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