Monday, May 14, 2012

H Mart in Hartsdale

371 North Central Avenue  Hartsdale, NY

A little over a month ago, the giant Korean H Mart grocery store opened an outlet in Hartsdale.  The enormous store has had a festive atmosphere since it opened.  There are food sampling stations every couple of aisles, and you can consume the equivalent of a decent snack by the time you have wandered through the store.  A model struts with a food cart down a closed-off aisle as a camera crew shoots a commercial—the model looks nothing like 99% of the customers that mill about.  A teenaged kid manning the marinated meats counter banters in English with his passing buddies using the lewd innuendoes that adolescent males often do, a few minutes later he is respectfully addressing an elder in Korean.  The thin sliced meats section is excellent.  There is marinated pork or beef for bulgogi, lamb meat for shabu shabu, sliced flank steak, and short ribs.  Next to it is an extensive kim-chi selection.

The fish section is massive and very very affordable.  A giant tuna with sushi quality meat sits at around sixteen dollars a pound.  A few days later there was a large salmon on display.  The quality was excellent. “Young coconuts” are $5 for three--the water from these cococuts drives what is currently the health conscious "coconut water" craze.  After pouring aside the water, split the coconut and then scrape off the tender meat in the inside of the cavity--I had'nt had that in years.  Or stuff the coconut with shrimp to cook what in Bengali is called, "Daab Chingri".  There is produce available at H Mart that simply wasn't around in Westchester before. The vegetable section is comprehensive, but not of the quality that you will find at Kam Sen.  The bok choy is not washed properly and contains too much grit.

A large ethnic store is like a big ship—it sets off waves that sends smaller boats close by in a tumult.  No doubt H Mart will threaten the existence of Kam Sen, Apple Farms, and perhaps Trader Joe's—stores in the vicinity that carry ethnic or non-traditional items.  Time will tell. 

There is a decent sized deli section with a choice of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese food.   I, for one, was thrilled to find ramen noodles on the menu, given my weakness for this dish.  I had “Salt Ramen” one afternoon.  The quality is about the same as in Ichi Rikki, which is to say decent, not up to par with what you could find at Jin Ramen near Columbia University; but certainly better than what I had the other day at San Francisco airport that passed for Ramen.

The H Mart trip also allowed me to test photographs taken with the iphone: I am amazed at the quality of the photographs: taken indoors, fully automated, thru a small lens and using a tiny sensor.  Perfectly serviceable for web entries!  I used to have my Panasonic GF1 with a 20 mm f2.8 lens for this purpose earlier, but in a pinch the iphone does just fine.

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