Best Thing I Ate This Week: Korean food at Narrow Street 512 in Austin
Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is always a risky proposition for me. I end up buying way too much (often random) food and spending twice as much as I should, and because hangry brain, hardly any of it ever makes sense together in terms of creating meals once I get home.
That’s why the food court is one of the great things about many Asian markets. At places like H Mart and Hanna World Market, you can have lunch or dinner in the food court, so you don’t go blazing into the market like a food-deprived maniac lost of his senses.
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You have to make your way to the back of the food court at H Mart in Northwest Austin to find Narrow Street 512 tucked in the corner along a, well, narrow street of sorts.
The husband-and-wife team of Dong Myung Kim and Kang Sook Lee, whose son came up with the stall’s name based on its location in the store, operated restaurants in Seoul and Chungcheongnam-do for about 20 years before immigrating to Dallas in 2009, where they owned Woo Mee Oak Korean BBQ for a decade.
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There are few dishes that counteract the hot Austin summer like naengmyeon. A tight tangle of firm buckwheat noodles sits in beef broth made with brisket. On top of the noodles, you’ll find matchsticks of cucumber and radish, a soft poached egg, a couple of thin cuts of brisket and a heap of fermented chili paste, all showered with sesame seeds.
The key, of course, is the mound of granular ice piled into the side of the bowl that suspends the mild beefy flavors in its chill. Squeeze bottles of white vinegar and spicy mustard accompany the dish, so you can control the pucker and pique. If you want something to warm you, the hot beef soup is a study in simplicity and comfort, notes of cabbage whispered from the opaque beefy broth.
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Given the owners' long history with Korean BBQ, you know you can trust the sliced beef rib marinated with soy, sugar, garlic and sesame will be tender and come packed with umami. Udon noodles need to get ramen’s publicist, because what’s not to love about these voluptuous wheat noodles? Here they come sloshing around in a beefy gravy packed with wok’s breath and stir-fried beef.
Added bonus of the H Mart location: After an inspired lunch, you can search the market in hopes of replicating some of the dishes you loved.
If you go
Narrow Street 512 at H Mart
Where: 11301 Lakeline Blvd.
Hours:10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily