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“Jung Sik”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Asian Tribeca Break the Bank Good

I hate to say that the reason I'd go back to Jung Sik, the white-washed Zen temple of haute Korean cuisine that's replaced Chanterelle in Tribeca, is a chicken nugget. But it's true. One in a series of delicate and delicious amuse bouche--a smooth and seductive foie gras mouse glossed with dark raspberry gelee is another that won me over--the crispy chicken popper is a keeper. The plump nugget--think bite-sized Bon Chon chicken--is served with a peppery slick of spiced aioli, and it is fantastic. But it's just such a tease. You're only get the one, and it arrives teetering on its own delicate porcelain pedestal (which, quite frankly, this chicken nugget deserves). But please serve me more! You can toss them in a bucket and a hand me a bib for all I care.

Perhaps a chef of Jung Sik Yim's stature does not want to be known for fried chicken. I can understand that. After all, he's got two hit restaurants in Seoul, and has cooked not only at Bouley, Aquavit, and Zuberoa and Akelare in Spain, but also in the South Korean Army, where his commandant liked his cooking so much he promoted him to be his personal chef. But hey, his fried chicken is killer. He should be proud.

But fried chicken is not the focus of Jung Sik. This chef's food is miles from such pedestrian cravings. It's planted firmly in the arena of the cerebral. The chef, at times, seems to be part Ferran Adria, part René Redzepi, taking his native cuisine and passing it through a looking glass of precision, creativity, whimsy, beauty, and culinary artistry. It's a process that is sometimes wildly successful, and others seriously confusing.

Some of my favorite dishes on a menu that includes salads, rice and noodles, meat, and fish (you chose three ($80) or five courses ($115)), were in the "rice and noodle" category. Take the Sea Urchin, for instance. A lump of creamy briny pink urchin rests on top of salty crispy seaweed rice tossed with nutty toasted quinoa. It hits the salty notes, the nutty ones, and plays with texture too. It's the best of both worlds, like a hot day in summer tamed by a cool evening breeze. This dish is a reason to eat urchin daily, twice even. Garlicky clams swim in a spicy green jalapeno broth, thick with slippery rice noodles. It's a thrilling orgy of Italian, Korean, and Latin flavors. It's just a brilliant marriage of cultures.

From the fish category, I loved the silken bla ... [more, click below]

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