On the basis of a recent dinner, I’m adding a new restaurant to the Melville lunch rotation: Dake Sushi in Old Bethpage.
Dake, a modest little restaurant in a strip mall at the intersection of Old Bethpage and Round Swamp roads, bills itself as Japanese and Korean. The menu is dominated by sushi (with a few teriyakis, tempuras and udons thrown in for good measure), but we stuck to the Korean selections and were glad we did.
No Korean appetizers are listed on the menu, but they would be superfluous as every Korean meal starts with banchan, a variety of cold vegetable dishes. The banchan at Dake was one of the best I’ve encountered. There was kimchee, spicy pickled vegetables, in two forms: Napa cabbage and big, juicy chunks of radish. There were shishito peppers with tiny dried anchovies and steamed greens and a big slab of fresh tofu showered with savory spices. There was also a dish of what I took to be white seaweed (but that could have been some particularly delicate form of tripe). Then the waitress brought out a screaming-hot black stone bowl in which was simmering a big puffy soufflé-like thing. “Steamed egg,” she said.
After a first course like that (which, I hasten to remind you, was gratis), the entrees were in danger of being a letdown, but I loved my ojingeo gopdol bibimbap ($13.99), another screaming-hot stone bowl filled with rice and spicy squid. The bowl was so hot, the rice got all nice and crusty on the bottom. (The Koreans are not alone in their regard for crusty, bottom-of-the-pot rice: Spaniards fight over the socarrat clinging to the paella pot; Persians thrill to the tahdig at the bottom of the pilaf.) Come December I’m going to want a lot of gopdol bibimbap, which also comes with vegetables, octopus and beef.
One pal ordered the sundubu ($9.99), a bubbling cauldron of soft tofu and vegetables in a spicy sauce, and was amazed with the accompaniment: a raw egg that he was to crack open into the stew. My other friend had the bulgogi ($18.99), a huge pileup of grilled marinated beef, rice, mushrooms and vegetables.
For dessert, we received three wedges of watermelon, a perfect finale.
Dake Sushi is at 742 Old Bethpage Rd., Old Bethpage, 516-293-1559.