By Asian Fusion Editorial Team
While modern Korean restaurants are trending now in New York and Korea, Chef Jungsik Yim was a pioneer in the invention of New Korean cuisine beginning more than 10 years ago. Serious and elegant, but with a sense of humor and delight, even the name of the restaurant is a play on words: In Korean, Jung Sik means formal dinner.
Jungsik Yim began his culinary career when he was in the army, when his commanding officer recognized his talent and made him his personal chef. This experience was the catalyst for his decision to pursue cooking professionally. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed at Aquavit and Bouley. This exposure to the intricacies of fine western cooking, inspired him to apply these techniques to Korean food. In 2009, he opened his first restaurant in Seoul. Two year later, he opened Jungsik in Tribeca.
His executive chef in New York, Ho Young Kim started his career in fine dining with the original Jungsik restaurant in Seoul as a sous chef. In 2011, as an integral part of the opening team for Jungsik New York, he made the move to the U.S. During his tenure, the restaurant earned its first star in the Michelin Guide, and eventually a second star in 2013. After spending time at Ecole Ferrandi in Paris and working under Chef Pascal Barbot of the three Michelin-starred L’Astrance, he returned to New York City as the Executive Chef of Jungsik.
Whether you grew up with traditional Korean food, or are tasting Korean cuisine for the first time, the experience at Jungsik is sublime, whimsical, joyful and surprising. Using molecular gastronomy, modern techniques, Korean flavors, and the finest ingredients, the result is an unbeatable balance of flavors, unique textures and artistic presentations. The experience at Jungsik is seamless—featuring the highest level of service without a whiff of pretension.
Design: The dining room is elegant and understated, in light off-white earth tones, providing a soothing, neutral background for the vibrant cuisine with comfortable, contemporary seating, and modern architectural lighting. Your experience starts with a warm welcome in reception and continues throughout your stay until you leave the restaurant, sated, stimulated, and satisfied.
Food: There are two tasting menus offered nightly, signature and seasonal. The 9-course signature menu, ideally enjoyed with wine pairings, begins with an elaborate amuse bouche. Inspired by the Korean banchan, small dishes that begin the meal, guests are presented with 5 elegant bites, presented on stunning white ceramic platforms with a theatrical flair. You are instructed to eat in the following order: first a foie gras mousse with gelee, an exciting marriage of textures and flavors, followed by a smoky wagyu beef tartar, a crispy black oyster that takes its color from squid ink, a tiny delicate bun filled with prosciutto, tomato and mushroom and finally, a citrus/shiso persimmon. You can expect your server to share in your joy and surprise, and to joke with you about the imaginative elements of the presentation.
Ponson Extra Brut Champagne, served in a special glass with a curved top that enhances one’s experience of the aromas, is paired with Osetra caviar over tuna belly marinated in wood vinegar (for an intriguing) smokiness on a bed of crispy, toasted quinoa. The next course of Foie Gras Mandoo is served with Mas de Daumas Gassac Languedoc 2017, a blended white wine, defies all expectations—tender foie gras filled dumplings, topped with a layer of thinly sliced fat streaked raw beef, that cooks with a pourover of an ethereal multi-layered bone broth. And just when you think it can’t get any better, the sommelier pours you a glass of crisp Viognier from Columbia Valley Oregon, to accompany a magical preparation of Spanish octopus, crispy on the outside, melt in your mouth tender on the inside. Next up is the fish course, paired with Chardonnay, H. Bouzereau-Gruere at Filles Mersault 1er Cru “Charmes” Burgundy 2012, crispy skinned Branzino accompanied by a small carafe of nutty sesame oil, that you pour around the perimeter of your plate. (The goal is to keep your Branzino skin crispy, but there’s also the interactive pleasure of finishing the plating of your dish.) Tuna kimbap, paired with a glass of Nebbiolo, Adriano Marco e Vittorio, Barbaresco 2015, has its own special surprise. Based on a nori wrapped rice dish filled with tuna, this version has an amazing crunch of seaweed, and a mind- blowing combination of flavors including truffle rice and mushrooms with a dab of sweet Korean mustard. The next course, Galbi is an ode to Korean barbecue, made from the finest quality wagyu touched with a delectable Korean barbecue sauce. It’s tender yet firm and melts in your mouth. It is paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, Ehlers Estate Napa Valley 2015.
A citrus palate cleanser of blood orange, kumquat and other citrus segments and sorbet with gold flakes, prepares you for dessert. When your server brings you a basket of fruit, don’t just pick any fruit. “Use two hands” you will be instructed, to select the mini-banana. Revealed to be a trick of the eye, the hand-painted banana has a white chocolate shell and an interior of Dulcey ganache, Bailey’s cake accompanied by coffee ice cream, a perfect match for the sweetness of the banana. To wrap it all up, guests are presented with Matang, a warm sweet potato dessert with melted black sugar.
The seasonal menu, as the name suggests, changes throughout the year—and offers more customization (including either fewer courses and supplementary courses such as Royal Bibimbap, pearl barley risotto with black truffle.) Some current highlights on the seasonal menu include Squab with Shishito Pepper and Heirloom Sunchoke, and Urchin with seaweed rice and crispy quinoa.
Dessert: Dessert is a category unto itself at Jungsik. In addition to the desserts served with the signature tasting menu, there is also a special dessert tasting menu consisting of refreshing Pear, with Asian Pear Sorbet, Pear Compote, Su- Jeong-Gwa; Citrus Tart, tangy fresh citrus combined with citrus confit and Lemon Basil Sorbet, the famous baby banana, NY-SEOUL Ver. 2, Brown Rice Choux, Pecan Praline and Vanilla Ice Cream and the stunning Truffle Cone, presented in a magical curved potted tree. You remove the cone from the tree trunk, and find yourself face to face with a fine slice of truffle, atop Truffle Chantilly, Chocolate Caramel, Fleur de Sel. The final course is the Petit Four: Yakgwa, Bonbon au Chocolat, Balhyo Macaron.
Pastry chef Eunji Lee was born in Busan, South Korea and fulfilled a lifelong dream of studying pastry arts when she moved to France in 2006. Classically trained at the Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie in Rouen and at the Ecole Ferrandi in Paris, Lee spent three years in the acclaimed restaurant Ze Kitchen Galerie of Chef William Ledeuil and then trained under Chef Alain Ducasse and Pastry Chef Cedric Grolet at three Michelin-starred Le Meurice for another four years. When the opportunity arose for Eunji to combine her classic French training with Korean ingredients, she jumped at the chance to become the Pastry Chef of Jungsik. Chef Lee became the first non-European contestant in Season 4 of the French competition “Qui sera le prochain grand pâtissier?” and her Dessert Tasting Menu at Jungsik was featured in the New York Times in August 2017.
Wine: Wine is clearly an essential part of the Jungsik experience. Sommelier Jaehoon No joined Jungsik’s beverage team in 2015. Since joining the team, Jae passed the Certified Sommelier exam in 2016, and was promoted to Sommelier in 2018. Through the wine list guests will find an expertly curated selection, featuring labels from France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Chile.
Jungsik is located at 2 Harrison Street, New York, NY, www.jungsik.com and is open Mon-Thurs 5:30-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:30pm, and Sun 5:00-10:00 pm.