The Cast Iron Pot Signature

The Cast Iron Pot Signature
The Cast Iron Pot Signature
NJ Town: Little Ferry
Cuisine: Korean

Hipster Jr. Jr. is pretty much into anything and everything Korean. Thus our day trip to Fort Lee, New Jersey and the surrounding neighborhoods. Fort Lee, as it turns out, has a very large Korean population and lots of Korean-based shopping and eateries. Including this one, The Cast Iron Pot. Which is in a kind of strip mall of sorts next to a large H Mart, which has rows and rows of Asian goodies (and live octopi, if you’re into that kind of thing).

The restaurant itself is about as generic on the outside as it gets. There is a photo booth awkwardly perched by the front door and a small neon sign that reads “We’re Open for Business.” Otherwise there is not even the smallest indication that this is the joint it is. An odd bit of self-sabotage, I must say. Or perhaps they are purposely trying to treat their all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue joint like a speakeasy? But I highly doubt that. The bigger point is that the incredibly vanilla exterior belies the very cool interior. An interior that — after being subjected to over one million K-Pop idol videos where giggling young ladies run around in blinding white lit sets and businesses — seems antithetical to the typical, preferred ice-cold, fluorescent aesthetic of your typical Korean establishment.

And, yes, I know Korean pop stars and their barbecue may or may not have anything to do with one another, but I was surprised at the high-ceilinged, rustic, but modern, industrial barn thing that this joint has going on. All dark, rough-hewn wood, warm lighting, brass and leather with just an overall cool, open kitchen vibe. Each table is equipped with some sort of flame mechanism and topped with what looks like a shield Genghis Khan might have used in battle. Or like a hubcap off a large medieval car, if there was such a thing. And then the meat orgy begins.

Okay, it’s not an orgy. Maybe like a lunch threesome. Or like a giant pile of midday dry humpers. Because this isn’t quite the Brazilian version of the all-you-can-eat meat bonanza. These are way more delicate applications. Thinly sliced bulgogi, brisket, pork rib and even spam. The spam isn’t thinly sliced, but it’s certainly… pink. You pick your meat as a table, three at a time, and the server comes over with a pile of stuff and throws it on the spitting hubcap and the stuff sizzles and sizzles. And, of course, you have your bowl of rice and your kimchi and your other accoutrements. I’m not a huge pork guy (Ms. Hipster wouldn’t have it any other way) but the beef lacked a little in the way of salt and flavor. It relies to some extent on using some of the sauces and sides to boost any heat and taste. And butter, I believe. I did dig the gummy spicy rice cakes. They were so weirdly satisfying texture-wise, and did give a little heat that was mostly missing otherwise. I wasn’t brave enough to try the intestine (there is a charge for uneaten food, though I’m not sure how that works), but I could have just kept going forever if I didn’t think my family would have been disgusted with me. Shame is a strong deterrent.

That all said, I really liked the surroundings, and the food was certainly plentiful and fun. They do serve booze, and I could see the atmosphere getting a little rowdy with the right crowd. I’m not talking food fights or anything, but there is some pop music pumping (including some of the aforementioned K-pop) and I imagine an entirely full dining room could really crank out some decibels. They don’t so reservations and there are some long benches outside, which leads me to believe it probably gets pretty packed here for weekend nights. I just might risk it, though, because I will take any chance to impress upon friends just how robust my appetite can truly be.

260 Bergen Turnpike — Little Ferry