Restaurant in New York,
the First Korean Restaurant Awarded with Two Stars by the Michelin Guide
Began in Korea, Advanced to New York in 2011
Upgrading Everyday Korean Dishes…
Popular with Foreigners
The Michelin Guide is undoubtedly the most authoritative restaurant reference guide in the world. First published in 1900, the guidebook rates restaurants by awarding them its signature stars. Three Michelin stars indicate the highest rating of a restaurant. The Michelin Guide is notorious for its rigid selection standards. The reviewers scrupulously examine everything including service, cleanliness, prestige, and originality of dishes and beverages served.
This year, the popularity of one Korean food restaurant surged when it was awarded two Michelin stars. That restaurant is Jungsik, an eponymous restaurant of chef Yim Jung-sik. Located in Manhattan, New York City, Jungsik appeared as a two star restaurant in last October’s Michelin Guide New York City 2014. This is the first time for a Korean restaurant with a Korean chef to obtain two Michelin stars. It is also very significant that a restaurant serving mainly hansik (Korean dishes) was rated so high, given how many restaurants in New York offer delicious dishes from various countries and compete for recognition. Chef Yim is very busy traveling between Korea and the US. Despite the hectic schedule, he met with <Korea AgraFood> and shared with us the story of his life as a chef.
Chef Yim started his career as a cook in the army during his mandatory military service. In 2003, he went to the US to receive professional training at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). From 2005 he was starting to build his career as a professional cook in French and Spanish restaurants in New York. He then returned to Korea in 2009 and opened his own Korean restaurant, Jungsik. At that time he was already planning to extend his business overseas and finally, in 2011, he opened the Jungsik Restaurant in Tribeca, a fashionable neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, New York. He was ambitious to aim for the recognition of Korean cuisine at the very center of the world.
Hansik, the Most Scrumptious and Charming Food in the World
After completing training at CIA, you accumulated cooking experiences in a French and a Spanish restaurant. Why, then, did you choose Korean food when opening your own restaurant?
“Korean food is the one I know better and cook better than chefs from other countries. And I think Korean food has some distinctive features that make it very different from the cuisines of other countries. One unique feature of hansik is that it is completed by those who eat it, not by the chef who prepares it. Both the rice and side dishes in Korean cuisine are served on separate dishes and I think it is a great merit that one can choose which side dishes to have with rice according to your own liking. I really wanted to introduce this charming food culture to the world.”
New Korean, Combination of Korean Food and Western Food
Could you introduce the Jungsik menu?
“Hansik is the basis for all the dishes at Jungsik, although they are a bit different from traditional Korean dishes. We do not serve the royal court food that appears in TV dramas and movies, but we find a new interpretation for common dishes like haejangguk (hangover soup) that Koreans eat daily in local eateries. We use both Korean and western cooking methods and ingredients. That is why we call our menu “New Korean.”
Chef Yim is developing new entries to the menu that combine hansik with a western style dinner course. For Korean customers, he is trying to give a special taste to the dishes they encounter every day. For foreigners unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, he strives to create an easily accessible, yet high-end image of Korean food. By doing so, Chef Yim intends to demonstrate that even ordinary Korean dishes can become haute cuisine.
Jungsik, a Restaurant Loved by Foreigners
Jungsik in New York has risen to become a two Michelin star restaurant. The dishes at Jungsik seem to be gaining recognition abroad.
“At the beginning, the American media criticized us for high prices and a bland interior design. They even put us on the list of restaurants that will go out of business soon. That event made me think a lot. I decided to go back to basics and intensely study the taste of Korean dishes. That is how I developed a new entry: haejangguk. We introduced this soup to foreigners who are not used to putting cooked rice in a soup, and, despite that, the attempt was successful. Another popular dish at Jungsik is steak with a liquid kimchi sauce. We have never slacked in our efforts to upgrade the menu and improve the quality of the service we offer. And our efforts have finally paid off with two Michelin stars. I am happy that the creativity and originality of Jungsik are finally recognized.”
Chef Yim said that in recent years Korean food has been gaining a lot of attention in New York. Japanese and Chinese dishes have become too common in this city, so Korean food, with its unfamiliar taste, can appeal to New Yorkers. Jungsik is gaining a favorable response from the local people and more than 80 percent of its customers are non-Korean. Chef Yim said, “When many foreigners see haejangguk and liquid kimchi sauce on the menu, they appreciate the new, harmonious sensation that the common Korean dishes offer in our restaurant.”
Next Goal Is Three Michelin Stars
What are your plans for the future?
“As a short-term goal, I want to challenge for the title of a three Michelin star restaurant next year. Also, I want to expand Jungsik to Europe, although I have no detailed plans yet. I enjoy new challenges while enjoying cooking. So, if I have time and money to spare, I want to open restaurants under my name in other countries.”
Chef Yim believes that for hansik to gain more recognition around the world, restaurants that can represent Korean cuisine should appear in every country. To this end, there is a need for young chefs who will knock on the doors of overseas markets. Chef Yim hopes that he and his restaurant can become a good role model for them.
Dishes the Chef Recommends to Try First at Jungsik
Steak: The difference between the steak at Jungsik and steak dishes served in other restaurants is in the sauce. It is made by mixing the liquid of kimchi, a representative Korean food, with sesame oil. Chef Yim explains, “Through this dish, I wanted to introduce foreigners to the refreshing feeling Koreans experience when they have kimchi-mari-guksu (a roll of kimchi with noodle) after eating a greasy meat dish.”
Sea Urchin (Korean Seaweed Rice, Crispy Quinoa): Chef Yim reproduces, in his own way, the sea urchin bibimbap of the Tongyeong city in Korea. In this dish, dried seaweed, sesame oil, vegetables, and cooked rice are mixed altogether. A seaweed puree is made by mixing and grinding together seaweed and sesame oil. It is then mixed with cooked rice and garnished with vegetables. To give the dish crispiness, a spoon of fried millet is added and a fresh sea urchin is placed on the top. Chef Yim said this bibimbap has earned so many fans that last year the New York Times chose it as the best dish of the year.
Hae Jang (Pork Belly, Spicy Broth): Koreans usually eat haejangguk to soothe a hangover after drinking alcohol. At Jungsik it is a rich pork broth served in a bowl together with cooked rice. Pieces of grilled pork belly are placed on top. Chef Yim said, “Foreigners may have tried a lot of broth dishes with noodles, but they have rarely seen any broth dishes with cooked rice in them. I developed this dish to promote the Korean food culture of eating rice in soup. The dish is very popular among foreigners now.”
Crispy Red Snapper:
This snapper dish is seasoned with salted and fermented squid and cold jellyfish salad sauce. The fermented squid is brought from the Gangwon Province in Korea. The fish is fried with its scales. It is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The fermented squid adds a subtle spiciness to the dish.
Fried Oyster (with Anchovy Aioli):
This oyster dish is one of the most frequently recommended by Jungsik customers both in New York and in Korea. It is made by coloring a loaf of plain bread with black squid ink and finely grinding the bread to make a crispy batter. Covered with the batter and fried, the soft oyster becomes crispy. The dish is then garnished with dried seaweed, anchovy aioli, and various vegetables. Chef Yim explains that the oyster dish was inspired by the fried oyster dish Koreans usually enjoy as an accompaniment to beer.
Address 2 Harrison Street New York, NY 10013
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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