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NYC

Review

Haenyeo

$$$$
Written by

Park Slope has a lot going for it. It has gorgeous brownstones on quiet tree-lined streets, easy access to Prospect Park, and more playgrounds than an eight-year-old kid on a sugar high could even dream of. It also has a lot of great restaurants, but many of them feel about as exciting as the couple downstairs who split one glass of merlot every night while stressing about alternate side parking. There aren’t a ton of loud, dark dinner spots ideal for a night out with friends, or a double date with your funemployed roommate. In other words, there aren’t a lot of restaurants like Haenyeo.

Haenyeo serves Korean food in an attractive corner space on 5th Avenue (across the street from Al Di La), and it doesn’t take reservations. This might sound like exactly the type of high-stress situation your doctor told you to avoid, but it actually helps make this place feel a little more fun than other restaurants in the area. People drink cocktails at the bar up front while they wait, and then once they’re seated in the busy dining room, they hang out for a while, talking loudly and pouring each other shots of inexpensive soju.

And on the whole, the food here is worth waiting for. The menu ranges from scallion pancakes to bibimbap to barbecue meats that come out on sizzling platters, but you should focus most of your attention on the small plates. The grilled oysters each come in a pool of delicious seaweed butter, and the sweet, spicy fried chicken wings are so meaty you’ll briefly wonder if there’s a HIIT workout for chickens. And then there’s the rice cake fundido, served in a spicy sauce topped with jalapenos, chorizo, and melted Oaxaca cheese. This dish is part Korean tteok-bokki and part Mexican queso fundido, and it’s the best thing here.

Other things, especially some of the large plates, are disappointing. The bibimbap and glass noodles don’t have much in terms of toppings, so they end up tasting bland, and the fried chicken is mostly just spongey batter. The meat in the short rib barbecue is overly fatty and chewy - although you probably won’t even notice that once you bite into one of the peppers that mask everything else on the plate. (We prefer the pork barbecue as an entree.)

But assuming you order the rice cake fundido and some cocktails, like the “Seoul Train” with whiskey and absinthe, you’ll have a really enjoyable time here. In a part of Brooklyn full of kids’ menus and designated stroller parking, Haenyeo stands out as a place you can go when you want to use curse words at the dinner table without having to spell them out. Even if that’s not something you ever have to deal with, you’ll just enjoy the fact that this is a casual place to hang out and eat some good food. That’s great to have in any neighborhood.

Food Rundown

Grilled Baguette

There are a lot of sauces, soups, and stews here that you’ll want to sop up. Instead of getting this bread, which is garlicky and lathered in butter, just get a side of white rice.

Scallion Pancake

We prefer the scallion pancake with a bunch of zucchini to the one with mung bean and kimchi, but there are plenty of other small plates you should get here instead.

Rice Cake Fundido

The only thing you need to figure out is how many orders of this you’re going to get. The tender rice cakes come in a pool of spicy sauce that’s similar to tteok-bokki, but then the whole thing is topped with jalapenos, melted cheese, and chorizo. It’s spicy, rich, smoky, and generally great. Get a side of rice to eat with the extra sauce.

Crispy Chicken Wings

These wings throw their little chicken hats into the ring with the ones from Bar Goto, Mission Chinese, and Samesa as far as great non-buffalo-style-wings in the city go. They’re massive and come glazed in a sweet sauce. If some people in your group like their wings spicy, there are little slices of pepper that you can add on top.

Glass Noodles

These glass noodles come with some mushrooms and an egg, but there’s not much to them. Skip.

Grilled Oysters

As with the rice cakes, you’re going to want more than one order of these. Pour the melted seaweed butter on the brioche that’s served on the side, then top that with the smoky grilled oysters.

Fried Scallops

The scallops are fried and covered in corn tartare sauce, and while it all tastes pretty good, you don’t really get any flavor from the scallops themselves. You won’t be upset having these on your table, but they shouldn’t take the place of the rice cakes, oysters, or chicken wings.

Cod Fillets

Same deal as above. You’ll probably finish the whole plate of these egg-battered cod fillets, but you won’t ever think about them again.

Braised Mackerel

As long as you like really strong-tasting fish, then this big slab of mackerel in sweet sauce needs to be on your table.

Jalapeno Fried Chicken

You don’t need to get the fried chicken covered with housemade spicy sauce. Those are words we never thought we’d say, but the meat has a ton of batter, which makes it spongey and pretty bland.

Beef & Clam Miso Stew

This is somewhere between soup and stew as far as heaviness, and the broth, especially poured over some rice, is very enjoyable. But there isn’t much in the way of beef or clams, so it’s up to you if you want to pay $16 for really good broth.

Short Rib Barbecue

Even if you’re with a big group, you don’t need to order this. The meat is very fatty and doesn’t have much flavor, the ssam is extremely salty, and the peppers overwhelm all the rest of it. Save the $34 (this is the most expensive thing on the menu), and get a few more small plates or the pork barbecue instead.

Pork Barbecue

We’re not going to weigh in on pork versus beef barbecue in general. Wars have been fought over less. But we’ll just say that if you’re going to order one of these two things at Haenyeo, it should be the pork. It’s the best entree here.

Bibimbap

This is a huge portion of rice, plus some vegetables and beef on top. Especially for $19, the rice-to-topping ratio feels off. We wouldn’t order it again.

Beignets

These are light, fluffy, and covered with a ton of powdered sugar. They’re definitely a good way to end dinner here.

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