Hirai Mong on St. Marks, Serving Korean-Chinese Food

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Maewoon haemul jampong, spicy noodle soup with seafood
Newly opened Hirai Mong bills itself as a Korean-Chinese restaurant, a distinct cuisine developed in areas like Incheon, South Korea, which once had a very large ethnic Chinese population.

Popular Korean-Chinese dishes include jajangmyeon, steamed noodles with black bean paste, and jampong, wheat noodles in a spicy, onion-heavy broth, both of which Hirai Mong serves. The latter ($8.95) is above, the tasty broth and noodles augmented with octopus, small shrimp and mussels.

We didn't have very high hopes for Hirai Mong, if only because the space, a cavernous restaurant on the craziest block of St. Marks, seems a bit cursed. It was formerly home to the mediocre and short-lived Korean restaurant Gemma. But Hirai Mong is better than it has to be--which is to say, not great, but enjoyable enough.

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A banchan particular to Korean-Chinese restaurants is the raw onion with black bean sauce, which you can see in the background here.

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Mae woon sae woo nurungi tang--shrimp soup with scorched rice
This soup ($18) contains squares of nurungji, or scorched rice, the kind that you find at the bottom of your bowl of bi bim bap--crunchy, toasty and a little chewy. You'll also find oyster and shitake mushrooms in its depths, along with plenty of small shrimp. But the moderately spicy broth is disagreeably cornstarch-gloppy, the way hot-and-sour soup can be.

12 St. Marks Place
212-475-7101



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