There are so many places in the further reaches of Flushing to score Korean BBQ and kimbap—the sushi-like rolls that feature ingredients like spicy tuna and cheese—I like to call it K-tropolis. BapBap, the latest Korean spot in the nabe, takes it cue from these classic Korean specialties as well as Manhattan’s temples of gastronomy. That’s because it was created by two fine dining vets, Nate Kuester—who was a sous chef at The Cecil and cooked for three years at Aquavit—and Jason Liu, who was Aquavit’s service director and was most recently general manager at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare.
While at the Cecil Kuester learned to smoke brisket under the tutelage of Chef JJ Johnson. At BapBap, he smokes brisket and features it in a Bap Roll. Other rolls include spicy tuna and squid, a trio makes make a nice lunch for $12. That smokey meat is excellent in the roll, and even better when combined with angus short rib, in the grilled kalbi ssambap, which also features grilled summer corn all over a bowl of rice. It comes with sheets of roasted seaweed, so you can roll your own ssam just as you would at a Korean BBQ joint. The combination of Korean BBQ and low and slow American cue is a tasty homage to Kuester’s Korean-American heritage.
The haemul ssambap, featuring a mix of seafood, including grilled lobster, squid, briny clams and tuna tartare along with spicy Korean chojang sauce and shaved daikon is perhaps the least traditional of the bowls. That’s because it also contains a cheffy touch, sweet grilled pineapple. Rolled up in the accompanying sheets of seaweed, it makes for a refreshing lunch. Kuester is happy with his composed rice bowls and rolls. BapBap’s customers are too, but he says there’s one drawback. “I eat too much rice everyday.”
Kuester is no slouch when it comes to sweets either, having spent a year at Aquavit’s pastry station. BapBap offers amazing soft serve for dessert. Right now the flavors are grilled banana leaf and yuja (black sesame) topped with injeolmi (soybean powder) and almonds. They are best enjoyed as a swirl.
BapBap, New World Market, 160-06 Northern Blvd., Murray Hill