Insa is a restaurant opened in Gowanus by the couple behind The Good Fork in Red Hook. I've never been a big fan of The Good Fork, whose Korean-American fusion has always seemed to me to be neither here nor there. Insa is a straight Korean place. And as a non-fan of Korean food, I can say that's it's outstanding.
This is a much bigger and more aggressively hip place than the homey Good Fork. There's a big dining room with grills on each table and a Karaoke room off the back; I'm sure that when the place is full, it's insufferably loud. But if you're willing to forgo the barbecue, there's a very pleasant (and much quieter) bar/lounge room off to the side (which unlike the purposely bare dining room actually has decor). That's where we went -- and you should, too.
The food is of the genre of ethnic food cooked with the technical elán you don't see in the more run-of-the-mill hole-in-the-wally places, so everything is just better than usual. (I recognize, of course, that we're seeing a wave of higher-level Korean restaurants in New York right now, and I'm certainly not putting Insa above those -- just the run of the 32nd St. mill.) My hungry friend and I had a lot of stuff, and the only thing that struck me as ordinary were the mandu (squash and kimchee filling, I believe), which just didn't have the silky magic that really top-notch dumplings do. But their famous blood sausage lived up to the hype (the Korean style has a lot of filler -- but very nicely done); the steak tartare packed a flavor punch; the stir-fried sweet potato noodles with vegetables and egg was so much better than I expected that I was almost shocked; the seafood "corndog" (deep-fried seafood sausage): gross in a good way; and on and on.
Somewhat to my surprise, this place gets my very highest recommendation.