Full disclosure: i’m not a food writer and I’m definitely not the foodiest person out there… but if there’s anything I do know, I’d like to think it’s good Korean food: how it’s made, what it looks like, and what it tastes like.
I grew up watching and helping the women in my family cook. When I was younger, my grandma would take the time and care to make many things from scratch, old school/traditional style. She would dry chili peppers in the sun and grind them to make gochugaru (고추가루; red pepper (chili) powder), she’d cook, crush, dry and cube duenjang (된장; soybean paste)…
Gochujang (고추장; red pepper chili paste), gukganjang (국간장; korean soy sauce), ssamjang (쌈장; dipping paste), dotori-muk (도토리묵; acorn jelly) you name it, she made it…
My grandma even had her own backyard vegetable garden. Korean BBQ for dinner? She’d go outside to pluck some red lettuce (상추/korean lettuce) and kkaennip (깻잎; perilla leaves) to wrap our meat with and some cucumbers to dip into ssamjang. The ingredients she used were always so fresh, adding subtle nuances of irreplicable flavor to her cooking.
I now realize how spoiled I was with good home cooked food. Naturally, my definition of “good food” has become food “made with love” as cheesy as that may sound. To me, it doesn’t matter if you have the fancy equipment or formal training, the high price tag or fancy place setting. The best chefs are the ones who really love what they are making, are having fun making it, and care for the ones they are cooking for. It’s the heart and spirit they bring to their food that makes all the difference. Everything else is just a bonus.
Whenever I hear of or come across a “new” Korean restaurant, I can’t help but get excited by what they have to offer and… I also can’t help but compare them to my childhood memories. Here are a few places I am very intrigued by and I am very excited to try. Inspiration comes from their Korean heritage and each restaurant approaches authentic Korean flavors with contemporary settings and careful execution. Also, I am just in awe of the young talent bringing these places to life in such a thoughtful way.
1) Oiji NYC
Opened just a few weeks ago in the East Village. You can find refined Korean dishes with traditional flavors served in an equally elegant but relaxed dining area.
I’m personally excited to try the beef tartare and honey butter chips (not pictured but spotted on instagram), although really, everything looks amazing. I’m also expecting some good creative cocktails. OIJI is only a month old but it already looks quite promising, and I’m excited to see how it’ll grow.
photo cred: oijinyc| sohm04| briansehongkim | junsoo_bae
Limited seating, so call for reservations: 646-767-9050
East Village- 119 1st avenue, new york, ny 10003
They are now on opentable.
I thought the name sounded vaguely Italian but it actually means “to blossom” in Korean. This restaurant is on my list not because it serves Korean food (it doesn’t) but because the menu has subtle Korean influence: kimchi, pork belly, dungeness crab- and I’m curious to see how that tastes. With an Italian-American chef and Korean-American owner, you might expect a Korean- Italian *gasp: “fusion” restaurant. Instead, it is what seems to be an interesting and delicious modern American offering resulting from their shared passions, collective experience and combined heritage.
Read about the wild eating adventure that inspired the concept here on Eater.
I’m dying to try their monkey bread with soft butter infused with dried Korean seaweed and their black garlic bucatini dish. Oh, and the exquisite plating? Amazing. Almost too pretty to eat. Looks perfect for an intimate/romantic meal.
For reservations: 212-960-3801
West Village- 430 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
Congratulations to the team on the 1 michelin star! (old news but still)
3) Goggan– 곳간
A hidden gem and welcome addition to Hell’s Kitchen, Goggan is cozy restaurant serving simple, authentic regional food from different parts of South Korea. All the food is prepared by a Korean chef in a kitchen equipped with cast-iron dishes and a brick oven. Parisian influence adds an eclectic but chic twist to its decor and the menu, which is thoughtfully married with the season. It’s also nice to see that they use the vintage products of Jookjangyeon (죽장연, the signature purveyor of traditional Korean soy bean sauce), a thousand year old village in Southeast Korea.
The whole menu sounds delicious and well put together, but I’m especially excited to try the sea urchin bibimbap (UNIII!), the kimchi jeon which has the perilla leaves my grandma used to pick, and the crevette cru (간장새우장) which can only be found at Goggan.
photocred: goggan facebook |gracefullhouse | yuniohc | hello_glo | swtnabi | dgkim0924 |
Hells Kitchen- 364 w 46th st (btwn 9th and 8th ave)
For reservations: 212-315-2969
Also, they have lunch special M-F 11:30- 2:30!
4) Mok Bar
The ultimate Korean comfort food is a good stew, some rice and some banchan (sidedishes) which usually includes some well made kimchi. Mokbar, pronounced muk bar (a combination of English and Korean to mean “eat bar”), takes all of your favorite traditional Korean soups and stews like kimchi jjigae (김치찌개), doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개), Sundubu jjigae (순두부찌개), jjajangmyeon (짜장면) and combines them with Japanese ramen noodles for a unique and updated noodle dish. Everything is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients (no MSG) and prepared in front of you at a relaxed nook in Chelsea market with bar seating. The menu doesn’t just stop there. Mokbar has halmoni (grandma) dumplings, ho cakes, tteokboki and disco fries (!!!). I can’t wait to try it all.
Huge plus: Chef Esther Choi grew up cooking with her family (old school style) so I’m expecting great things from the kimchi.
photocred: mokbar facebook
no reservations- dine/walk in, seamless, or catering
75 9th avenue, in Chelsea Market
Mon-Sat 11 AM- 10 PM, Sun 11 AM- 9 PM
If you’re looking for straightforward Korean BBQ or tofu stew, I’d stick to Ktown on 32nd street. But if you’re curious for something more, I’d try one of these 4 places. I’m still looking for the restaurant that brings back memories of my childhood flavors…. I have a feeling one of these restaurants, if not all of them, will be the “made with love” good Korean food destination I’ve been looking for in the city.
Let me know if you’ve been to any of these and what you liked best?
Cheers to each team for sharing their love for art, people and food in business and life.
Let’s eat/ 식사합시다!
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“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”- Harriet van Horne