Signage (Courtesy: Yelp)
At the helm of the kitchen is Hooni Kim of Daniel and Masa fame. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood inundated with Thai food, it distinguishes itself as a new player. Its niche are dishes are served ‘Tapas’ style (sharing plates), perfect for those like myself who suffer from tongue fatigue easily. The only difference between here and a Tapas joint is that each dish here will set you back a few bucks more, and before you know it you’re washing dishes there.
Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi (Courtesy: Yelp)
Upon arrival, you pull the giant metal spoon and open the door. You then see coat hooks on the right and a bar on the left. The wood here is reminiscent of Masa: light bamboo colored tables that were ostensibly polished with fine grit sandpaper for hours on end. In back of the bar are high tables with bar stool seating. A divider with chemically treated ‘bibimbap’ spoons are slotted into a makeshift wall. The ‘regular’ dining area sits adjacent to that ‘wall’ on the other side.
After you situate yourself, your waitress greets you. You are asked to a pull out drawer in front of you for the menu. Two laminated pamphlet sized sheets of paper are inside the decorative drawer, lined with floral print contact paper. One menu is for drinks and the other for food. The food menu is divided into two sides: Modern and Traditional. Somehow I had the preconceived notion that this place was fusion-like. To my dismay, nothing seems like a stretch in terms of creativity here. If anything, the dishes seemed safe. To his credit, Chef Kim excels at not only presentation, but also in perfecting the cooking time for every ingredient. Also, the Chef prides himself in sourcing only high quality, hormone/antibiotic free ingredients (i.e. Niman Ranch, etc). Sadly, after the first dish was served, I already knew I was going to need a second dinner. Desserts are not listed but if you are into fluffy cakes, two are offered: a mocha chiffon cake and a green tea sweet potato cake.
Short Ribs (Courtesy: Yelp)
-Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi ($12) [cho jang, jalapeño] – 4 bites of high quality hamachi wrapped with microgreens, topped w/ jalapeno and painted with a cho jang streak below it, great starter, I could have 20 of these!
-Kimchi Tofu ($13) [grilled pork belly, kimchi, and tofu] – liked how the kimchi was still crunchy, pork belly was cut thinly, tofu mound was pretty plain, standard fare
-Sablefish ($16) [poached sablefish w. spicy daikon] – aka black cod, super melty, daikon was brown, marinated in some type of soy mixture, enjoyed this very much
-Short Ribs ($16) [‘Danji’ braised short ribs w. fingerlings & pearl onion] – aka Kalbi jim, also carrots in this, the Kalbi was like butter, you get about a 2 square in slab of meat
-Paella ($14) (+$2 supp for fried farmhouse egg) [kimchi bacon fried ‘paella’ (for 2)] – served in a skillet, a natural marriage for kimchi/bacon/egg, they get an A for implementing this dish, despite the lack of soccarat sticking to the bottom of the skillet
(+) Chef is a seasoned veteran with a big resume
(+) Attention to detail in plating, presentation
(+) Locally sourced high quality ingredients used
(+) Ingredients synergize well together and are perfectly cooked
(+) A new breed of food, Korean ‘Tapas’ style dining
(-) ~4oz proteins in dishes seem inadequate for sharing
(-) menu drawer, albeit clever, is cumbersome (add wd-40 or kill it)
(-) Service a tad obtrusive
(-) Price points can get hefty
(-) Not vegetarian friendly
(-) Very safe, not much creativity
(+) When life gives you small portions, plan for a second dinner
Kimchi Bacon Paella (Courtesy: Yelp)
5 sharing plates will set you back roughly $50/pp, not including drinks or dessert. As much as I don’t mind paying for good food, even that has its limits, especially for typical ‘safe’ fare you can find elsewhere. The only difference is that here, you know they are using the good stuff. The food: Good? Yes. Worth it? No. With roughly 4oz protein portions for their dishes, we had to hit Empanada Mama afterwards for a second dinner. Totto Ramen, a few doors down, was the obvious choice but packed. We wish they would not only fix that dent in our wallets, but also our stomachs.
P.S. They just ran out of Yook Hwe when we ordered it.