Body and Seoul
Wed Apr 23 2008
Insommniacs, club-goers and late-shift workers in search of sustenance have long relied on Koreatown’s 24-hour barbecue joints. But since the arrival of luxurious, late-night spas, the highly concentrated enclave has become a destination for round-the-clock eating, drinking, steaming and scrubbing—not necessarily in that order.
New York Kom Tang Soot Bul Kalbi
Tender kalbi (barbecued short ribs) are indeed the stars here; their signature smoky flavor comes from being cooked over soot bul (wood chips). The city’s oldest Korean restaurant also makes crisp, seafood-laden haemool pajun (pancakes); sweet, juicy yuk hwe (raw beef salad); and garlicky bulgogi (grilled marinated beef). 32 W 32nd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-947-8482). Mon–Sat 24hrs.
Once you’ve located this hard-to-find spot, take a freight elevator to the third floor and you’ll be rewarded by a spectacular bi-level lounge with wraparound banquettes. Bar staff mix upscale cocktails such as lychee martinis and vodka mojitos. 11 W 32nd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-273-3413). Mon–Wed, Sun 6pm–2am; Thu–Sat 6pm–4am.
The appeal of this huge K-town joint is simple: The food is first-class. What reads on the menu like a basic sautéed fish is actually a plateful of meaty morsels of mackerel in a peppery soy sauce. Intensely spicy yuk gae jang is laden with thin slices of tender beef, seaweed and cellophane noodles. Other standards are solid too, such as pajun (savory pancakes), kalbi (grilled marinated beef) and mandoo (dumplings). Explore the daunting zillion-page menu and you’ll likely find more treasures. 23 W 32nd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-695-5815). Daily 24hrs.
Aura Wellness Spa
One of the most exciting recent additions to the NYC spa landscape, this extremely slick, high-tech expanse just north of Koreatown’s traditional boundaries feels more suited to Mars than its city surroundings. Treatments (which start at $70) include a turn in the grottoes: igloolike crystal-studded steam rooms that glow from within a pitch-black room in the center of the spa. In Korean-spa tradition, the place offers insanely thorough body scrubs (in wet/dry rooms where the walls literally shine). 49 W 33rd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (212-695-9559, spaaura.com). Daily 10am–2am.
An unassuming building is home to this huge, soundproof, round-the-clock oasis. Shy gals take note: Nudity is encouraged inthe communal areas, full body scrubs are executed in shared, barely screened-off spaces, and the spa goes unisex after 7:30pm. The facilities are impressive, though: Lolling in one of the igloo-like saunas, made from 20 tons of jade stones and infused with Chinese herbs, is said to increase metabolism, improve circulation, detox the body and even aid liver function. The Japanese-style soaking ponds are filled with sake, kombu algae, ginseng and a variety of essential oils. A basic Purification Program costs $115. 25 W 32nd St between Fifth Ave and Broadway, fifth floor (646-733-1330, juvenexspa.com). Daily 24hrs.