Jungsik: The Flavors of "New Korean" Cuisine


This is a loose continuation of the NYC trip I took in January (previous recaps in this series, The Library Hotel and Jean George's). This post is all about another awesome restaurant I visited while in the city - Jungsik, the only Michelin rated Korean restaurant in the city. It's located in TriBeCa and though it technically serves Korean food, the restaurant has been hailed for creating an entirely new, modern category of Korean cooking - "New Korean" cuisine.

It was quite easy to get a reservation through OpenTable. Reserving a week or so in advance should do it. The only thing is that they're not open on Sundays, so plan accordingly. There was also a load of construction going on so we had trouble finding the restaurant with all the scaffolding in the way. It probably didn't help we were there at night though :]

Credits: Jungsik

The interior is sleek and modern. I was there in the evening and the subdued atmosphere can be quite romantic for couples at night. There were really beautiful wooden duksahl hanging in front of the windows, a running theme through Jungsik:

Duksahl are traditional Korean motifs imprinted on rice cakes. Duksahl can be viewed as a visual form of language and expression, revealing the customs of Korea that have been passed down through generations. Every motif, containing symbolic meaning, has become a way for people to communicate and exchange ideas. The elemental patterns carry an aesthetic consciousness that is distinctively beautiful and delicate. Comprised of five motifs, the exhibition symbolically represents Eumyangohhaeng (Five Elements), Ohbangsaek (Five Hues), Ohgok (Five Grains), and Ohhaengsengsik (Five Nutritional Principles) rooted in traditional Korean cuisine.

Like Jean George's, Jungsik had excellent service. Our coats were taken at the door and we were seated right away. Our main waiter was nice but a little...green. I dunno what it was, he just seemed a little inexperienced with the whole affair ^^ Just little things, like he was unsure of exact ingredients in each dish. But he was obviously trying very hard :]

Another thing I noticed was that as soon as they honed into the fact we were Korean, they sent over bilingual waiters to describe each course in both Korean and English. Overall, everyone was very attentive, but if I had to compare, Jean George's waiters seemed much better trained somehow.

Left: There is a "duksuhl" motif pressed onto the top of the butter :).
Right: Raisin Brioche bread

A bread basket was brought by a waiter and we sampled the 3 different types of bread as we perused the menu.

We decided to go with the Choice menu so that we could pick and chose. Basically you pick one item from each column.

This was the Tasting menu. I'd love to try this next time :)

We decided to accompany our meal with some tea. The one on the left is Mandarin Green Tea (if I recall correctly), which was delicious and had a very mild citrus-y flavor (duh). The one on the right was Jeju Green Tea. Jeju Island in Korea is famous for their green tea and though I confess I am hardly a tea connoisseur I could taste the difference between this and Lipton's. For one thing, the tea is almost clear and there no bitter aftertaste; each sip was clean and refreshing. I definitely recommend you try the tea when you're here :)

The appetizers or as the fanciful would say - amuse bouche! One the left is fried chicken with mustard; it reminded me of tang-su-yuk (탕수육).

On the right are the cutest bulgogi (불고기) burgers ever! These were awesome, could have eaten about 10 of these.

Left: Another set of amuse bouche, the fanciest nu-roong-ji (누룽지) I ever ate (crispy rice and sesame seeds), something with mushrooms in it ^^, beef jerky, and an intriguing potato? drink.

Right: A warm clam chowder that they were serving that day because "it's a very cold day outside." ^_^ Very light and delicate, with bits of mushroom and clam.

Poached Quail Egg with Parmesan Crisp

You know it's a "new" take on Korean food if it has cheese in it ^_^ I adored the presentation of this dish. There is a poached quail egg was nestled underneath the Parmesan crisp with little bundles of kimchi and peppers folded underneath as well, so there was a definite Korean flair. I quite like this dish, there was something nostalgically Korean about cracking open that poached egg and mixing it in with the other components :)

Korean Seaweed Rice with Crispy Quinoa

Ahhh, this was probably my favorite dish. First, I love the crazy round bowl! Second, those crispy quinoa were seriously addicting. They practically pop in your mouth, they're so perfectly crisped xD! As for the sea urchin, I'd never tried sea urchin before but it had a very full briny flavor that paired quite well with the lettuce, quinoa, tomato bits, kimchee, seaweed and black rice. I've heard sea urchin is bit of an acquired taste because of the texture, but I didn't mind it at all. It was a bit grainy I guess, but I liked how the saltiness added flavor to the rice.

Crispy Pork Belly Dwenjang Rice

I liked how finely the lettuce was sliced but as for the pork belly itself - meh. To me, this was a somewhat mediocre dish, but my mom loved it though, so I think I was being biased because I don't like pork belly ^_^

Tomato & Arugula Sorbet

This was a dish they gave us that we didn't specifically order.... I forgot to write down my reaction to this dish because I got so carried away eating ;_; I vaguely remember that it was quite good and a refreshing segue into the seafood course. My favorite bit was the crackly noodles on the left side of the bowl.

제주도의 향수
Crispy Red Snapper Seaweed Clam Broth

Omg I am so angry that this pic turned out so badly! I got so excited about eating I just snapped a picture without looking at how it turned out. This was a gorgeous fish with this little crispy flakes of fish skin sprinkled on top. I swear it tastes better than it sounds. The texture of the crispy fish flakes is wicked and the fish itself was flavorful and...flaky. Like a well-cooked good fish :) The clam broth didn't overwhelm the flavor of the red snapper, which has a pretty mild taste to begin with. Overall, I enjoyed this dish very much - it tastes exactly like I imagine Jeju to be - light, airy, and oceanic.

Credits: Jungsik

Thankfully, the official website had some better pictures of this dish. This isn't the exact same dish, since mine had some seaweed in it, but the fish look the same.

Monkfish Liver Sea Squirt Broth

Another absolutely gorgeous seafood dish. The ink lattice had no flavor (as far as I could tell), but it sure was pretty. I don't really remember what this dish tasted like though, a pity because now I'm wondering exactly what a "sea squirt broth" tasted like :\ Especially because THIS -

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

- is a sea squirt. How exactly do you make this edible? It looks like it has hardly any substance...

Seoul Duck
White Kimchi with Gochujang Sauce

I've tried duck comfit in DC before and it was so salty I could barely swallow. This duck was loads better but I don't think I am duck fan, overall... Nonetheless, the skin was wonderfully crispy and the meat perfectly tender. Was not digging the fat but I know its an integral part of the duck meat experience ~_~ The gochujang sauce was a perfect compliment to this dish because quite frankly, duck is such a fatty meat, it needed something spicy to offset it. While I enjoyed this dish overall, I'm not sure I'll be ordering duck again for awhile. I just feel so plump after eating it :|

Wagyu Short-Rib Chestnuts

Super delicious. If I could order my meat course again, I would've gotten this one. I love the twist on the vegetable "side dish" and the galbi just melts in your mouth.

A little palate cleanser! I don't remember the name but I distinctly remember it tasted just like a caramel apple with foam on top :) The slight tang definitely got my mouth ready for dessert eheh

Sweet Red Bean Roasted Soy Ice Cream

Omg, best dish, hands down, of the night. Each of those little dollops are different flavors of ice cream and it was one of those dishes (like Jean George's parsnip raviolis) that made me realize what I'd been missing all my life. Diner's Journal did an awesome description of each dollop:

Jonghun Won, the restaurant’s pastry chef, has blown patbinsu apart. Starting with the browns: the paste that looks like hot fudge is sweetened adzuki bean; the one that looks like caramel is dulce de leche; the fawn-colored one is chestnut purée; the crumble is made of sourdough bread crumbs. On to the white family: the cream-colored scoop in the middle is roasted soy ice cream; the pure white scoops are milk ice cream; the flake on top of the ice cream that looks like a scrap of rice paper is a chip of dehydrated milk. The green ovoids are the green tea crémeux, a crémeux being a close relation of a mousse.

The roasted soy ice cream and adzuki bean ice creams were my favorites but this whole dessert was just phenomenal. The texture of each was slightly different but all were lusciously creamy and delicate.

So yeah, this is ice cream. Holy shite...it's going to be hard going back to Ben & Jerry's....

Mugwort Financier, Mango-Brown Rice Balsamic Vinegar Bonbon, Yuzu Macaron

Not something you specifically order, just something they bring. The mugwort financier (that muffin looking thing) was very moist and flavorful. God knows what 'mugwort' actually tastes like but it was faintly herbal and the texture was quite chewy - it reminded me of dduk (떡).

The chocolates were delicious but I could hardly taste the balsamic. There was a hint of it, I think, keeping the mango from being too overwhelmingly fruity.

Yuzu is apparently a wrinkly looking tangerine fruit...thing...but whatever it is, this is the best macaron I have ever tasted. Loved it. The macaron was probably my favorite bit on this little dish.

Lychee-Rose Mousse Sablé Crumble

Such lovely plating! I really enjoyed this dessert, it's one of those perfectly composed dishes. I could taste the plum, the lychee, and the rose in every bite, without any element overpowering the plum. Naturally the plum jelly was the highlight but personally, I thought the lychee-rose mousse was the standout. Lychee and rose are both very subtle flavors but I could distinctly taste both. Plus the texture - light, airy, and creamy - was divine. There was also a little surprise tucked in the bottom of the dish - a mouthful of diced plum and sable crumble ^_^ I love it when you can detect a hint of the chef's mischievousness in food ^^

It was quite interesting to see this fanciful, rather sexy ;) take on Korean cooking, especially of some of the 'homier' dishes. I may be in the minority here, but I think my favorite dish was the Sea Urchin dish. Probably because of the addictive toasted quinoa ehehe

The desserts were definitely the highlight of this meal. I can't believe I am saying this, but I truly think that Jungsik blew Jean George's out of the water in the dessert department. To me this is an exceptional feat because Koreans aren't that keen on desserts to begin with, so to taste such perfectly executed desserts with a Korean flair was a real treat. Jungsik's desserts were much smaller in size, but each dessert was, without a doubt, miles ahead in terms of flavor composition. The Green Tea Cremeux and Yuzu macarons especially - such subtle flavors, yet unforgettable.

Jungsik has gotten a lot of flak in the past over pricing but I think it was quite in line with other high end NYC restaurants. It's definitely a bit of an underdog on the NYC restaurant scene; it's won a lot of accolades but has a ton of critics slamming for it's high pricing and the fact there is a duplicate restaurant in Korea. As for me, I definitely recommend this place to anyone even remotely interested in Korean food. I've never had Korean food like this in my life and the dessert (and teas) alone were worth every penny/won ;)

1 comment :

  1. wow, such a fine, classy and beautiful restaurant! would love to celebrate my anniversary or something here, haha xD! the meals there seem to be rather an artful creation than something that u can fully stuff ur stomach with - a way of korean food that i've never seen before though, very interesting! :)
    Thanks for sharing!

    xx, Connie


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