Barn Joo is not what I was expecting.
I guess that’s partially because my experience with Korean restaurants in the city has generally been with more casual, low-key, dare I say “divey” places. But that’s my own fault. Barn Joo is casual too, but in a more refined way. It’s a little hard to describe, but I was very impressed with the interior. First off, it’s much bigger than I thought it would be. Secondly, there are nice decorative touches like heavy, wooden ropes hanging down the walls (to symbolize “tying or connecting people together” according to the owner, Charles Chong), a swing, and a large cut-out of the moon hanging from the ceiling in the front dining area. You’ll have to see for yourself to really experience the atmosphere, but I’m a huge fan.
The menu is all natural, organic, grass-fed, hormone-free, and farm to table. Fresh fresh fresh! I went during lunch, so I ordered off their lunch special menu, which has a variety of options from salads to noodles to rolls, all for around $10-$17. I decided to get the hot stone bowl (also known as bibimbap) with bulgogi (sweet soy-garlic marinated sliced ribeye, one of my absolute favorite Korean dishes). The bowl also came with my choice of soup or salad, and I went with the soup, because I saw that it was soy bean paste soup and I was eager to try it.
Bibimbap is one of the more well-known Korean dishes, but if you don’t know what it is, the name translates to “mixed rice” and it’s essentially a bowl of rice topped with vegetables, often some kind of protein, and either a raw or fried egg. If you’re worried about the raw egg part, don’t be. The bowl is still hot so the egg will get mixed in and cooked eventually. Just before eating, you stir everything together and dig in.
My general aversion to eggs prevented me from ever ordering this signature Korean dish at restaurants, but now that I’m a “grown-up,” I thought it was time I just went for it. At Barn Joo, the dish is served with a some sauce on the side (I don’t remember exactly if it was chili pepper paste or soybean paste, but it had a little bit of a roasted, spicy kick to it) as well as some other little bites that you always get at Korean restaurants.
On a cold, wintery day in December, bibimbap really is a perfect, heartwarming meal. The stone bowl keeps the food warm and the rice at the bottom gets deliciously crunchy (did you know this is called socarrat?). Plus the hot soup was delicious and very much like a spicier miso soup.
With the dinner menu, you can still get the lunch options plus other seafood dishes like spicy baby octopus, meat dishes like Long Island duck confit, and small bites like crispy calamari. They also have a popular happy hour deal where you can get oysters for $1.
One last thing, if you check in on Yelp when you’re there, you get to spin the Barn Joo wheel at the front by the hostess podium for a chance to win complimentary food and drink prizes. Only for the dining area and during dinner though! Still…why don’t more restaurants have this?! Barn Joo has it figured out.
Bibimbap with bulgogi, soy bean paste soup
New York, NY 10003