Jungsik - Run don't walk
Last night, my wife and I celebrated her birthday at Jungsik. From start to finish, our expectations were exceeded despite all of the high praise that this restaurant has received. I will go through our meal in detail but wanted to point out one observation: the place was empty at 7:30pm. We were 1 of 4 tables that were occupied in the entire restaurant. While this made for a lovely, intimate evening where we felt like we got special attention, I would encourage those of you interested in a great meal to support this establishment.
On to our dining experience, we were seated in a lovely corner booth with a great view of the room. The decor is modern and warm with a large center table that is used by the waitstaff for water, bread, etc.
Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and engaging without being intrusive. He explained to us that there is a 3 or 5 course option, as well as the chef's 5 course tasting menu from which you could choose items for your own customized menu. My wife and I decided to each do the 5 course with different items so we could get the greatest breadth of experience. Before our items arrived, we were treated to a series of amuses, most of which were served at once. These included a soy paste rolled in tofu, a sweet potato bite, a foamy cheese item, a korean fried chicken bite and a bulgoki slider. The fried chicken bite was beautifully crisp on the outside while juicy on the inside. It was served on a small skewer that sat in a tangy sauce that gave it some kick. Very nicely done and tasty. All of the other amuses were very good although I'm not a cheese or sweet potato guy so those were less enjoyable for me. The last amuse was a smoked potato soup poured over brioche and prosciutto. We both found this dish to be very successful.
For our appetizer course my wife ordered the Bibim - basically a deconstructed caprese salad with a basil sorbet. I'd heard great things about this dish but it was easily my least favorite of the night. The sorbet was sweet for my taste and (I know this sounds a little silly) cold. It took away from the flavor of the other items that were in the bibim which I probably needed to balance out the sweetness. I had the poached egg with mushroom in dashi broth and loved it. Savory, wintery and overall delicious. The egg is mixed with the broth for a rich and creamy base that complemented the earthiness of the mushrooms. Another very successful dish.
For the rice / noodle course, my wife had the Champs Elysee (foie gras and kimchi with rice) and I ordered the spicy kalguksu (clams and noodles in garlicy broth) - both were excellent. The Champs Elysee was rich and the spicy kalguksu was in a green garlicy / spicy (but not too spicy) broth that I could have eaten a gallon of. As a birthday surprise, my wife was served the birthday meal. I'm not totally sure what was in it, but it was damn good. Rice-based dish that had seafood chunks with traditional Korean flavors that were familiar to me but seemed raised to another level. A very nice surprise for sure.
Our seafood dishes were the butter poached lobster with raspberry sauce and Korean mustard and the crispy snapper. While the lobster was perfectly cooked and deliciously sweet, it felt out of place on a menu that so far had so many bold flavors. The crispy snapper, however, was wildly successful. Served in a green tom yum broth that had a beautiful scent, the skin was cooked with the scales on while the meat side of the filet was perfectly moist. Amazing technique and wonderful taste. The crispy snapper also included tofu, mushroom and bok choy - all of which gave the dish the texture and complexity to send it over the top. One of my favorite dishes of the night.
For our meat course, my wife had the Galbi (short rib) and I ordered the Five Senses Pork Belly. The Galbi was very good although I don't usually get too excited over short rib dishes. Came with rice balls that added a unique and interesting flavor and texture to the dish. The pork belly was an absolute stunner. Beautiful cut of meat, fatty and tender underneath and crisp on top. Served with kimchi and pickled cucumber and sitting in a soy foam (I think). I would order this dish every single time.
Our desserts were the pumpkin panna cotta and the rasperry cremeux. I'm generally not a dessert person but absolutely loved the panna cotta. The cremeux was good but not great. Again, not necessarily a reflection of the dish but as a non-dessert eater it really has to be special to be memorable for me.
I should add that I asked the sommelier to pair wines with a few courses for me. He was pleasant and knowledgeable and I thought he did a fine job. My wife opted for a cocktail that included vodka and some kind of pear. She absolutely loved it and I did too from the taste I had.
Overall, we came away very happy with our experience at Jungsik. The vibe is fine dining without being stuffy. The hostess was very pleasant, had a good sense of humor and added levity to the mood. Our server was great. But the food is the highlight here. It's up there with many of the elite restaurants in NYC and I hope that it gets the proper support so that I can go back after replenishing my savings. Overall, the meal came out to around $400 with tip and tax but was well worth it when compared to other meals I've had at top caliber restaurants.
2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013
Was there last night. Full report to come.
Food was wonderful. Service was green for this level of ambition.
But yes, run, don't walk, because I can't see it lasting long in its current state. On a Thursday night in Tribeca the restaurant was not even half full from 6:30 through 9:30 when we left.
I love Jung Sik, I eat there quite often. My only recommendation is to ask for chopped kimchi with the kalbi dish. It makes it so much better. Even the chef agrees but afraid the clientele may not have the taste for that. I suggested he serve it on the side so people can decide. I always get it and mix it in.