353 Broadway, Williamsburg
Beneath the rumbling JMZ track, Dotory shines on a dark stretch of Broadway. The small Korean restaurant is open for lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays, and its bright sandwich shop lighting doesn’t dim for dinner. Near the front window of the narrow space, tables are smooshed tightly together, and in the back a handful of seats are tucked into an alcove beside a faux fireplace, its log casting a glow through orange plastic. The tall stools at the bar arguably make the best seats, but there are only three of them. On a busy night, it’s likely that any intimate conversations between a party of two will provide entertainment for the solo diner who is inches away. Between bites of the tasty Seoul sandwich–crusty bread smeared with chili pepper paste and piled with marinated roast pork, crunchy vegetables and fried onions–the crowded environs start to feel cozy.
Even on a warm evening, a sweet and steamy cup of daechoo cha is hard to resist. The traditional tea is made from Korean dates, or jujubes, which are also sprinkled into the liquid. For a more summery option, nori is fried into tiny taco shells and stuffed with creamy tofu tangled with shredded pickled vegetables, fresh watercress, tangy pomegranate seeds and a crisp kimchee vinaigrette. It’s love at first bite, even as the nori shatters on impact and its contents spill onto your plate. The pan-fried kimchee pancake, studded with sweet seafood, scallions and chives, has a golden crust and rich, eggy flavor within. Dotory’s bibimbap seems healthier than its meatier, heftier counterparts in Manhattan’s Koreatown. Here, black jasmine rice, quinoa and millet are stirred into the sushi rice that forms a satisfying crust along the edges of its sizzling stone bowl. The dish also breaks with convention in that it’s offered in several vegetarian forms: with avocado and crunchy nori, marinated vegetables or tofu and black sesame seeds. Bibimbap with kimchee, cheese and bolgogi meatballs makes a heartier dish, but the meatballs were on the dry side. If you’re looking for a rib-sticking bowl, the kimchee bibimbap with spicy roast pork combo is hard to beat.
Next time we’ll skip the myulchi bokum, dried and toasted whole anchovies with fish sauce-soaked cashews, garlic and dried chilis. The little dish made for an interestingly fishy couple of bites, but the tiny sea creatures, glinting silver and petrified in mid-swim, may be an acquired taste. The anchovies arrived early in our meal, and no matter how many times we politely pushed away our half-eaten bowl, those fishes stayed put as the rest of our plates came and went, watching us with their little eyes as we paid our bill and set out into the night.