Koreatown's Izakaya Moku: An Early Look

Haemul dukbokki: Rice cakes, udon noodles and seafood in spicy sauce
Haemul dukbokki: Rice cakes, udon noodles and seafood in spicy sauce

Izakaya Moku, a Japanese pub that opened in Koreatown in December, fulfills its mandate as a drinking-and-eating establishment, offering a slew of dishes that taste better the more sake you drink. Most taste pretty good no matter what state you're in, but these belly-filling dishes are clearly designed with drinking in mind, as is typical of an izakaya.

The menu lists classic Japanese pub foods like yakitori, tataki, tempura (plus more fried goods), sashimi, noodles, and grilled fish. Ketchup and mayo are deployed liberally, and from squirt bottles. There are a handful of Korean dishes thrown in for good measure, including the rice cakes shown above, cooked with chewy udon noodles, squid and mussels in a goopy, spicy sauce. An egg is added for additional heft.

Izakaya Moku is usually at least half full of Japanese 20-somethings with stylish spiky haircuts, downing sake or Japanese whiskey. The laughter gets louder and louder as the night wears on. For best results, do as they do: Come with a big group, and plan to stay a while.

The yakitori is particularly good, especially the chewy nubbins of grilled chicken gizzard and the enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon. We also liked the okonomiyaki, a loose pancake shot through with pork and green bean sprouts, topped with a thick blanket of bonito flakes, and the perfectly charred grilled mackerel. Chicken wings are super crusty.

Some of the food here is more trashy-good than good-good. An omelet oozing yellow cheese is topped with iceberg lettuce and a bottle's worth of ketchup. An octopus salad is mostly straight-from-the-bag salad doused in white, creamy dressing. Still, Moku is a fun night out, with more than enough delicious stuff to go around. Don't miss the ginseng rice wine, which tastes vaguely of apple juice crossed with nuts and white wine.

10 West 32nd Street, Second Floor 212-736-3232

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