My spouse and I dined at Jungsik for dinner on a Saturday night in mid-August 2017. Jungsik is open daily for dinner only. We booked our table 30 days in advance using the online Open Table reservation system. The restaurant has held 2 Michelin stars since 2014 (elevated from its first star in 2013).
Jungsik opened in TriBeCa at the intersection of Harrison and Hudson Streets in September 2011 in the space formerly occupied by Chanterelle. Seoul Korea hosts a second outpost of Jungsik that opened in February 2009. Chef-owner Jung Sik Yim owns the restaurant, and its name is a play on words; in Korean, “Jung Sik” means “formal dinner”. She attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY, and she has worked at Manhattan’s Aquavit and Bouley.
The restaurant’s corner location allows muted exposure to natural light. You enter the restaurant past a small bar (with perhaps four seats) before you reach the main dining room. A central service table accented by hanging lights enclosed in a metal frame divides the two sides of the spacious room. A rear dining room offers additional seating. In the main room, plush ivory banquettes line the perimeter, fronted by tablecloth-clad tables and comfortable ivory leather armchairs. The four corner tables offer L-shaped banquettes and the most privacy. (We were pleased that the host granted our request for one of these tables.)
Jungsik serves modern contemporary Korean cuisine in one of two tasting menu formats. (Note that Jungsik once offered a la carte dining, but it has been discontinued.) The seasonal menu offers a few choices for its six courses for $125 (wine pairing is $105 additional, plus you can supplement with $15 truffle ice cream, $40 royal bibimbap, or $150 gujeolpan [a platter of nine delicacies]). We chose the more extensive 9-course, chef-selected signature menu for $200 (wine pairing is $150 additional). We passed on the wine pairings, however, because we were celebrating a birthday, we could not resist trying the cleverly named drink called “Live One Hundred Years”. Our courses from the signature menu follow.
• Amuse Bouche (five different “banchan” all delivered together “bansang” style and placed in front of each guest on tiny pedestals of varying height; it is an impressive presentation that sets the stage of expectation and anticipation for the rest of the meal.)
1. Caviar atop fatty tuna belly and crispy quinoa (I am generally not a caviar fan, but this dish was delish!)
2. Octopus charred and served with ssamjang aioli (I sometimes find octopus tentacle too chewy, but this version was braised for an hour to make it super-soft and yummy. I appreciate when a skillful chef makes me love ingredients and components that I normally shy away from.)
3. Thinly sliced wagyu, atop which our server poured a steaming dashi broth
4. Branzino (Served atop white kimchi, this dish was accompanied by a tiny vial of pressed sesame oil that the chef personally brings back from Korea.)
5. Tuna kimbap (Korean sushi rolls)
6. Foie gras mandoo (dumpling)
7. Galbi (American wagyu topped with fava bean and herb – an elegant composed version of Korean barbecue.)
8. Spring garden (A pre-dessert/palate cleanser of white asparagus ice cream atop colorful fruit and flowers.)
9. Baby bananas (Spoiler Alert: We will never forget how they delivered the tiny bananas set within an actual fruit basket to make us think that they were real, when in fact they were painted white chocolate shells that contained a Baileys banana cake, served with coffee ice cream and crunchy bits.)
10. Omija Bingsu (Magnolia berry granita with lemon basil sorbet and rhubarb syrup)
We loved our haute Korean” dinner at Jungsik – we are still talking about the “baby bananas” course!
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