On 162nd Street in Flushing, across the street from a karaoke bar and a few doors down from a tattoo shop, it’s hard to miss the jubilant cartoon monkey that covers Monkey Noodle Bar’s storefront. The cutie could easily be an Instagram Thing, and there are more aesthetic delights inside.
The roomy-enough dining room is a cool but cheerful shade of bluish-grey. The subdued hue allows the playful art throughout to skew cheeky, rather than childish. To your left, more darling monkeys frolic and play and laugh and snack and cycle across a large mural positioned above a banquette and a couple of four-tops. Tables line the other side, where a trio of primate portraits reminiscent of Paul Frank designs are painted on the concrete-colored wall. (Our favorite image might just be the one that anchors the bathroom.)
Meals start with housemade kimchi, snipped tableside. Generous heaps with a little heat and a nice, crisp bite easily disappear and were quickly replenished on a recent visit. We’d have happily bought a jar of the stuff to-go, which is a trend at Monkey Noodle Bar. An order of excellently structured Monkey gimbap arrived next like a pretty pinwheel, with gleaming seaweed snug around rice and Spam.
Most tables are topped with big bowls of kalguksu (knife-cut noodle soup), where excellent broth is adorned with heaps of seafood like mussels, shrimp and squid or spicy chicken. Of course you should order a kalguksu on your first visit, but other highlights include the jeyuk bokkeum, where tender pork skews slightly sweet, and a bubbling bulgogi with a rich, silky broth that we still regret not doubling to take away and freeze for a rainy (or any) day.
Though we didn’t see any booze on the menu when we visited, Monkey Noodle Bar now appears to offer soju and beer.
Monkey Noodle Bar is located at 41-27 162nd Street and is open from Monday through Sunday, 9am-11pm.