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Early Responders Weigh in on Food Gallery 32

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Late last month, Food Gallery 32, an Asian food court in Koreatown opened to the public. There's obvious visual comparisons to be made to nearby FoodParc - plenty of white on the walls and fixtures, a generally sleek design, and plenty of LCDs to display the menus, as well as K-Pop. They boast seven restaurants including a brick and mortar outpost of the food truck NYC Cravings. There's even going to be a Red Mango in here eventually. It's been open a few weeks now and the opinions are starting to come in, so off to the early word:

The Mostly Good News: Fork in the Road checks the place out and makes a qualified early verdict. "To get your food, you first place your order at a central ordering station where you're given a vibrating buzzer. When the buzzer goes off, you go to the station you ordered from and pick up your food. It's a good system if you are a solo diner, but timing can be tricky if you want food from multiple stations or are with a group of people. We ordered the bibimbop with tofu and a seafood and scallion pajun from Hanok. The pancake was a little doughy and lacked a variety of seafood (it was almost all octopus), but it was well flavored and chock full of scallions. The vegetables and rice were served separately in the bibimbop and because it was served in a metal bowl, it didn't have those crispy bits as when made in a hot stone bowl. We also got the haemul kal-guksu from Big Bowl, which was a dish of flour-based noodles with seafood in a rich broth. The noodles were slightly overcooked, but the broth was nice and spicy--great for a cold, snowy day." [VV]

The Okay News: The place is set in Midtown so you knew it wouldn't take long for Midtown Lunch to chime in with their thoughts. It doesn't start off well. "I tried the jjajangmyun at Jin Jja Roo (stall #6), which is quite the mouthful to order. I have no idea what a really good instance is of it (maybe I need to try the version at Hyo Dang Gak?), but I found this to be decidedly 'meh.' The sauce was heavy and a bit goopy, the veggies and pork all looked the same dyed by the black beans and the noodles were chewy. Not a win." Next up was Bian Dang and their wonton soup. "I ordered the soup as a starter to go with the jjajangmyun - a mistake given how heavy that turned out to be - and the soup came out about 10 minutes earlier. I stood at the stall sipping the broth from the tray here and there. It was great. The salty and savory flavors of the dried shrimp and seaweed were amazing. When I finally sat down, I dug right in, only to be disappointed by the wontons." It does get better though. "A better option is the soup from Big Bowl (stall #7). I had the shrimp tempura udon. This really hit the spot. The broth was light, which balanced out the heavy, filling udon. The shrimp were sodden in the soup, so there wasn't much of a crunch to them, but overall, I enjoyed it. Most recently, I tried the pork cutlets at Pastel (stall #2)... I was happily surprised to see that unlike most other katsu in the area, you get the full butterflied cutlet rather than half. It's pounded thin, but is still juicy inside." Final thoughts? "Overall, Food Gallery 32 is totally a work in progress. I won't judge the misses I had as anything more than everyone trying to get settled in and find their balance." [ML]

The Overwhelming News: In a Nutshell visits during its first week and has issues with how they operate. "I browsed each of the stands — they all sported large screens advertising their menus. But the menus seemed to have so many things listed that it was a bit hard to read through it all without feeling overwhelmed. When I finally settled on the Taiwanese fried pork chop over rice with pork sauce, I stepped up to the stand's counter to order. But it turned out that I couldn't do this. The way this place works: You order from a counter right inside the front doors, receive your buzzer and when it buzzes, you proceed to the appropriate counter to pick up your food. The place needs better signage to make that clear." But what do they think of the food? "For just under $10, I got a plastic container tightly packed with rice topped with a few large, thinly cut pork chops. It was a big portion of food that I didn't finish in one sitting. But I didn't love it. The pork and the pork sauce with some sour greens were both a bit too rich and salty for my taste. The white rice might have helped to offset that a little bit, but unfortunately much of it was soaked in the sauce." [In a Nutshell]

The "Customization a Puzzlement" News: Eating In Translation visits and tries the Korean food at Jin Jja Roo. No surprise, not the biggest fan of the ordering system here. "Though you're free to stroll past the stalls and (their time permitting) chat up the proprietors, your order must be placed with the clerks up front, with no accommodation for special requests. For my half-and-half order ($7.99) I was in the dark on jja jang myon, noodles with onion, pork, and potatoes in a black bean sauce whose texture wavered between chocolatey and sludgy. To be sure, because this dish was unfamiliar (and, in retrospect, not to my taste), customizing my order would have been a puzzlement at best. But as for jjam ppong, noodles with seafood and vegetable in "spicy" sauce, "not very" was my verdict. Some one-on-one time with a Jin Jja Roo counterperson might have amped up the heat." [Eating In Translation]

The Great News: Yelper Jennifer K. visits and likes what she sees (and eats). "I had the seafood cream pasta here and it was pretty good! It has a lot of seafood (mini octopus, squid, scallops, and mussels) inside and comes with garlic bread, salad, and pickles/kimchi. It was a very large portion that was very flavorful but too big that I could not finish. The pasta was a bit heavy on the sauce but still very good. I would come back here again! I went with my boyfriend who is vegetarian and while there are options for vegetarians there are not many! He ended up ordering vegetarian bibimbap. Along with that there might be only less than 3-5 items that are suitable for vegetarians here." [Yelp]

The Twitterific News: @theHeartquake tweets, "OMG GUYS FOOD GALLERY 32 IS SO NICE AND CHEAPPPP OMG! red mango isn't open just yet but OMFG." Not to be outdone, @JUNHOBRAND also enthusiastically tweets, "FOOD GALLERY 32 IS OPEN U GUYS.....ITS SO AMAZING CHEAP AND CLEEEAAAAN...HE FOOD IS AMAZING." Along with a Foursquare check-in, @Outsydr tweets, "This looks new and excting!" @sweet1treat tweets, "The food was great and the space was awesome!" [Twitter]
—Gary Wong
[photo credit]

Food Gallery 32

11 West 32nd St., New York, NY