October 26, 2011 07:27
Yim Jung-sik saw a niche to fill in the Big Apple and promptly did so by opening his upscale Korean fusion restaurant Jungsik in September with several partners in New York's Tribeca district near Wall Street.
The area is packed with top-notch eateries but none were serving dishes with names like "Five Senses Satisfaction Pork Belly" -- until now.
"I felt bad that there were no Korean fine dining restaurants similar to the ones that serve Japanese or Italian cuisine," said the 33-year-old chef, who has enjoyed runaway success with his first restaurant, which opened in Shinsa-dong, Seoul in 2009.
"I always dreamt of coming to New York where the world's top chefs compete," Yim said in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo at his restaurant on Monday night.
At his latest venture, a typical five-course dinner costs US$125 per person, or $200 including wine. Patrons can choose from salad, rice, noodles, seafood, meat and dessert, and a range of fusion foods that mix Korean elements with Western cooking methods.
While traditional Korean course dinners offer rice or noodles after the main dish, the fusion course offered at Jungsik serves rice just after the salad. Yim adopted that method from the French culinary principle, where stronger dishes must come later
"I don't think we should force traditional Korean culinary methods on customers who have grown accustomed to fine French dining," he said.
His predilection for France even extends to the names of some of his dishes. For example, in addition to risotto with anchovy-based soup and "bibim salad" with chopped rucola and tomatoes, customers can enjoy some "Champs-Elysees bibimbap" featuring foie gras and diced kimchi, or fermented cabbage.
Yim developed an interest in cooking after serving as a cook during his mandatory military service. He went on to study at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and built his resume in the kitchens of famous restaurants in Spain and New York, notably at the French eatery Bouley.
Yim arrived in New York in April of last year with only a backpack on his shoulder. He opened Jungsik a year and five months later, more than six months later than anticipated, with three other Koreans and Korean Americans.
"Famous foreign dishes are mostly based on carbohydrates, such as pasta or sushi," Yim said. "I felt I needed to create dishes based on rice and this is why particular focus is paid to rice dishes at Jungsik."
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