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It’s not often you get to dine in a restaurant on the top floor of a skyscraper overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The last time I was lucky enough to score this kind of view for a chew was senior prom at Windows On The World, may it rest in peace. Becky Chase, what up girl? Remember that night? Me neither. So when we read about a new modern Korean restaurant on the 39th floor of an office building bordering on K-Town, what do we do? Call our Korean friends and set up a dinner date.
We rolled into Gaonnuri knowing nothing other than that it was up high, Korean, and spelled disturbingly close to “gonorrhea” (actually not that close, but in my head, I had it at “gannoria.”) For that reason, we figured it to be a typically divey K-Town establishment, only on the 39th floor instead of the second floor. Wrong. This restaurant is about as sparkling and Immaculate as it gets, and is, thankfully, STD free. It’s a massive space with multiple rooms and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the bright Manhattan lights. Eats With A View, indeed.
We were shocked at the sheer number of robot looking employees running around, all rocking high-tech earpieces and taking orders on iPads. That’s obviously the only way to communicate at this altitude. It’s like a restaurant from WALL•E. The menu at Gaonurri is nuts; it’s nearly seven pages long, covering all the Korean bases, plus a $105, seven course tasting menu for those who ball hard. For us, a la carte was the way to go, and we tried to be diplomatic about things, ordering at least one item from each page of the menu. Unfortunately, by the time we were done, we felt the same way about the food that our Korean friends did: We were amused, but not all that impressed. Some dishes, like the steak tartare, were awesome. But others, like a dry bossam and an underwhelming bibimbap were let downs. The pace and overall service was also a bit weird, and interactions with with wait staff were laughably awkward. I guess you can’t expect much from robots.
Although it’s right around the corner from Madison Square Garden, you won’t find us hanging at Gaonurri before a Knicks game or a One Direction concert. At the end of the day, this is only a restaurant we’d return to for the right occasion. Like prom.
Gaonnuri does beautiful work with their plating. We were quite impressed with how dramatic many of the dishes appear. This bright red beef tartare started us off right. The meat was fresh out of the grinder, topped with Korean pear. If you enjoy eating raw beef, then this is a must.
Korean Pancake Sampler
You know we’re going to try the Korean pancake sampler. The fish pancake was our favorite. I have no clue exactly what it was made with, but there were a whole bunch of crazy flavors going on. The beef and vegetable ones were pretty standard.
Worst dish of the night. The steamed pork was really dry – so much so we were shocked it actually made its way onto a plate. On the bright side, the kimchee that came with this dish was excellent.
These short ribs were amazing, as is anything that comes in Gaonurri’s “signature soy sauce.” Order this.
We generally love bibimbap, but Gaonnuri’s was a big let down. The beef was dry, as was the rice. And there wasn’t enough spicy sauce to pull it all together.
Dduk Mandoo Guk
A pretty bland dumpling soup with rice cakes, beef, and scallions. For $18, you should definitely pass on this.
Black Cod Gui
This was our favorite dish here. Our cod was cooked perfectly, but it was the sauce that put it over the top. You could put this tasty soy-based marinade on anything and it would taste good. Even vegetables.
Mul Naeng Myeon
A Noodle soup of sorts made with thin sweet potato noodles in a spicy chili beef broth with pear, cucumber, and some slices of beef brisket. This wasn’t very memorable. We liked the idea of sweet potato noodles more than the reality of sweet potato noodles.
We didn’t go there, mainly because this place is so proper it almost seems weird to fire up the grill in the middle of your table and get dirty. But the menu is stacked with impressive meats that looked pretty damn good. So, if you can afford it, go nuts.