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It’s All About the Banchan at Korean Newcomer, Atoboy

v1.4Traditional Korean meals are indelibly intertwined with banchan; an array of small, shareable dishes and rice.  But at the not-so-traditional Atoboy, those diminutive plates actually are the meal, given considerable polish by Jungsik’s former chef de cuisine, Junghyun Park.  Structured as a pseudo prix fixe, the menu offers three tastes for $36 (you should readily fork over the extra $2 for seasonal, rather than white rice, currently inflected with bacon and kale).  And since there are 20 different options available, you should make every effort to dine with a sizable crowd, in order to sample as much of it as possible.

oAmongst the lightest creations are translucent fans of snapper, patterned with crescents of blood-red beet and marinated with dashi and the savory, fermented chili sauce, gochujang.  Gochugaru (chili flakes) pepper a pool of avocado, afloat with tiny boats of littleneck clam with masts of crisp rice cracker, and pink cubes of cobia cuddle up with pinpricks of Korean pear, freckled with sesame seeds and pungent with perilla leaves.  Vegetables are at the heart of the second section of the lineup — think steamed stems of asparagus teamed with cod roe and crumbled egg yolk, and corn tossed with taleggio and doenjang — although it’s tough not to get sidetracked by tender curlicues of squid, locked in a death DSC00798-Editgrip around a pulse of shrimp, and swiped with an improbable condiment; salsa verde.

And while classic Korean stews and hearty protein preparations — which comprise the bottom third of the menu — are largely associated with powerful, in-your-face savor, Park continues to employ a refined, restrained hand and a wealth of international ingredients.  In a temperate take on KFC (Korean fried chicken), jagged nuggets arrive spiked with garlic chips and anchored in a slick of spicy peanut butter, seared squares of NY strip steak are twinned with a tumble of tofu skin noodles and sprinkled with wild sesame oil, o-1and a bowl of brisket jjigae proves as mellow as massaman curry, lapped in a ginger-scented and foie gras-thickened sauce.  That said, modest portions and subdued flavors hardly infer that Park is holding back; he’s simply managed to pack a world of thoughtful technique into a few teeny tiny packages.

Atoboy
43 E 28th St
(646) 476-7217
atoboynyc.com

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