Mokja Korean Cuisine opened recently on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is a spin-off of Mokja Korean Eatery in Astoria. Mokja serves traditional Korean dishes and also some mash-up fusion dishes – for instance, the Bulgogi Nachos, which are tortilla chips topped with gochujang aioli, kimchi, beef bulgogi and melted sharp cheddar and the Bibimbap Burger which is a burger topped with bibimbap vegetables, a runny fried egg and bibimbap sauce on a brioche bun. Mokja has a small main dining room that seats maybe 20 people and also has a party room available that seats 15 people.
The Dumplings: Mokja serves homemade pork with vegetable dumplings that come either fried or steamed and in orders of four or nine pieces. I tried the fried dumplings which are deep fried cooked and are crispy and crunchy on the outside. I liked these dumplings a lot; inside the wrapper the pork is densely packed into a tight meatball that is savory and juicy. This is not a bland factory made frozen dumpling, the filling has a robust, well seasoned pork flavor.
The Dipping Sauce: Mandoo dipping sauces in Korea tend to be loaded with scallion slivers and sesame seeds, and often ginger and/or garlic too. Sometimes the sauces are so dense with pieces they are like a slurry (see the sauce at Myeongdong Gyoza here) and this is the route Mokja has gone with adding scallion and sesame seeds to their sauce. I like this approach because there was enough scallion to add aromatic and pepper notes and the sesame seeds added a hint of smokey flavor and crunch to the dumpling. The sauce itself appeared to be a mix of soy, sesame and rice vinegar. Mokja’s strong work with the dipping sauce really elevated their dumplings.
The Location: Mokja is on Amsterdam Ave between 101st and 102nd streets which is the southern end of Manhattan’s Manhattan Valley neighborhood. This might be the Northern most Korean restaurant in Manhattan.