Our experience with Korean food has been minimal. Barbecue a few times with its array of banchan and some dumplings. What’s happening at Jung Sik Dang, the new upscale Korean restaurant in Tribeca, bears absolutely no resemblance. We asked the manager, Andrea, how to describe Jung Sik’s cuisine. Her answer: “Modern Korean based on French techniques.” While Chef Kim was trained in those techniques, he has put an innovative spin on integrating the Korean aspects. What we ate was fantastic and totally blew us away!
We chose to do the 5-course tasting menu which was $115, down from $125 when they first opened. In addition, they are now offering a 3-course prix-fixe for $80. There was also mention that an a la carte menu may be available soon.
Every dish we had was gorgeously plated and composed of an extraordinary combination of flavors and textures. The Korean elements were incorporated not in a hit-you-over-the-head manner but rather often subtly. Still, it remained apparent that this was a cuisine of a different stripe, one that I found very “accessible.”
Arugula sorbet added a whole other dimension and a bracing taste sensation to the Bibim’s very coloful vegetable assemblage. The elements of the “Champs-Elysée” — foie gras, kimchi, and a raw quail egg — when mixed together tasted like a lovely, not-too-rich risotto. The perfectly prepared butter-poached Tribeca Lobster rested on a buerre blanc sauce enhanced by the subtle inclusion of Korean mustard. The beef short ribs in the Classic Galbi were meltingly soft, while little rice balls provided a crunchy counterpoint. The Apple Rice Wine Baba was a wondefully creative take on the classic, the baba lightly infused with rice wine and split in two and accompanied by diced apples, apple sorbet, and dollops of cream.
The meal began with a series of amuses. I wasn’t expecting foie gras, but knock this foie gras addict over with the proverbial feather, there it was! An ultra-smooth Foie Gras Mousse blanketed with a black raspberry gelée. Luscious! Korean Fried Chicken on a “stick” nestled on top of horseradish sauce was a tasty morsel given a little kick by the sauce. A bowl arrived holding a tiny cube of Homemade Tofu. A server poured some broth around it. The tofu was very silky; the broth, light and flavorful.
We were served a Raspberry Granité pre-dessert and after dessert, a well-made Pot de Crème. The mignardises at meal’s end included macarons and chocolates.
Have I mentioned the bread? Ah! Bet you’re saying to yourself, “Bread in an Asian restaurant? Not what one might expect.” However, Jung Sik’s haute model being French, there is bread service. In fact, there were three types of bread offered, all excellent: sourdough, olive baguette, and an addictive egg roll with an interior texture and flavor resembling brioche.
M found the wine pairings extremely satisfying and made it a point to compliment Mr. Kim, the Wine Director.
Jung Sik occupies the location that was for many years home to Chanterelle. We went to Chanterelle for the first and what turned out to be the only time just a few months before its surprise closure. Loved the food and the room. Having read that the owners of Jung Sik had completely renovated the interior, we wondered how we would feel about it. I’m pleased to report that we loved the new ambiance. It’s modern without being stark, the muted colors are soothing, there are tablecloths, seating on the nicely padded banquette is comfortable, lighting is of the Goldilocks variety (not too dim, not too bright, but just right), and the noise level is blessedly low — that in a room filled to capacity. There is music and though I always prefer not to have any, it was not particularly intrusive. So, I would describe the atmospherics as dining for adults. Yes!
When Jung Sik first opened, there were reports of some service issues that needed ironing out. I can’t recall their exact nature, but in any case, under the guidance of the aforementioned manager, Andrea, they’ve been addressed since we found service to be very pleasant and professional. A dynamo with a charming personality, she was everywhere, helping out where the need arose and making sure that things ran smoothly. She is a gem!
When we made the reservation, we followed the suggestion to me from a Chowhounder and requested a corner banquette table. Upon arriving for our 9 p.m. reservation, we were informed that the table was not ready. So, we took the two seats at the sole table in the bar area. We were asked if we wanted drinks, which we declined. A few minutes later, Andrea came over to tell us it would be longer than anticipated because the diners at the corner table had “slowed down.” She offered to seat us immediately at another table in the middle of the banquette. Since we’d had a late lunch and weren’t starving, we opted to wait. Shortly thereafter, a server arrived with a little snack: sliders, which were delicious. They also brought us an iPad so that we could view the menu and photos of the cuisine on their website (which we’d already done before going there). Andrea came back several times to apologize and to “update” us as to how things were progressing. The wait turned out to be about 40 minutes but worth it in order to have a more capacious table and for us to be seated side-by-side with a view of the entire room.
From the moment we arrived through to our departure, we felt very welcomed and well-taken-care-of — as though the staff has been attending sessions at the Danny Meyer School of Hospitality. When our check was presented, the server asked us to write down any suggestions we might have for improvements because, he said, the chef takes criticism very seriously. Frankly, the only misstep I could come up with was that they had neglected to crumb the table after they cleared our last savory course. Otherwise, our dinner at Jung Sik was perfection
We’ll definitely be back!
To see all the photos from this dinner, click here. (Note: There was previously a glitch in the link. It’s been corrected.)