Asian food has been seriously in fashion among New York’s top chefs for a while now. You’ll find Andy Ricker doing standout Thai at Pok Pok Ny, Zak Pelaccio making Malaysian fusion BBQ at Fatty ‘Cue, Joe Ng & Ed Schoenfeld doing Greenmarket Dim Sum at RedFarm, and Danny Bowien cooking hip, inventive Chinese, like Kung Pao Pastrami at Mission Chinese.
But until recently, Korean cooking had been relegated to the West 32nd Street stretch that makes up K-Town at restaurants not exactly known for their chefs. There were a few exceptions, including The Good Fork in Brooklyn, where Sohui Kim has been referencing her heritage since 2006, serving seasonal American fare, like Long Island Fluke with Farm Vegetables right alongside the best-selling “Steak and Eggs” Korean-Style. But little by little, more and more globally-minded restaurants have been sneaking traditionally Korean ingredients into their dishes, like spicy Gochujang, a kind of chili paste, and the especially popular Kimchi, a side dish of fermented vegetables.
Take Andrew Carmellini’s lively SoHo bistro, The Dutch, which echoes The Good Fork’s signature dish with their own, Korean-style Hanger Steak, Kimchi Fried Rice and Farm Egg. And at Distilled, a new “American Public House” in Tribeca, chef Shane Lyons glazes the popular, house Chicken Wings with sweet and spicy Gochujang, and serves them with Celery Sticks and Point Reyes Blue Cheese. Over in Brooklyn, Do or Dine offers a decidedly unusual take on Pork and Beans; the rendered belly meat adorned with Kimchi, Black Beans and Mustard Greens Pesto. And the otherwise French eatery in Williamsburg, Bistro Petit, presents an exotic rendition of Bouillabaisse, adding Fried Tofu and Rice Gnocchi to a mélange of Mussels, Scallops, Pollack and Shrimp, in a broth flavored with Kombu, White Wine, Korean Chili Paste and Housemade Kimchi (a must try!).
While Korean fare has already proven to be a popular inspiration for a handful of New York food trucks (like Korilla BBQ and the Kimchi Taco Truck), it’s recently made an unlikely appearance on the all-vegan mobile eatery, The Cinnamon Snail. Although they’re best known for their organic, gluten-free baked goods, you can currently find two, playfully Korean sandwiches as well; the Korean Barbeque Seitan, served open-faced on a grilled Tortilla and slathered with Chili-Butter, Kimchi and Greens, and the Gochujang Burger Deluxe, topped with Sautéed Kimchi, Pickled Red Onions, Black Sesame Gomasio and Sriracha Mayonnaise.
If you need more proof that Korean cuisine is really on the rise, check out the recently opened and buzzed about Piora, where the entire menu is informed by owner Simon Kim and chef Chris Cipollone’s two-week trip to Korea. The Gochujang-glazed Barbequed Octopus is based on a dish they ate while traveling through the countryside, and while it doesn’t technically have any Asian ingredients, Kim proclaims the Black Garlic Bucatini with Dungeness Crab to be one of their most genuinely Korean-tasting items of all.
Perhaps the most surefire sign that a cuisine is on trend is when you spot it at Smorgasburg, the all-food flea market in Brooklyn. Korean fare made its debut this summer with Deji, which serves everything from “Gee Po,” Korean Fish Jerky topped with Peanuts, Cilantro and Lime, to overstuffed Sandwiches with Pork Belly, Pickled Beets, Miso and Perilla Leaves and even Foie Gras and Korean Mountain Berry Beignets for dessert.
But you’ll really know Korean food has made its mark if the trailblazing Hooni Kim (chef and owner of the two, acclaimed modern-Korean spots, Hanjan and Danji) realizes his ultimate dream… opening the all-Korean version of the Italian megastore, Eataly. That way all New Yorkers could experiment with Doenjang (soybean paste), Gochugaru (chile flakes), and Saeujot (salted baby shrimp) in the comfort of their own home! Until then, here’s our favorite spots to sample fashionable Korean in New York…
The Good Fork
391 Van Brunt St., btwn Coffey and Van Dyke Sts.
Sullivan St, btwn. Prince and Houston Sts.
211 W Broadway, at Franklin St.
Do or Dine
1108 Bedford Ave, btwn. Gates and Lexington Aves.
170 S 3rd St, btwn. Bedford and Driggs Aves.
The Cinnamon Snail
430 Hudson St., btwn between Leroy St and St. Lukes Pl.
27 N 6th St., btwn Wythe & Kent Aves.