NYCReview

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image
7.9

Samwoojung

Korean

Chelsea

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsCorporate CardsCasual Weeknight Dinner
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Included In

From the minimal signage at Samwoojung, you wouldn’t likely guess that pounds and pounds of marinated meat are getting a makeover right inside. But step into this Korean restaurant in Chelsea, and you’ll find every table equipped with a burner, and every burner piled with thinly sliced beef. Samwoojung has been a bulgogi specialist in Seoul since 1963, and when you go their outpost near Penn Station, that’s what you should focus your attention on too. 

Brought to the US by Hand Hospitality (the group behind hits like Atomix and Ariari), Samwoojung makes a slightly different style of bulgogi than what you might find at Korean BBQ spots around the city. Instead of being grilled hot and fast, the meat is piled on a copper vessel, topped with cabbage, mushrooms, noodles, and scallions, and then cooked in a sweet and peppery soy broth at your table. The result is as perfect for a casual weeknight meal as it is for a get-together that might result in a slew of empty bottles and a spur-of-the-moment ticket purchase to Madison Square Garden.

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image

The warmly lit, split-level space is alive with small groups of soju drinkers, who laugh louder and louder as the evening progresses, and servers constantly trying to figure out how fast you will eat your bulgogi, and how much they should tend to it accordingly. This is not a foolproof experience. Sometimes a server visits every other minute, to the point where you begin thinking your beef might just need a moment alone. Other times it feels like they've forgotten all about you, and your meats must fend for themselves.

If the menu at Samwoojung were the cast of a third grade talent show, the bulgogi would be the teacher’s pet. Other dishes are good—some are even excellent—but the paper-thin beef steals the show from the moment your server turns the grill on. Even if things like red shrimp pancake or galbi catch your eye, we’d recommend committing to copious amounts of marinated meat above all else.

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image
Samwoojung image

The only non-beef thing you shouldn’t skip? The creamy, just-sweet-enough, frozen persimmon for dessert. Turns out these bulgogi specialists have some hidden expertise with the gooey orange fruit too.

Food Rundown

Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Banchan

There will always be kimchi and ssamjang on your table, but the rest of the banchan varies—on different occasions we’ve had mackerel, braised tofu, and garlic cucumber kimchi. If a bowl of braised tofu vanishes before your bulgogi even arrives, don’t worry, someone will soon replenish it from the refrigerated banchan case.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Bulgogi

Samwoojung’s bulgogi is priced by weight (from $39 for 400g, to $79 for 850g). This pile of raw meat, seasoned with soy and bamboo salt, cooks right before your eyes, along with cabbage, mushrooms, noodles, scallions, and rice cakes. Most bites are brothy, but some get just a little crispy, which keeps your giant meat mound very interesting. Towards the end, eggs are cracked into the broth. Save room for your egg.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Abalone

If you order one thing besides the bulgogi, make it the abalone. It’s sweet and chewy, topped with pine nuts, and served alongside a small portion of bibimbap made from mixing rice with the abalone intestines. You will find yourself eating up every speck of pine nut you leave behind. Make it fast, though. Your bulgogi is probably just about ready.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Crab

Eating raw marinated crab takes time. So when a bowl of soy-marinated crab and a pair of plastic gloves land on your table at the same time as your bulgogi, you’re bound to feel a little overwhelmed. Eat crab another time, or maybe on your second visit.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Red Shrimp

Little red shrimp in a pancake. A lovely bite along with some soju. Not necessary, but lovely.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Kkakdugi Fried Rice

This is a perfectly pleasant kimchi fried rice, but when you’re gearing up to eat banchan, rice, and bulgogi, extra rice just isn’t necessary.
Samwoojung image

photo credit: Kate Previte

Persimmon

Full of beef, you might be inclined to skip dessert. Don’t. This persimmon is skinned and frozen, bathed in honey, and served on top of a little bed of creamy ricotta. It is absolutely and unassumingly magnificent, and you should not share. Order one per person at your table.

Included In

FOOD RUNDOWN

Suggested Reading

Where To Eat Near Penn Station image

Where To Eat Near Penn Station

Penn Station can be a painful experience. The least we can do is help you find a good place to eat.

The Best Korean BBQ In Koreatown image

Our favorite spots around 32nd Street to have someone grill meat at your table.

The Best Korean Restaurants In NYC image

When you’re dreaming of banchan, gopchang, and Korean fried chicken, here’s where to go.

Okdongsik image

This pop-up from Seoul Okdongsik serves one thing: pork gomtang. Stop by for a hot bowl on a cold day.

Infatuation Logo

Cities

2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.

FIND PLACES ON OUR APP

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store