Umami Mart Sake
To celebrate the end of our film festival last week, my coworkers Ryo, Chisa and I bolted onto a 20 minute bus ride out of Manhattan to King Spa Sauna in New Jersey for a night of hot tub relaxation. It mainly caters to a Korean clientele, and for about $100, you get a hard-core body scrub and massage that lasts an hour and a half, as well as the use of their expansive sauna and bath tub facilities.

This place is the real deal- there are a line of Korean ladies in black bras and panties, who lay you down on a row of tables in the bath area (as Ryo says, like freshly caught tuna) and will knead and scrub your naked body into oblivion. No pretenses here- they are super serious about scrubbing and massaging. They put this cold mask of icy cold cucumbers on your face that was my favorite part. It's about the most heavenly hour in the world, and if I had to be sliced into tuna sashimi right then and there, I would be ok with that.

There is a restaurant inside the spaland, but it closes a bit early, so after our few hours of bliss, we walked like zombies across the street to Shin Shun restaurant. It's a cute little place that looks like a house, like Sushi Kuni. It was a great meal, to end a splendid day, that wrapped a super strenuous, yet successful film festival, so I thought I would share this with you.


There's nothing like standing in front of a restaurant when you're starving, and drooling over plastic replicas of food you will be eating in 30 minutes.

Assorted banchan:

I loved this omelette.

Daikon and napa cabbage kimchee.

This cucumber one was off the hook- lots of vinegar so it was tangy and crispy. This stayed in front of me the whole night- I didn't share and I asked for more.
I am obsessed with pajun, and get it at every Korean restaurant I go to. Every chef makes his/her pajun a bit differently, which always fascinates me. This one was excellent- crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, lots of seafood and scallions.
They have this dinner special where you get grilled mackerel and a stew of your choice for $15. Not bad. The mackerel really hit the spot- it's a really oily fish, also very fishy, but it's major comfort food. This was HUGE.

I randomly chose haejangguk, which is ox blood soup, to go with the fish. It was actually really really good. The broth had a depth of flavor (umami!) and it came with a cake of ox blood, which I picked at- it didn't really taste like anything to be honest. It's known to cure hangovers I guess. Who knew.
Sul run tang: a Korean dinner staple order. It's beef broth that has been stewed for hours, eventually turning a milky white, with sliced beef, scallions, noodles and rice. You add salt as you wish. This one was excellent.

Awesome discovery of the night- cold, spicy buckwheat noodles (naengmyeon, I think?). It's fantastic, and exactly what you need on a hot day. Came topped with cucumbers and beef and a beautifully poached egg on top. The noodles aren't anything like Japanese soba noodles (also buckwheat)- these are more glass-like and thinner. SO GOOD!

They don't serve alcohol here, just really good barley tea- hot and cold. It was a refreshing, healthy meal that cost about $20 each for all this food. I highly recommend taking this trip out to King Spa, then eating at Shin Shun- in a city full of busyness, it's really worth it to get out and treat yourself once in a while.

King Spa Sauna
321 Commercial Avenue
Palisades Park, NJ
T: 201.947.9955

Go here for a $17 off coupon. Also read the feature on King Spa in the NY Times.

Shin Shun Restaurant
314 Commercial Avenue
Directly across from King Spa
Palisades Park, NJ
T: 201.461.5042
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4 comments

  • Yeah one good thing about summer in Tokyo is the satisfaction obtained when eating cold noodles, whether it be nangmyun, soumen, soba, hiyashi udon or hiyashi chuuka. Cheap and totally satisfying! Mwah!

    yoko on

  • Just wanted to point out that you should totally try the nangmyun with broth next time… SO DELICIOUS! For me, it’s always a toss up between the nangmyun you got and the one with the cold beef broth. Perfect for a hot day! :)

    Moosie on

  • AHHH I’m totally drooling. Some Japanese woman gave me a discount ticket for that place like 2 years ago…I should totally go. Nengmyun is my favorite Korean food! I just made it the other day I should have taken pics.

    Sonja on

  • gotta try the broth! will def check that out next!

    kayoko on

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