May 29, 2012
This haute-Korean restaurant was opened last fall in the Tribeca space which housed the revered Chanterelle for twenty years. Blair and I went for dinner on April 17, 2012.
The chef, thirty-three-year-old Jung Sik Yim, started cooking in the Korean army. He has worked and studied in both New York and Europe, where he learned modern techniques. He also has a “Modern Korean” restaurant in Seoul.
We ordered glasses of cava while we looked at the menu. There are several choices in each of five courses. One can order three courses or all five, as we did, with the offered wine pairings.
The first amuse gueule was a slate with four tidbits flavored with Korean elements: a squid ink chip with kimchi aioli; marinated shrimp paired together with cucumber foam; smoked homemade tofu with dwenjang sauce on top (dwenjang is a fermented soy bean paste that many people know as miso; however, miso is a Japanese product, generally milder in flavor than Korean dwenjang); and, lastly, fried chicken with spicy mayo.
Then came bulgogi sliders.
Bulgogi is thinly sliced beef marinated in a very spicy sauce. It is traditional Korean fast food.
A basket with three fresh breads was passed: black olive ciabatta, sourdough and an Earl Grey-raisin bun.
A bowl of duck consommé with spring vegetables followed.
The cuisine and wines were quite complex and frequently unfamiliar so my initial writeup was missing a lot. I sent a draft of this post to Jungsik General Manager, Jin Ahn. He replied with additional information for many items including this: “In the duck consomme, we heavily steep it with bracken fern. In Korean it is called 고사리 (go-sa-ri); it is a very commonly used mountain vegetable used in bibimbop.”
Blair’s first menu course was
Poached Egg, Parmesan Crisp, Dashi
He wrote: “The various components of the dish worked very well together. The crunchy and saltiness of the parm crisp, the richness of the egg yolk, the freshness of the chives, the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the brightness of a vinegar of some sort, maybe rice wine. It was a balanced and perfectly executed. Excellent!”
My first course was
Crunchy Salad, Seaweed, Quail Egg.
This salad was based on the interesting seaweed purée which lay underneath. It was nicely offset by the crunchy crudités on top. Fun and refreshing.
The wine pairing for both of us was 2010 MoMo, a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
Blair’s Rice/Noodle course was
Clams, Garlic, Jalapeño
He wrote: “This dish was very good and full of flavor. The dish warmed you entire mouth without blowing your head off. The raw garlic was very thinly sliced and not overpowering. If I had one additional want, it would be some smokey crunchy bacon (I love seafood and pork,) but that is being really picky.”
GM Ahn clarified: “The broth for kalguksu contains both clam stock and pork stock.”
Blair’s paired wine was a Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Riesling from Australia, 2009.
My dish was Sea Urchin
Korean Seaweed Rice, Crispy Quinoa
The dark seaweed rice which formed the base of the dish had an interesting flavor that was both vegetable and of the sea. The Maine sea urchin was very good quality, but I would have liked a larger serving. The reddish glob to the left of it was quite spicy kimchi. The shredded lettuce and onion slices were blander elements. The toasted quinoa added some good crunch.
My paired wine was a semi-sparkling, crisp Spanish Basque white wine that was imaginatively well-matched with the dish: 2010 Txomin Etxaniz’s Txakolina.
Blair’s Seafood course was
Black Cod, Soy-Pepper Marinade
He wrote: “The cod was perfectly cooked for me, just enough to be firm and unslimy but probably undercooked for many. The sauce was full of miso flavor, very good.”
The paired wine for Blair was a 2010 La Cana albariño.
My fish was
Red Pepper Threads, Sesame Leaf, Clam Consommé
The skate was perfectly cooked, slightly browned, but still firm. The clear clam consommé poured around it brought out the flavor without competing, as did the vegetables underneath the skate. The sesame wafer added a bit of crunch and a bit of another flavor. This was an excellent dish.
My paired wine was a 2007 Maison Deux Montille Saint Aubin 1er Cru. It was interesting without being heavy and went well.
Blair’s Meat course was
Wagyu Short-rib, Crispy Rice Cakes
He wrote: “The meat was earthy, rich and fall apart tender; the fried rice balls were a great juxtaposition being crunchy and chewy. A well composed and executed dish although I would have liked some kimchi on the side to cut the richness.”
GM Ahn added that there was some kimchi in the bottom of the bowl.
The paired wine for Blair was a 2009 Volver tempranillo from La Mancha, Spain.
My meat was
Spicy Kimchi Purée, Blue Cheese Foam
The pork belly was appropriately luscious, enhanced by the kimchi purée underneath that had just the right level of spiciness. The blue cheese foam was an imaginative way to introduce a needed light saltiness. Very good.
My paired wine was a Chinon cabernet franc 2009 Domaine de Pallus. Its low tannin was appropriate for the dish.
The pre-dessert was a small glass with Asian pear sorbet, omija granité and lavender meringue.
GM Ahn explained: “Omija and goji berries are virtually same thing, but Koreans call it omija. Goji is better known to the western world”. Nice.
Blair’s Dessert was
Spinach Sponge Cake, Black Rice Vinegar, Bay Leaf Sherbet
He wrote: “The dessert was full of strawberry flavor and good but I mainly focused on the dessert wine. It had an intense apricot nose and was excellent, for its price I was amazed at how good it was.”
The paired wine for both of us was a sweet Sicilian wine from the house of Donnafugata, Ben Ryé.
My dessert was
Green Tea Cremeux
Sweet Red Bean, Roasted Soy Ice Cream
The flavors were all interesting, good and not too sweet.
The mignardises started with a milk chocolate pot de crème flavored with angelica root, which has digestif properties. A sesame tuile was on top.
Interesting and good.
Then a plate with a ginseng macaron, a mango chocolate candy and a mugwort financier.
A nice finish.
The meal was very interesting and enjoyable. Perhaps only the skate dish was truly memorable for me, but every dish was good, usually very good, and the composition of each dish provoked our interest. The menu was well constructed with a logical progression of courses from light to heavy. The consistent Korean theme within the inventive modernism worked well to unify the meal.
The wine pairings were effective and the pours the right size, but I would have liked somewhat more upscale wines for the price. We could also have had more time to look at the labels. Fortunately GM Ahn filled us in later on these.
The service was always attentive and the pace just right. The ambience is quiet, but a bit dull with the stark all white décor. The lighting is dim, which did not help our photo taking of the nicely presented dishes.
We are very glad we went.