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Persimmon, neo-Korean on E 10th

m
Mazzer Apr 24, 2008 07:35 AM

Persimmon. Walked by this place yesterday on E 10th between 1st and A. It must be brand new—there is zero mention of it anywhere. The tagline on the door says neo-korean kim chi café, or something like that, and seems to offer two set tasting menus, ~$40 and ~$60. Anyone been?

The thing that caught my eye is that the posted menu offers "bo ssam"—made with pork belly rather than butt (and presumably traditionally portioned). Now "bo ssam" is a pretty generic term, but half a block from the Momofukus, well ... it made me chuckle. There are some other quasi-overlaps, but nothing any Korean (pardon: neo-Korean) place wouldn't have.

I've yet to have a bite of the food, and this place definitely deserves an honest shot. But it does seem cynically positioned to attract Noodle Bar overflow and would-be Ko-goers ... or am I reading too much into it?

  1. erin07nyc Aug 19, 2008 01:09 PM

    My husband and I tried Persimmon last night. Overall impressions: The first 2 courses were a lot more impressive than the main stews and dessert.

    The appetizers we chose were delicious and really got us excited. I had the fried, stuffed squash blossoms. These were nice and crispy with a mild tofu filling. The sauce was garlicky and tasty. Husband had the fluke sashimi, which was coated in red chili paste, and was really good, as well. The seasoning was spicy and very well-balanced. I kept stealing bites.

    Next, we both had the Bo Ssam, which we've never had before. We both thought this was good and well-executed.

    The next courses you have to choose from were sort of like the mains - they turned out to all be stews. You can choose a miso stew, a kimchi stew, or something called "summer wraps," which is what I chose, with pork. I was expecting something like a summer roll, but this turned out to be just the miso stew, but served with lettuce, cabbage and shiso leaves to wrap the stew up in and eat "like a burrito" (as we were instructed). The stews were tasty, kind of salty and very filling. You know how you just get bored of eating a bowl of the same stuff? Overall, they were not very exciting, and certainly no where near as exciting as the other courses we had tried.

    Next you get a palette cleanser of sorts... it's brown rice in water with one black bean down there in the bowl. It was incredibly bland and a little confusing. I guess it cleansed my palette, though.

    Dessert were those sticky little sesame stick candies served with a "rice drink." The rice drink tasted like sugar water. I was dipping my sesame stick in my sugar water before I re-read the menu and learned that it was a "drink." Didn't think that dessert should have really counted as a course. And you share 3 little sesame sticks with your partner. Again, not very exciting at all.

    The communal table was fine; the lighting was a little bright. Service seems to have gotten better since previous reviewers, but it did take them a while to get us settled with our orders taken. Overall, not being familiar with Korean food at all, I did enjoy the different flavors and liked getting to try so much kimchi. They just need to take those main courses up a notch into "tasting menu" territory, and I think they'll be in better shape.

    1. t
      tatiana_nyc Aug 15, 2008 12:03 PM

      I ate there several weeks ago. The Bo Saam was the only passable thing on the menu. I took out of town guests and was completely embarassed to have brought them there.

      The main course clam soup was absolutely dreadful. We got pizza afterwards.

      1. j
        jonasblank Aug 12, 2008 02:08 PM

        Momofuku and Persimmon have nothing in common other than that their owners are both Korean (and the Persimmon guy once worked at Noodle Bar).

        The relatively positive NYT review demonstrates why Frank Bruni, estimable skills may he have, should not be trusted when reviewing any cuisine from Asia. Persimmon would more accurately be described as extremely watered-down, not very good Korean food with a few non-standard items (such as so-called "strawberry kimchi") thrown into the mix. My wife, who is Korean and like me is a passionate fan of all David Chang restaurants, said she was literally embarassed that Persimmon is receiving all this positive press, as a first-time visitor might be lead to think this is what "Korean" food tastes like (which is to say, salty and bland).

        The people who work there are all very nice people and there is nothing wrong with the place except the food. But the idea that because Persimmon is a restaurant with a Korean chef that it somehow bears any resemblance to what David Chang is doing (which I would call New American cuisine with a Korean influence), is deeply insulting to what Chang has accomplished, and I am sorry to see several uninformed members of the food press make that comparison.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jonasblank
          w
          westvillager02 Aug 14, 2008 11:12 AM

          You logic illudes me. Why is it okay for Chang to do his interpretation of Korean cuisine but not Sun to do the same? If you don't like Persimmon that's okay but tone down the Chang-worship. He's not the only one who has a right to interpret Korean cuisine.

          1. re: westvillager02
            j
            jonasblank Aug 14, 2008 12:21 PM

            I don't consider it an "interpretation" of Korean food. Chang's food isn't an "interpretation" of Korean food either. It bears almost no resemblance to Korean food. I'd either call it "New American food"

            Persimmon basically is standard Korean food, made badly.

            Therefore, comparing Chang, an innovative chef who happens to be Korean, with a restaurant that serves bad Korean food is in my mind somewhat offensive. Mostly, it implies that the person making the comparison doesn't know what they're talking about. Just because two people of the same ethnicity own restaurants does not mean they both serve food that is in any way similar.

            I don't care whether anyone likes Chang's food or not. My only point was that if someone who does like it wants to enjoy something similar, Persimmon is not going to deliver on that.

            1. re: jonasblank
              e
              ExFlexitarian Aug 14, 2008 01:40 PM

              I don't think its made badly. The brigade at Persimmon definitely has talent and put a good deal of care into their product. It's just different than what you'd normally get anywhere on 32nd st.

              1. re: ExFlexitarian
                j
                jonasblank Aug 14, 2008 02:07 PM

                I'm glad you like it - I respectfully disagree, but certainly everyone has their right to their opinion. But, to go back to the intent of my post, whether Persimmon is excellent Korean food or terrible Korean food, I do contend still that it is Korean food, whereas Momofuku in its various iterations is not. My biggest frustration is not so much whether people like Persimmon or Momofuku or neither (everyone is entitled to their opinion), but that actual food critics - whose opinions are supposed to be valued and DO matter to many - make what in my opinion are unfounded comparisons based on the ethnicity of the chefs rather than the actual food on the plate.

                I don't wish the folks at Persimmon any ill will and if some people like it, good for them. I do wish food critics would be less careless in how they describe any restaurant that isn't serving French/Italian/German/American or other foods made by white people.

                1. re: jonasblank
                  l
                  Lau Aug 14, 2008 02:18 PM

                  i agree with jonasblank that persimmon and momofuku are two totally different types of restaurants and that critics who are comparing the two are probably only doing it since both chefs are korean

                  i also do think that persimmon shows some slight hints of good food like the bo ssam, but overall the food is extremely mediocre (32nd st, while most places are mediocre, is better and cheaper than persimmon if you know where u are going and what restaurants make specific dishes well) and need of a major makeover

                  1. re: jonasblank
                    e
                    ExFlexitarian Aug 14, 2008 02:32 PM

                    So Bruni's 3 stars to Matsugen is a flawed review as well?

                    1. re: ExFlexitarian
                      l
                      Lau Aug 14, 2008 02:42 PM

                      i dont know i havent eaten there yet

                      bruni is generally good, but i judge for myself

            2. re: jonasblank
              Miss Needle Aug 14, 2008 03:28 PM

              I am unaware of any other press that Persimmon has been receiving. But if you're talking strictly about the Bruni review, he only makes the comparison to Momofuku in terms of decor -- communal wood table with stools. He doesn't make any comparison to Momofuku in terms of food.

            3. erin07nyc Aug 12, 2008 11:04 AM

              Has anyone tried Persimmon yet? I just made a reservation for Monday, but didn't get the impression I really needed to make one too far in advance. The man I spoke with said they are still BYO.

              2 Replies
              1. re: erin07nyc
                l
                Lau Aug 12, 2008 11:20 AM

                yeah ive been there, here's my review:
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/524252

                1. re: Lau
                  erin07nyc Aug 12, 2008 11:36 AM

                  oh thanks! that's exactly what i was looking for. Don't know why search didn't catch it...

              2. sgordon May 26, 2008 10:09 AM

                There was a write-up in NY Mag a couple days ago - sound like it's worth checking out.

                http://nymag.com/restaurants/features...

                1. d
                  dhl211 May 12, 2008 09:28 AM

                  FYI, bo ssam is in no way a generic term. It is and always has been steamed pork belly served with napa cabbage, oysters and kimchi. Momofuku's "ssam" and pork butt "bo ssam" are just reinterpretations of a classic dish.

                  1. w
                    wonderles May 11, 2008 07:39 PM

                    I walked through this neighborhood today and didn't see the restaurant. Did it close already?

                    1. m
                      Mazzer Apr 25, 2008 09:02 AM

                      FYI, I walked by again, and I was mistaken concerning the price. There is only one set menu, and it is ~$35 for one person or ~$65 for two persons. Nice to see volume discounts in an upscale restaurant.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Mazzer
                        hotdishandkimchi May 3, 2008 05:51 PM

                        The head chef at Persimmon is Youngsun Lee, former chef at Momofuku. I actually took a kimchi making class with him today at ICE (which was fantastic). He mentioned that it took a number of years to find space for his restaurant so who knows, it might be intentionally positioned near his former employer, or it may have just been coincidence given that real estate is so limited. In any case, it sounds like it's worth a try. He seemed to put a lot of emphasis on using high quality ingredients that were as natural as possible (using honey powder instead of processed white sugar, high quality miso paste and gochujang from a particular farm in NJ, etc).

                        1. re: hotdishandkimchi
                          Miss Needle May 3, 2008 07:03 PM

                          Hotdish, I was thinking about taking that class in August. Did he teach you guys different variations of bae choo kimchi or did you guys just learn one way to do it?

                          1. re: hotdishandkimchi
                            m
                            Mazzer May 3, 2008 08:20 PM

                            Interesting .. thanks for the follow-up. I hadn't even considered the possibility that this was a Momofuku alum.

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