Kalguksu, literally translated as "knife noodles" are surprisingly a summer food in theory, eaten mostly during the hot months in Korea. I thought a nice compromise would be to visit this specialist of the soup on one of the last nights summer, but on a fairly brisk evening that spoke much more of autumn. The hearty bowls spoke to me far better in this weather then they would have a few weeks back when the temperatures were over 30.
The small Palisades Park joint has five tables or so and a bar with a few stools. On this Monday evening, they needed all the space they had as customers seemed to come in right as others left. We were the only non-Koreans on this night.
Besides the list of seven kalguksu options on the front of the small menu, there is only steamed dumpling ($6.99, above and below), a collection of eight fragile beauties that come in the bamboo steamer that cooked them and with a simple dipping sauce of soy and red pepper.
Dumplings are usually delicious, and these were no exception to this rule, but I found them only acceptable in the genre. Maybe a livelier sauce would have done the trick. That being said, we scarfed the whole plate down fast.
With the spicy chicken version, the kimchi kalguksu ($10.99, below) rounds out the choices for those in the mood for a spicy bowl. The version below has regular noodles in it, both white and green which do not taste differently. On the table is a slightly sour and spicy sauce with onions and peppers but our waitress said the soup speaks for itself, although admitted that some customers like it.
Our other selection for the evening was wild sesame kalguksu ($12.99, below), making sesame the theme for my stomach after a quick trip to Mitsuwa earlier earned me a delicious soft serve black sesame cone.
This broth is full and almost creamy, yet the tastes are subtle and toned down while being quite toasty. I loved it from the first bite but I did add a little of the table sauce to it by the end to add a touch of sharpness.
The knife noodles the soup takes its name from are here just lumps of chewy dough, easier to scoop up in a spoon than long noodles, and also given in both regular and green varieties. The soup seems heavy but I did not feel bloated at all after eating the entire bowl.
I love the setting here, in the most Korean neighborhood of New Jersey, a quiet street though very much unlike Manhattan's K-Town. The place is friendly and serves excellent food to their customers, most of whom probably come here often.