about Palpal. The highs are “can’t stop thinking about it” high, but the lows are dishes we didn’t want to finish. We don’t love the spicy 2x stir fried udon, which isn’t even 1x spicy. The lamb bulgogi doesn't capture either lamb or bulgogi, and exists instead in the realm of nondescript stir-fried meats.
But as long as you go into your experience informed, you can still have a memorable meal here. This isn’t the kind of place you go because you want to take a thousand pictures of dishes that will make people jealous. It’s the kind of place you go when you want to eat great food with your friends. The food isn’t meant to take the focus away from the people you’re eating with; it's mean to serve as the backdrop to a great night out.
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Fresh Cilantro Kimchi
The single best thing on the menu here, this is a crunchy, tangy take on kimchi that’s, well, fresh. You should get at least one order for the table, but we like to get two because it’s just that good.
Nurungji Rice Cake
If you like honey butter chips, this tastes a bit like that, but in rice cake form. It toes over the sweet side of the sweet-and-savory line, but it’s still a very good starter.
Saucy, tender, and infused with a buzzy heat, this is the best meat dish on the menu. It comes with a lot of vegetables, which is refreshing.
Black Bean Noodle
The textural contrast of julienned cucumber and chewy noodles in this dish is one of our favorite things about it. It comes tossed in a savory, rich black bean sauce. You should share this, but you won’t want to.
Soy Sauce Monkfish
This dish manages to pack a ton of seafood flavor without tasting fishy in a bad way. The exterior of the fried monkfish is perfectly crisp, and the inclusion of crown daisy brightens things up. This one pairs very well with a cold beer.
Perilla Oil Noodle
Our ideal hot-weather dinner consists of these noodles and a side of fresh cilantro kimchi. The perilla flavor is strong but not overpowering, plus there’s a jammy egg and a pile of scallions involved.
Both sophisticated and whimsical at the same time, the chocolate and coffee-flavored cereal offers bittersweet crunchy notes that contrast beautifully with the floral flavors of the earl gray shaved ice.