One of the great tricks in restaurant reviewing is to take a picture of the menu with your iPhone so that when you write your review you can pretend that you isolated each flavour with your innate foodie abilities.
I didn’t do this at Jung Sik Dang. This is a bit of a nuisance as this is a clever restaurant which serves complex food. This meant that I struggled to identify the ingredients even whilst eating there. Now, writing a review several weeks later I am in trouble.
This is a shame because Jung Sik Dang and its chef (Jung Sik Lim) deserves more from me. The food there was world class and the flavours and combinations are unfamiliar to those who haven’t been to Korea but should be known better. Whilst David Chang may have taken over New York and made Korean fusion popular, Korean food is still… well a bit exotic. What you can get of it outside of Korea is pared down stuff, just the skimmings of a far more coherent and complicated cuisine.*
And Jung Sik Dang is doing “new Korean” which makes it even more interesting as they are riffing off a cuisine that most people don’t even know the basics off.
So I can’t describe the dishes in detail that I ate at Jung Sik Dang and it was pretty dark so my pictures are all grainy. I can simply say the meal and each individual dish was excellent and rather unexpectedly so. One in particular sticks with me, an anchovy risotto using barley. It was subtle light stuff but delicious. The rest of the meal was much the same, intricate and precise dishes that echoed a Japanese kaiseki meal and had touches of molecular gastronomy plating techniques.
The other interesting thing is that Jung Sik Dang is obviously trying to engage and compete on a world stage. Just like Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago they are trying to make the plates and the cutlery part of the experience. Our first course came with knives and forks that evolved into chopsticks and latter we got an undulating plate (which was actually a mistep) and this made it all a bit more of an adventure.
If you are going to Seoul I would highly recommend that you go. But here is the cool thing, they are opening in New York next month so, most likely, that is a bit easier for you to get to and you should take the chance to try it out there. If it isn’t a success I would be very surprised. And hopefully someone will take a picture of the menu this time and tell me what I ate.
- Price – roughly 200usd a head with alcohol
- 3F Acros Building, 649-7 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (82 2 517 4654)
* Well out in Flushing NYC you can get a good selection but in Europe, Korean food is much more rare and isolated in small suburbs like New Malden in London (a post on that here).