Translate “geo si gi” from Korean to English and you get something like, “What’s on the tip of my tongue?”
At Flushing’s Geo Si Gi restaurant, it’s both literally and figuratively the house specialty, gamja tang—a mildly herbal, savory stew that simmers over a table-side gas burner throughout the meal.
Gamja tang comes in five varieties at Geo Si Gi, allowing adventurous eaters to mix kimchi, curry, seafood or other add-ons into a stew that is otherwise flavored with pork bones, hunks of potato, red-pepper and soybean pastes, ample scallion and bean sprouts, sesame seeds and assorted herbs and spices—including the slightly bitter perilla leaf.
Hoping for a spicy kick, we tried the kimchi-spiked muk eun gi gamja tang (pickled napa cabbage with vegetables and pork loin casserole). The bubbling broth’s deep red hue was impressive, but its flavor was resolutely mild—dominated by the meaty flavor of the pork, the earthy bean sprouts and the herbal undertones. Still the stew, with its incredibly tender bits of meat and plump rice cakes, was deeply satisfying and very filling.
We found our spicy salvation in the tofu kimchi jeyuk bokkum (panfried kimchi and pork with vegetables in spicy sauce). The soft, fatty pieces of pork were thickly coated with an addictive sauce that perfectly balanced hot sesame oil and spicy green peppers with tangy kimchi and sweet caramelized onions.
An outer ring of utterly plain tofu served as a foil, offsetting the intensely flavorful (and, yes, very oily) pork and vegetables. One of us recalled the excellent version of this dish made by her mother and noted that this was almost as good.
We also ordered kimchi pajun, a savory, pancake-like appetizer made with rice flour. Ours was dense and soft with a crusty outer edge—nothing like the hard, desiccated pajun served in many Korean restaurants. Surprisingly, it was topped with a thin layer of fried egg—a savory touch that even our veteran Korean foodie had never seen.
Throughout our meal, there were other deft touches. Water glasses were continually replenished with chilled barley tea. Its sweet, toasted grain flavor was so mild that we assumed it was water—until we noticed its telltale brownish tinge.
The radish kimchi was served chilled—as it should be but rarely is. Its sweet flavor and refreshing, watery crunch made it the ideal accompaniment to our perpetually boiling stew and the rich, spicy pork dish.
The meal ended when our waiter appeared at our table and filled our nearly empty stew pot with a mixture of steamed rice, seaweed, lettuce, kimchi, diced carrots and sesame oil.
After tossing everything together and leaving it to cook over the gas burner for a few minutes, she served us bowls of fried rice that mingled sweet, nutty sesame oil and mildly briny seaweed with the concentrated juices of our stew.
We left satisfied—from the tips of our tongues to our warm, full bellies.
Additional reporting by Ji Hyun Park and Allan Zhang
Geo Si Gi, 152-28 Northern Blvd., Flushing, Queens, 718-888-0001, ny.koreaportal.com