New Kid on the Block: Jung Sik

If you want the background on Jung Sik, the restaurant that just opened in the old Chanterelle space at Harrison and Hudson, you can read what the Times wrote about it. (I don’t see much point in rewriting other people’s stories.) I’m assuming, however, you’d prefer to know what the place is like, right?

First, the name is pronounced Yung Shik. (Note to self: Add it to this post.)

The room bares no traces of Chanterelle, which I liked as much as anybody (or at least most people), but can we all agree that by the end the interior had become dated? You enter Jung Sik in the same doorway as at Chanterelle, and past the vestibule there’s a small bar. The dining room is to the right, done up in modern wenge paneling and cream banquettes. The ceiling rises as it goes east; the banquettes curve up at the corners, and all of the tables are along the walls. The private dining room—or where large groups will be seated—gets prime real estate along Hudson.

The menu (click to enlarge)

The menu is entirely prix fixe ($125 per person), but you do get to choose from three to five dishes for each of the five courses; besides what you can see in the menu at left, there’s a “chef’s tasting menu” (with some new dishes, and some repeats) on the back. It’s the same system as at chef Jung Sik Yim’s restaurants in South Korea—they call it a “stylized tasting menu”—but when they first started there, the menu had no choices. Everyone got the same meal.

Bibim salad

The media—including me—have been calling the food Korean (or haute Korean, or high-end Korean), but I’m not sure I’d have identified it that way if no one had told me beforehand. Most of the Korean food we get in New York is in the great-with-beer category—kimchi, ssam, and so on—or at least that’s true of the restaurants I’ve been to. Jung Sik has far more in common with Corton than with Kori. There are touches of Korean ingredients—ginseng in the macaron, “Korean raspberry jelly” on the foie gras, a delicious sesame leaf purée on the Five Senses Pork—but the chef later explained that it’s more about a Korean aesthetic, a mindset. The Bibim salad, a deconstructed Caprese, is Korean in that you mix it all up (“bibim” means “mix,” according to our waiter); the Spoonable salad relates to the healthful-eating trend currently underway in South Korea. (By the way, I grabbed some of the restaurant’s food photos because mine were weak. The Spoonable salad is the first one below; the others are the dishes I mention, in the order I mentioned them.)

Our dinner was exquisite. A friend who had been before us called the food “subtle” in a way that may not have been a robust compliment, but my partner and I loved that about it. Standouts included the Spicy Clam Kalguksu, the Sea Urchin, the Tribeca Lobster, and the Truffle Chicken. Two days later I can recall every dish and how it tasted.

We spent much of the walk home comparing Jung Sik to Corton. The food at Jung Sik definitely holds up, and the service probably will (it’s only fair to give it a week or two to smooth out kinks). There are all the trappings you’d expect at this price point—amuse-bouche, petits fours, etc. But even Corton’s prix fixe is $115. Then again, maybe that extra $10 per person is just a drop in the Champagne bucket once you’re spending $400* on dinner for two.

* ($125 x 2) + at least $80 on wine + $70 tip + $33 tax = $433.

UPDATE 9/26: The restaurant has decided to go by Jungsik, not Jung Sik.

Jung Sik is at 2 Harrison (at Hudson), 212-219-0900;

Recent New Kid on the Block articles:
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Sarabeth’s Tribeca
Frontrunner Gallery
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Silver Lining

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