Woo Lae Oak - Not Recommended
148 Mercer St, New York NY 10012
Btwn Prince & Houston St
Phone: (212) 925-8200
The wife and I have been wanting to check out Woo Lae Oak for a long time and we heard good things about this place, so we were amped to finally check it out. I don't know if the raves were from a long time ago, but this place is pretty shitty. I love me some good Korean food and I think cooking westernized dishes using Korean ingredients would be pretty damn tasty, but not here.
roasted long island duck breast, crisp daikon & shredded greens rolled in a miso blini with plum sauce
This looked like an egg roll, but was wrapped with a soft blini instead. The flavor of the duck and daikon were ok (a tad bland), but the plum sauce was gross - way too sweet.
tender beef short rib steak simmered in a sake ginger soy glaze served with kabocha squash and asian broccoli
A very tender rib steak (no knife required) served with sauce that's also a tad bit too sweet. This time the squash and rich steak mellowed out the sauce and the overall dish was pretty fun with white rice.
steamed rice topped with seasoned vegetables and crisp romaine
A pretty sorry excuse for bi bim bap. What's fun about bi bim bap is perfectly cooked rice that almost has an al denteness to it, mixed with flavorful meat and vegetables, and when you combine them all together it just sings. This was like something I would make in college just throwing a whole bunch of stuff in a wok that did not go well together at all - rice was not cooked well either a bit mushy for me.
Overall Restaurant Experience
- Food (6.0/10) – I kind of get the jist of the place now - they have some traditional Korean dishes but they also try to serve dishes that look pretty and westernized using Korean ingredients. Unfortunately the sauces are so damn sweet since the chefs probably think the Western palate wants overly sweet food. No good.
- Service (7.0/10) – No Korean servers at all - not that it matters, but that was the first thing I noticed and it set the tone to not expect authentic Korean cooking. The server was not really friendly, but the food did come out pretty quick.
- Atmosphere (7.0/10) – A sleek looking place that's all black and you get to see the open kitchen. Again, not that it matters, but everyone cooking the food was of Latin American descent. I know this happens in the majority of restaurants in NYC, but again this sets the tone to not expect authentic Korean cooking. There were a few couples, but mainly the place consisted of large groups. Surprisingly, the place was 40% Korean - I would expect much lower due to the quality of the food. Got there at 8pm on a Friday and was seated right away.
- Price (5.0) - Average price of an entree was $25, not bad at all but the food was pretty subpar. So price per happiness was very very low.
I don't mind fusion at all, but the bottom line is the food has to taste good and this stuff was way too sweet. If you're looking for some good Korean food, head over to Koreatown or better yet Palisades Park in NJ.