New Korean at Jung Sik & Dinner Giveaway – NYC

sea urchin @ jungsik amuse bouche @ jungsik
mignardises @ jungsik plum dessert @ jungsik

A month ago, I had the pleasure of dining at Jung Sik Dang (정식당), the Korean fine dining restaurant opened by ex-Bouley alum Jung Sik Yim. Located in the old Chanterelle spot, previously one of my favorite French restaurants, the restaurant must have inherited some good food karma (but hopefully not business karma), because it was one of the best meals I’ve had this year. I was surprised it was so good, because prior to going, I’d read several negative reviews online. The crux of the negativity was that it wasn’t Korean enough, which after eating at Jung Sik, I’m baffled. Sure, the food doesn’t resemble anything from 32nd Street, Flushing, or my mom’s kitchen, but this isn’t your typical Korean restaurant. It’s elevated, modern Korean with a European finesse, but Korean nonetheless.

amuse bouche @ jungsik

For example, at Jung Sik, the amuse bouche consisted of a tiny black sesame chip with yuja (yuzu, for those only familiar with the Japanese pronunciation) compote, homemade tofu, Korean fried chicken with a spicy aioli, and a tiny bulgogi slider, bun and all. My companions — David, Christina, and Will — fawned over the burger, which was indeed adorable, but while the bulogogi taste was there, I wasn’t crazy about the minced texture of the meat. My favorite was the sesame cracker which had the airy texture of Korean fried seaweed chips but without the processed flavor.

bibim @ jungsik

Bibim ($15), a deconstructed Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula sorbet, had been another source of derision. What’s Korean about this dish? Not much, except before you eat it, you mix it all up (bibim means mixed in Korean), and the result is the most refreshing salad ever. It’s almost dessert-like because of the sorbet, but the savoriness of the cheese, tomatoes, and peppery arugula reel it back into appetizer land. It’s not Korean in the traditional sense, but it’s a whimsical take on a bibim. Perhaps it was an inside joke lost in translation.

sea urchin @ jungsik

Sea Urchin ($27), seaweed rice with fresh sea urchin and crispy quinoa, was my favorite of the night. The contrast of the creamy sea urchin and the crisp quinoa was quite nice, but I loved the seaweed rice which tasted like rice infused with umami-rich miyeok guk (미역국, seaweed soup). Together with the fresh uni, it was seafood bliss. My only complaint was the vase-like bowl it was served in which made it difficult to dig out all the delicious rice and quinoa without a bit of bowl man-handling.

lobster @ jungsik

Lobster ($42), with beurre blanc, raspberry coulis, and Korean yellow mustard was probably the least Korean tasting of everything we ate (aside from dessert), but nevertheless delicious. The lobster was tender, the beurre blanc smooth, and the sweet raspberry coulis and spicy mustard curbed the richness.

cod @ jungsik

Cod ($39), black cod in a soy-pepper marinade, tasted like an extremely elegant version of daegu jorim (대구 조림), cod braised in spicy soy sauce. It wasn’t as spicy, but the essence was there.

wagyu @ jungsik

On the non-seafood spectrum of the menu, Wagyu ($50) with a kimchi sesame purée was incredibly tender, but for me, the best part was the generous amount of sesame oil in the purée. Sesame oil, kimchi, and grilled beef is probably the most classic of Korean combinations. The only thing missing was a bowl of rice.

plum dessert @ jungsik

At the end of the meal I was too full for dessert, but as usual, David had room for something sweet and ordered the Plum ($12), a beautifully presented lychee-rose mousse with a sablé crumble. Was this Korean? Probably not, but it was very Asian in that it was very light; a quality much appreciated after such a filling meal. (We ordered the larger portion for each dish, but smaller tasting portions are also available for everything except dessert. I’ll probably do that next time.)

mignardises @ jungsik

Dinner ended with a tiny shot of Korean ginger punch with cubed fruit and a plate of sook (쑥, mugwort) financiers, puffed rice chocolate bon bons, and yuja macarons. It was French mignardises with a Korean twist. The table favorite, as was mine, were the chocolates with the crisp rice and the creamy mousse-like center.

Convinced yet if Jung Sik is Korean enough? No need to answer, because the real question should be whether the restaurant is worth visiting, and the answer is emphatically, yes.

And because I love the restaurant so much (I was not paid to write this review nor was my meal comped), I’m giving away a $100 dinner for two at Jung Sik courtesy of CityEats, a new restaurant review/menu/reservation site created in partnership with the Food Network. To enter, take a look at Jung Sik’s menu on CityEats and write in the comments below the one dish you really want to try. I’ll be picking one winner at random. Giveaway ends Saturday (December 15, 2012) at noon. Good luck!

UPDATE (12/15): The winner is Jasmine, the sea urchin addict!

Jung Sik Dang (정식당)
2 Harrison St (nr Hudson St; map)
New York, NY 10013

There are 34 comments

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  1. Cin

    Sea urchin dish!! Sounds very yummy from your post!! Also curious to try the Seoul duck~ duck, kimchee and gochujang sounds good!!

  2. Diana

    I’d love to try the raw seafood with truffle vinaigrette. They’re two of my favorite indulgences that I’ve never seen paired together.

  3. Hammama

    It all sounds great, but I’d love to see what they do with the galbi- there’s hardly such thing as bad galbi to begin with, so to have it elevated…I’ve gotta know!

  4. The DegustAsian

    The dish I’m most interested in trying is the Bossam. I’m curious to see Chef Yim’s take on a Korean classic.

  5. Rowena

    Everything on that menu sounds like it would be delicious but I’d love to try the Smoke Pork Jowl. That’s one of the tastiest bits 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity!

  6. JX

    I would love to try the sea urchin dish. I’m a big sea urchin fan and the seaweed rice sounds totally delicious!

  7. SC

    Having grown up in Seoul, I adore Korean food and haunt K-town on a regular basis. I’ve never associated uni with Korean food so would love to try the sea urchin with the seaweed rice and crispy quinoa. Sounds like a divine combination!

  8. brett

    Dinner for 2 at Jung Sik? $100? That’s bananas; you could barely do 1 for a c-note, and that’s only if you ordered carefully/light. To answer your question, though: Jungsik Boulliabaise. Peace!

  9. hungry

    I find it sad that many Asian restaurants are criticized for not being authentic enough even though their mission is obviously something new. I feel that many Asian cuisines aren’t “allowed” to branch out of the authentic genre. But I say bravo to these chefs and owners for taking a chance.

    Anyway, the sea urchin dish as my name all over it!

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