When Chef Bobby Cho of Kimchi Smoke tells you to go to a restaurant called Tang Maru in a town called Palisades Park and order the pork neck soup, you wait 2 years and then do just what he says.
This dude isn't messing around. Not only does he know his BBQ, but he knows his pork neck soup.
Tang Maru is a pleasant, bright restaurant, with friendly service and a big connected parking lot, in an area near saturated with Korean restaurants. Since I have so little experience with Korean food, I can't say it sticks out from the pack, but damn if it isn't fantastic. And pretty cheap.
Barley tea hits the table, and then out come the banchan. I was very pleased to see whole fried fish in the assortment. The wife, however, wasn't as pleased. So I ate two. Fleshy, moist, fried fish. Guts and all as far as I could tell. But being gutless, I avoided the really flavorful parts and went to town on the regular bits.
Also included were spicy squid (I think), white radish kimchi, cabbage kimchi, and a salad. At that point, I'm pretty much full. But moments later the cauldrons come out of the kitchen.
The missus is a sucker for bibimbap, and this version with spicy pork didn't disappoint. Tons of vegetables, and that layer of that crispy seared rice awaiting you at the bottom. No egg, though. We would have liked the egg.
The star of the show, and the reason for the visit, was the pork neck soup. Pork neck? Perhaps. Pork backs? Definitely.
I couldn't nail down the flavors in this thing. There was some sort of ground spice on it that I did not recognize (as I say, I don't have much experience in the Korean food arts). Those big pieces of bone have been cooked to the point where the gelatin is soft and the meat just falls right off. The dish wasn't nearly as spicy as I thought it would be. The spice was quite subtle. I wasn't sure about the proper procedure of eating such a soup, but I made my way through it, pulling off some meat, adding some rice, using a spoon for the broth, chopsticks for the vegetables and chunks of potato. It was glorious.
The whole mess was $33. Certainly a value (especially if you consider that we took about half of the food home).
I was light-headed by the time it was over. This meal was tops. Get yourself over there. Be like Bobby.
Tang Maru : 500 10th St : Palisades Park, NJ : BYOB