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Mar 15, 2012 11:27 AM

Jungsik Review + Photos

All of my photos in context can be seen here:

I’ve never seen a negative review of Jungsik. And it’s lucky that people are talking about it, because it’s not the kind of place this American-comfort-food-lovin’ gal would seek out on her own. Luxury Korean food? In Tribeca? It seemed so exciting when I made the reservation, but in the days leading up to the dinner, it started to seem scary and foreign. In the moments before we entered the restaurant, I was almost dreading it.

And then I loved it. And then I couldn’t stop exclaiming over it.

• amuse bouches

• squid ink chip with kimchi aioli: the salty familiarity of a light-as-a-feather potato chip with the sourness of squid ink
• tofu with soy gelee
• shrimp with cucumber cloud
• fried chicken with spicy mayo: pure comfort food; perfectly crisp shell with the juiciest chicken inside

• bulgogi sliders

The perfect little bite, with a substantial bun that didn’t buckle under pressure. With the slice of tomato (have I mentioned that I hate tomato? I loved this tomato), it tasted exactly like a sloppy joe. And I mean that as the greatest compliment.

• smoked potato soup

These very hefty bowls arrived at our table carrying a folded bit of prosciutto and a couple of brioche croutons, and a server followed with the soup itself. We thought this dish a little “precious” in its presentation, as we’re not sure that pea-sized croutons and a one-inch square of meat needed to be brought separately from the liquid, but we had no complaints about the taste. The soup was smoky and onion-flavored, gel-like in consistency, and accented by the crispy sourness of the croutons.

The menu at Jungsik offers three courses or five courses with wine pairings using one-word titles, much like the menu at Eleven Madison Park. Unlike EMP, though, Jungsik offers a little more description to help in the ordering process; someone who might not order a dish based on the word “apple”, for instance, might be convinced by the words “light foie gras mousse” underneath. The back of the menu displays the chef’s suggestions for the perfect tasting menu, and while my boyfriend and I are usually happy to put our palates in the hands of the chef, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to try as many dishes as possible and each ordered different things.

• apple gelee, foie gras mousse

The thinnest spread of smooth foie gras topped with a layer of apple gelee and studded with apple shavings and cilantro leaves. The sweetness of the apple made the foie subtle and less bitter than usual, and spread over the warm housemade rye bread, it was like butter and honey on toast. I took a cue from the incredible foie gras and salt tasting at Per Se and dipped each spoonful of foie into the chunky salt provided with the table bread and went into a blissful sodium coma.

• four seasons: parsley, zucchini, quail egg

The one bite I tried of this seasonal salad left me feeling like it was almost too fresh, the flavors too subtle; I know it’s a sin, but I prefer my salads deep-fried and covered in ranch powder, like the one at Tenpenny. My boyfriend, who actually got to deconstruct the thing, said there were enough powerful flavors–sundried tomato, beet, herbs–to suit him, though. We both liked the hearty zucchini base, the thick herbaceous sauce, and the apple foam.

• champs-elysees: foie gras, kimchi

The ingredients in these mod-looking bowls arrived separated with instructions for us to mix them together. This worried my boyfriend, who finds that this preparation leaves dishes tasting one-note, but he was impressed by the strong flavor of ginger, the meatiness the foie added, the sweetness of the port wine reduction, and the risotto quality of the overall mix.

• sea urchin, Korean seaweed rice, crispy quinoa

My favourite way to eat uni is to hide it in other foods so I can taste it without looking at it–I can’t get over how gloopy and tongue-like it is with those ridges on top–so the mixing entirely worked in my favor. The regular quinoa with the crispy puffed quinoa added unexpected crunchiness to every bite, and the uni’s organ-y iron flavor managed to be noticeable without overpowering the onion and rice.

• arctic char, kimchi sabayon

So beautifully presented, this char was accented with smokiness, sourness from the kimchi, and even a little cheesiness in the sauce. My boyfriend said it was rich enough to stand up to the sauce but delicate enough to feel refined. The grapes and chips provided a juxtaposition of sweet and salty and soft and crunchy.

• Tribeca lobster, butter-poached, Korean mustard

This was easily–easily–the best lobster I’ve ever had. Even my boyfriend agreed, and he’s not prone to melodramatic, absolute statements like I am. It was just simply the most buttery sauce covering the most tender lobster mitts and tail with the most perfect accoutrements. The $10 supplement to the tasting was so worth it I felt the urge to get up from my table and dance around the center of the room, making sweeping gestures with my arms, declaring my love for the lobster, and not sitting back down until everyone in the room had thrown their plates on the floor and demanded a helping of it for themselves.

Raspberry and lobster? With pimento chutney? There’s no reason it worked. But it was spicy and sweet, bright and rich, buttery and citrusy. The sauce was so lobster-flavored itself that it tasted as if the lobster shells had been cooked in it. The lobster was the perfect amount of chewy and the perfect amount of tender. I don’t have a bad word to say about this dish–nor even a so-so word–and if what the manager says is true and we can walk in any time and have this at the bar, you can bet I’ll be doing so. Forgive my capitals, but this was SO GOOD.

• five senses pork belly: spicy, crunchy, sour, soft, and sweet

My boyfriend and I fought over who was going to order this dish, but I luckily gave it and let him have it. This was the only misstep of the night, and it was partly a misstep just because we expected so much from it. Pork belly is like pizza, right? You can’t do it wrong. But like pizza, some pork bellies are righter than others, and this one just wasn’t flavorful enough. In terms of texture, it was outstanding, with the very crunchiest skin and fat cooked down to near-disintegration. But in terms of taste–well, there almost wasn’t any. We didn’t get the spiciness nor the sweetness; the pickles were more flavorful than the pork. It’s a shame, because the chef who created that lobster dish should do wonders with pork belly, so I’m going to hope that it was just a fluke that night.

• classic galbi: beef short-rib, rice cake ball

The galbi, on the other hand, was succulent, rich, homey, and fork-tender. It tasted like it had slow-cooked for 36 hours and then simmered for 24 more. The rice cakes were crispy on the outside but still able to soak up the beef broth. The whole dish reminded me so much of a Sunday dinner made by a mom who really cares, and we both agreed that it was far superior to the pork.

• apple rice wine baba, Calvados cream

Dessert began with a palate cleanser of an Asian pear sorbet topped with a goji berry granita. It was tart and fresh, crunchy on top and smooth on the bottom. The texture of the sorbet was like the actual texture of an Asian pear.

My boyfriend ordered the baba, which was so good on its own it didn’t even need the “side dishes”, but I loved them all. The dish was a study in opposites, with plays on cold and warm, smooth and crunchy, soft and hard. The apple ice was intensely flavorful and complimented the pear flavor so well.

• pumpkin panna cotta, cinnamon crumble, amaretto panna cotta

I can’t resist the flavors of fall and was filled with all of the warmth and sentimentality of pumpkin pie with my first bite of this creamy, spicy dessert. The top layer of panna cotta was sweet, the bottom layer almost savory, both leading to a flavorful crumble with a texture that tied together with the crisp squash strip adorning creamy topping.

• chocolate pot de creme

Though it wasn’t on the menu, this post-dessert was my favourite of the sweets. The creamy chocolate was complimented by the crunchy, nutty cocoa nib topping and crystal clear sesame tuile, and the whole thing had a slight celery flavor that we loved. Our server told us it was angelica root, which is used as a digestive aid; she said that made it a healthy dessert. Wink, wink.

• mignardises

• yuzu macarons: not the least big yuzu-y, these actually tasted like peanut shells (what?
)• mango balsamic truffles: mango yes, but balsamic no; still fruity and delicious
• mugwort financier: buttery!

My Rating: 5 stars

To think that I was worried Jungsik wouldn’t be “comforting” or that it wasn’t “my kind of food”! The amuse bouches alone were enough to convince me that my fears about it being too far removed from the French and New American upscale food I enjoy so much were unfounded, and then every subsequent course only served to prove more and more that there’s a place for Korean cooking in the high-end New York food scene (and that place is in my mouth). The flavor combinations were inventive, the presentation was pitch-perfect, and even the service–which some have said is too stiff–was friendly yet professional, helpful, and never intrusive. Aside from not giving me enough pork in my pork, Jungsik was spot-on and on-par with the best restaurants in NYC, and I expect to continue to see nothing but positive reviews coming out of it.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

Jung Sik
2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013

16 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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  1. Great report and stunning photos! Still want to try Jung Sik. Definitely want to try the lobster, and would have wanted to try the pork belly until I read your report. Do you know whether the chef/owner was in the kitchen when you had dinner? We chose Brushstroke instead of Jung Sik when my dining companion was told that the chef was in Korea. Unfortunately we were both underwhelmed by Brushstroke.

    12 Replies
    1. re: ellenost

      I don't think the chef's presence in the kitchen affects the food/dining experience like that. I've been to Jungsik twice. First time was when the chef was in the kitchen and it was wonderful. The second time was for my birthday and the chef was away traveling. The second meal was even better than the first. So, I don't think you need to worry about that.

      1. re: Cheeryvisage

        That's excellent news to hear that there was no drop-off in quality when the chef was away.

        1. re: ellenost


          We went to Jung Sik for the second time with uwsister and her husband (their first time) the evening of the day you and uhockey were at per se. While the chef was in the kitchen during our first visit, he was not there this time. There was absolutely no difference in the cuisine's quality -- superb both times! We were told that the chef has his "A Team" in the kitchen here, i.e., the most experienced chefs from his flagship in Seoul.

          Jung Sik photos (second visit):

        2. re: Cheeryvisage

          Me too. I first tried Jungsik when the chef was in the kitchen, and it was good. When I tried the second time, he was abroad attending an event in Spain, and the food was better than my first time. So does this mean we don't need chef Yim back in New York? LOL (I'm just kidding)

        3. re: ellenost

          Yes, yes, the lobster! Bring someone along you don't like very much and tell him or her to order the pork so we can see if it was a one-time flaw or not.

          We didn't ask at all about the chef, but it seems from the other comments that you're good to go either way. I can't believe you didn't like Brushstroke, though! It wasn't my favourite meal ever, but it was a strong 4.5 out of 5 for me. If you wrote about Brushstroke on here, I want to see it!

          1. re: plumpdumpling

            i also LOVED jung sik and find brushstroke to be underwhelming and overpriced. the thing about jung sik is you can't easily find this kind of food anywhere in this city, or elsewhere for that matter (momofuku ko or jean georges come a little close, for the asian touch, but the flavor profiles are really different). i also find the 3-course menu to be good value for the quality of food they serve. it was both special and satisfying. for brushstroke, there are just too many other places in this city that do multi-course japanese fine dinning very well, and among the places i've been to (kyo ya, aburiya kinnosuke, etc), my meal at brushstroke was the least good in terms of $ for value.

            1. re: mow mow

              Ah, see, Kyo Ya is on my list, but I still haven't been there. I look forward to comparing the two (and knocking Brushstroke's rating down a notch if I need to).

            2. re: plumpdumpling

              Honestly, I don't think pork was a one-time flaw. When my husband and I dined at Jung Sik (along with RGR and her husband, as she mentioned above) pork was also our least favorite dish of the night. I loved almost everything else - I still think about that sea urchin dish time to time, it was so good. But pork was a little disappointing, especially for their signature dish. I actually left a couple pieces on the plate. Galbi and duck, however, were fantastic. I could probably eat that Galbi dish everyday and not get sick of it.

              1. re: uwsister

                Interesting! But disappointing, of course. I'm glad we all had the foresight not to just stick to the chef's tasting. I agree about the galbi completely!

                1. re: plumpdumpling

                  I don't understand why they even have that "Chef's Tasting." It would make sense if it was (a) longer than the 5-course choice menu, and/or more importantly (b) composed of dishes not on the regular menu. However, since that's not the case, why would anyone not go the "choose the dishes yourself" route?


                  1. re: RGR

                    Re: the tasting menu, there is now a $150 option for 10 smaller courses, although I think they are still dishes off the regular menu so 2+ ppl might still come out ahead with sharing the 3- or 5-course choices. The menu has also expanded or changed a bit since a few months ago, maybe for a new season: hwe (raw fish), braised octopus, a new salad (on a base of seaweed-anchovy paste), sujebi, a different pork dish (smoked jowl instead of 5-senses belly).

                    I was recently there for the second time and loved it. (a big thanks for reviews like these on this board; I'm an infrequent visitor to NYC and would never have found this on my own)

                    1. re: mulden

                      Thanks for the update. I haven't been to Jung sik for a couple of months. I'd like to try some new dishes there. Normally pork belly has much more flavor than the jowel,but smoked I imagine can work well with jowel. Hopefully I can get to Jung Sik soon.

          2. My, what camera do you use? or is it the technique? Those photos are stunning!!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Monica

              Oh, thank you! It's a Nikon D5100, but the restaurant is reeeeeeally dark, so I had to brighten them up in Photoshop.

            2. I live on the left coast but just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed your review and pics. Thanks! :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: inaplasticcup

                Hey, thanks! I'm looking at your blog now and really enjoying your $100 a Week posts. And everything else!

                1. re: plumpdumpling

                  Thanks for taking a look, dumpling! That made me smile. :)

                1. I also loved Jung Sik. I took an out of town client, and he was blown away. I just wonder if the restaurant will succeed. I don't know if even NY'ers can get their heads around $85 for three courses of Korean food. The wine list was also iinteresting although a bit expensive. A lot of Rieslings which I thought was very appropriate for this kind of food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JC2

                    I know the fact that it's Korean food is a bit of a barrier, but the price is reasonable for NYC, and the quality is on par with even more expensive restaurants, don't you think? If anyone can embrace it, NYers can.

                    We did the pairings and had one Riesling, but now that you've mentioned it and I've looked at their list, I'm wishing I would've requested more! Riesling is my favourite.