For years now, Long Islanders in search of great Korean fare have heeded the advice of determined foodies and gone west — to Queens and its surfeit of fine K-town eateries. Not surprisingly, that same surfeit is now leading Korean restaurateurs to head east in search of dolsot deserts, people like Andy Sin of Flushing. His Korean and Japanese place SpoonSticks, which opened in December in Massapequa, is already drawing high marks for authenticity and, of course, convenience.
"We first looked at opening a place in Brooklyn, but there was too much competition," says Sin, who co-owns SpoonSticks with chef Seungchul Oh. As for its dual focus, the two met while working together in a Japanese ramen shop, and prior to that Oh owned a successful takeout shop in Korea.
The "funky, vintage-looking" space they settled on is the former home of Nikita (whose own self-described marriage of "Japanese and Asian" cuisine was a bit more confusing). It’s an attractive dining room that will one day seat 48, which is a good thing, as the 24 now available are usually full, and weekend wait times can be lengthy.
What they’re coming for: SpoonSticks’ tteok bok ki ($18), a much-loved comfort dish that’s sometimes thought of as Korean mac ’n cheese, and composed here of a generous helping of brisket meat and cylindrical rice cakes. "We use cakes with cheese inside so it’s more cheesy," Sin reports, "and make it not too spicy, so more people can enjoy it, even kids."
All the usual suspects are there and popular too, including Korean-style chicken wings ($12 for 5) and beef bulgogi ($24). ("People seem to love our chewy glass noodles," says Sin.) Kimchi fried rice ($16) arrives with a sunnyside up egg on top and juicy marinated pork within (sorry Spam fans), and the kimchi jeon ($10) is a sturdy pancake cut into quarters and served with yuzu soy sauce.
Among Japanese specialties, I only tried the tonkotsu ramen ($17), which is better than some ramen-only joints and on the verge of being great indeed. Shio, shoyu, miso and tantanmen varieties are also available.
"There’s not a lot of them here on the Island," says Sin of restaurants like his SpoonSticks. "That’s why we thought it would be a good idea." It is, and a well-executed one at that.
SpoonSticks is at 4348 Merrick Rd., Massapequa, 516-200-4755, spoonsticks.com. Opening hours are Sunday through Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.