Jungsik - one of the best restaurants in the city! (lots of photos)
I had dinner at Jungsik last week. It looks like the restaurant had been listening to feedback! They've made a number of tweaks, all for the better.
1. The 5-course prix-fixe is now $115, down from $125. They have also added a 3-course prix-fixe option for $80. The 3-course prix-fixe consists of Salad, Rice / Noodle, Seafood or Meat.
2. The service had gotten quite polished. They used a crumb brush for clearing tables of crumbs. The silverware were all placed correctly. And yes, the bread was served near the beginning of the meal, right after the parade of amuses (a la EMP). The management is also encouraging diners to give feedback and it seems to be taking the comments very seriously.
I ordered the tasting menu since it seemed people's favorite dishes were mostly from the tasting and the server billed it as a menu of "the chef's signature dishes". I can say that every single item, every single bite I had was fantastic, but the special stand-outs were:
Amuse Bouche #1 - Foie Gras Mousse with Black Raspberry
WOW. This was even better than Jean Georges' Foie Gras Brulee. The terrine was wonderfully creamy and smooth, yet the raspberry's sweetness and acidity perfectly countered its rich earthiness. I get foie gras fatigued rather easily (once I couldn't even finish the foie terrine at Per Se), but I totally could have had 3 more of these. I think this is my favorite cold foie preparation ever.
Egg White Bread Roll
Oh my god, this single bread roll was heaven. It was coated in an egg wash and tasted very "Asian" in that the roll was super airy and had a light hint of sweetness. You can get similarly sweet-flavored bread at Asian supermarkets anywhere, but this was the lightest, fluffiest, loveliest bread I've ever had. I couldn't quite understand him when the runner bearing the bread tray named the bread, but I think he said it was an "Egg White Roll". I also tried the Olive Roll and it was delicious, but the Egg White Roll was the supreme queen of breads.
Bibim - tomato, arugula sorbet
This is Jungsik's version of the caprese salad. I've read a couple of comments singing praises for this dish and I do admit I was still skeptical. "It's just a salad. How good can it be?" I probably swooned (quietly) at my corner of the room when I took my first bite. The arugula sorbet lifted the salad to a godly level by lending a cool, bright, refreshing note to the medley of greens and mozzarella. Extraordinary. Favorite salad of 2011 thus far? Definitely.
Crispy Snapper - shiitake mushroom sauce, oyster mushroom puree
I stared when the dish was brought in front of me. My, the snapper looked quite... prickly.... My server explained that in order to achieve super crispiness, the chef seared the snapper with scales on over extremely high heat until the scales crisped up and stood on their ends. I proceed to ask the dumb question of "Do you eat the scales?" He assured me that yes, you do eat the scales (that's the whole point!).
The fish crackled as I sliced a piece off. Upon taking the first bite, the roof of my mouth felt a brief tingly sensation from the prickle of the scales, then all of a sudden, the crispy scales shattered as my teeth bit through. I wasn't quite dumbstruck, but definitely had a "OMG, this is the most brilliant thing ever" moment. It elevated the concept of "crispy" to a new height. I don't think I'll ever forget the experience of eating this dish. Just reliving the memory sends me reeling all over again.
Like I said, the entire meal was wonderful. I know that I had expressed my skepticism about Jungsik's menu pricing. However, now that I've experienced the cuisine, I can honestly say that the $115 price tag for 5 courses is absolutely reasonable. In addition to the 5 courses listed on the menu, you also receive 4 amuses, 1 pre-dessert, 1 post-dessert, and petits fours. The chef is cooking at the highest level and can compete with the best in the city in my opinion. I certainly enjoyed my meal at Jungsik even more than the ones at the likes of Jean Georges and Le Bernardin.
Jungsik is doing something truly special. Please don't let the notion of the restaurant's Korean influences and the chef's Korean background pigeon-hole your thinking that Jungsik's cuisine is "over-priced Korean food". The refined, high quality food absolutely is not over-priced, nor would I call the cuisine "Korean" really. It's about as Korean as Momofuku Ko is.
I really hope Jungsik can flourish in NYC. Let go of your preconceived notions and give it a fair chance. Jungsik deserves more recognition. :)
For the full set and large resolution photos: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjwJgohL
2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013
I checked out all the photos on your Flickr, Cheeryvisage. As usual -- Gorgeous! It appears that the room -- which looks so-o-o-o different from when it was Chanterelle -- has excellent lighting for taking photos?
I had to laugh reading your comment about forgetting to snap the photos of the salad before mixing it up. Starting to eat a dish and then realizing I didn't take a photo has happened to me, too. Still, that's such a pretty and colorful salad.
Jung Sik is, as I've said, high on my "go to" list. Your descriptive report, along with the photos, makes me more eager than ever to try it.
Thanks, RGR, for your kind comments as always.
The lighting was rather challenging actually. I tweaked the heck out of the exposure of the photos during post-processing. The room's brightness / dimness was similar to SHO Shaun Hergatt, if that helps at all.
Re. forgetting to take photos, I almost did it once before too eating at Le Bernardin's bar. I literally had the knife and fork in hand and was poised to dig in. I must have looked ridiculous when right before my fork touched the food, I remembered and yanked the fork back in a swift motion. The bartender, if he saw me, was very professional and gave no indication.
When you visit, I recommend sitting at one of the four corner banquettes if possible. The corner seating's more spacious than the regular two-tops and you can sit side-by-side. You get the best view of the room too.
Thanks for the tips about lighting and seating, Cherryvisage. A corner banquette table sounds just what Mr. R. and I would like.
I am not into doing any tinkering with my photos, for example, via Photo Shop, so they are what they are. At SHO, we've been seated at the same table two out of the three times we've been there. (There were four of us both times.) So, the problems I've had with some of those photos came not so much from too dim lighting but from the pink reflection that came from a nearby EXIT sign. The first time, it was just the two of us, we were seated along the side of near the windows (not directly in front of the kitchen), and the lighting was fine.
Re: forgetting to snap a photo. I've had instances where I've totally forgotten to take a photo or thought I'd taken one but came home and upon uploading discovered that I hadn't. That latter situation happened with my duck dish at Hotel Griffou. Not that it matters now since Dave Santos is no longer cooking there.
And speaking of Dave, are you going to any of his Um Segredo dinners?
I miss Chanterelle. [sniff]
I dunno if I'll ever be able to give Jung Sik a proper chance. I'm not keen on Korean flavours (I know, the cuisine isn't really 'Korean'), and its location brands it a usurper and upstart in my mind. A pity.
Your photos do look very nice though.
2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013
I know what you mean about Chanterelle, Winterpool. We put off so long going there for what reason I cannot say. But when we did finally go there for lunch, we adored everything about it immediately -- the cuisine, the service, the ambiance -- and were looking forward to many more meals there. Alas, they closed a few months later. [sniff! sniff!] But, at least, we're lucky to have that one truly lovely lunch in our memory scrapbook and in photos. (I also bought the cookbook.)
Chanterelle photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...
I miss Chanterelle too. I still have the check from the first time I went. It was a card that was folded in half and on the outside, there was an ink and watercolor picture of planes and ships. Beautiful picture and we actually have it framed and on the wall. That way I can look at the picture and be reminded of the great times there but not see the other side with the number that was such a sticker shocker almost 20 years ago. Used to be nothing else in Tribeca then.