Hmm, a high-end Korean restaurant? I am definitely down. Jungsik is a 2-star Michelin restaurant that serves contemporary Korean cuisine in TriBeCa. I wanted to try it because I had never been to anything remotely close to Korean fine dining. I’m fortunate enough to live close to Koreatown in LA, where the BBQ joints and tofu houses are cheap and delicious, but Korean haute cuisine simply does not exist in LA, nor in most US cities for that matter.
Jungsik’s atmosphere was on the quieter side, and the overall feel of the restaurant was more modern and Western-style than Asian, with white table cloths and elegantly dressed servers. The food was excellent throughout, with few faults. The service was polite and efficient, albeit a bit uninteresting.
Overall judgment: 4 of 5 stars
I had pretty high expectations going into my meal at Jungsik, and I thought it was a very good dining experience overall. I don’t have any complaints about any of the dishes that I had — everything was solid. However, I was expecting to be wowed by some aspect of the meal, and I ended up not feeling that strongly about any of the dishes. For the most spectacular meals of my life, I can still vividly remember at least one dish that absolutely blew me away. That just didn’t end up happening for me at Jungsik, and therefore, Jungsik is a 4 star and not a 5 star in my book.
We ordered the tasting menu, which is $160 per person. Below is the progression of our meal, from start to finish:
Amuse bouches. Shitake mushroom broth, chicken over spicy mayo with pickled daikon radish, squid ink chip, rolled “cigar” stuffed with eel mousse. This was one of the more interesting dishes of the night. The mushroom broth and rolled cigar were my favorites of the bunch.
Egg. Poached chicken egg with broth and crispy rice puff. You really can’t go wrong with a poached egg. The egg was lightly poached, and yolk seemed to burst out of the egg upon first poke. The truffle dashi broth provided rich flavor without overwhelming the egg.
Fried oyster. Squid ink bread crumbs, anchovy aioli and pickled salad. I didn’t particularly enjoy the fried oysters rolled in bread crumbs (why would you fry oysters in the first place?!). However, the anchovy aioli and pickled carrots were quite tasty.
Fried red snapper. Vietnamese cilantro and peppers. I enjoyed the mild flavoring of the red snapper. The skin, however, was a bit crispier than I would have liked.
Royal bibimbap. I was prepared for an enormous portion of rice, but I was glad that the bibimbap came in a much smaller serving. There was so much truffle that it blanketed the rice, making for a richly flavored and delicious dish.
Wagyu beef. Picked daikon radish. If you’re going to position wagyu beef as the highlight of the tasting menu, then it had better be fantastic. Unfortunately the wagyu beef here didn’t do much for me, and the pickled daikon radish did not pair well with the meat.
All in all, Jungsik was a very good meal. The meal was technically sound — nothing was poorly flavored or cooked improperly — but as I mentioned earlier, the food didn’t really stand out to me. I think in retrospect I was surprised that the food was not as creative or Korean-inspired as I thought it would be. When I look back at the tasting menu, nothing strikes me as particularly Korean (even the bibimbap was more mushroom risotto than traditional bibimbap). It makes me wonder how much they adapted their menu for the New York crowd. I’d be interested to try the Jungsik in Seoul to see how it compares. Upon first glance, the menu for the Seoul restaurant appears to be quite different. I’ll keep it in mind for some day in the future when I visit Seoul…
Jungsik, 2 Harrison Street, New York, NY 10013