Michelin Starred Kimchi, With Wine Pairing
Well, no, not really. I didn’t have kimchi during my meal, and I didn’t order wine. “Wait, what the hell are you talking about?” you ask. Jungsik is what I’m talking about. The Michelin starred Korean restaurant (possibly the only one in the world) in Tribeca, specifically, the in space formerly occupied by the now closed Chantrelle restaurant.
When i was constructing my New York restaurant list, I browsed some of my go-to blogs. And in doing so, I stumbled on the The Wandering Epicures’ blog entry about Jungsik. It immediately caught my attention, and after reading their blog entry, I put Jungsik on the list, at a medium priority. A Korean Fine Dining restaurant. For me, it was new. I was curious to see how it would be.
I made my way to the restaurant on the Red Line, and walked up from Chambers (no taxis for cheap ol’ me). The hostess showed me to my table in the very white dining room (“very Korean” I thought). My captain came over with the menu and explained the format. The menu has five columns: Appetizer, Rice/Noodle, Fish, Meat, Dessert. Each dish, with the exception of desserts, is offered in a tasting size as well as a full course size. Alternatively, A ten course tasting menu is available. I made my selections a la carte, and sat back, waiting, wondering how this meal would turn out.
Things got kicked off with an amuse: (clockwise from center) House-Made Tofu with Eggplant, Fried Chicken Burger, Crispy Rice Cake, Sweet Potato Crisp, Rice Cracker with Yuja (Koreans say yuja, not yuzu). The tofu was delicious, and it was probably the best soft tofu I have ever had. The crispy rice cake was a reference to tteokbokgi, spicy rice cakes served at street carts. A version of this is served at Momofuku Ssam Bar, and I believe Momofuku Daisho in Toronto.
Three kinds of bread were offered with butter: raisin roll, rice sourdough, and olive ciabatta. The Raisin roll reminded me a lot of the buns my eldest aunt would buy and serve for breakfast in her home when I spent time there.
Bibim, Tomato, Arugula Sorbet. A play on bibimbap. In this case, Chef Jungsik Yim (the restaurant is named after him) took the word “bibim” which means “to mix” and applied to the flavours of Tomato, Arugula, Romaine, and Potato. The arugula was served as a sorbet, and the potato was fried thin and crispy, which added a nice crunch to the dish. While it didn’t evoke any memories, it was a great dish, and I thought to myself “a big bowl of this would be great in the summer”.
Spicy Ramyun, Pork Belly, Savory Broth. Every Korean has had ramyun in their lives. I remember having cup ramyun with my family during trips to White Rock and Tofino. Every Korean (except the adopted ones) have a memory of ramyun. Koreans consume the greatest amount of instant ramyun per capita….or so wikipedia says. I would have to say though, that this was my favorite version of ramyun. It hit all the notes. If I wasn’t in a Fine Dining restaurant, I would have picked up the bowl and tilted it back. My one complaint is the tableware bowl itself. It was too narrow and high up that I couldn’t get my spoon in their for the last little spoonfuls of delicious broth. One other thing that I need to mention, is their S.A. Now, I use my right hand for my fork and my left hand for my knife, which is the complete opposite of almost everyone in the world. Every time my cutlery is replaced, I watch and see if they would put the fork on the right side, and the knife on the left. The S.A. took notice and placed the fork on the right side. For me, it’s a bit of a big deal in the “details” department. Moving on…
Smoked Pork Jowl, pickled ramp. As I kept tasting the broth, it reminded me of something, until finally, at the end, once I had almost finished eating the dish, I realized what it was that was so familiar. It was the pickled ramp broth, which reminded me of my mom’s pickled garlic scapes.
Galbi Ver. 2, Wagyu Short-Rib, Chestnuts. Served with Red Pepper, Chow Fun (which they prefered to call rice noodle), and Jus. The kitchen team scored the emotion/memory evoking hat trick as the streak of good food continued. I did however, feel that the red pepper had no place in the dish. When my captain asked how I liked the dish as he cleared the plate, I wasn’t sure if it was better than my mom’s or not.
Quince Trifle. A play on Sujeonggwa, a (primarily) cinnamon flavoured drink, served after the savory meal. In this case, Jungsik made a layered trifle consisting of (from top to bottom) vanilla, persimmon, cinnamon, and chestnut.
Green Tea Cremeux, Sweet Red Bean, Roasted Bean Ice Cream. Deconstructed Patbingsu. Simple as that, but done with finesse, and without sweet rice cakes. Patbingsu is a Korean dessert consisting of shaved ice, sweet red bean, condensed milk, rice cakes, ice cream, and sometimes if not usually, cereal (like lucky charms, not frosted mini wheats).
I was given three last bites to end my wonderful meal. (left to right) Mugwart Financier, Chocolate Covered Mango, Ginseng Macaron. The Macaron impressed me the most because of the balance achieved with the flavours. It wasn’t overwhelming with ginseng, but it still had a strong presence, contrasted by the chocolate in the centre.
My fears had left me, and I was left happy, and hopeful for the future of Korean food at Jungsik. It’s just a really great place to eat. The food is fantastic, and if you’re Korean, or familiar with Korean food, you get that extra bit of pleasure from the memories their food will evoke. The food at Jungsik, for me at least, is the food your mom would make if she were a classically trained chef.
2 Harrison Street