Jungsik is a high end Korean restaurant tucked away in some forgotten corner of Tribeca. We've walked by it many times, but it was never inviting or even easily noticeable with its white shades down.
The food there was surprisingly solid - everything tasted great. The service, however, was questionable at best.
The cartoonish waiter showered us with nonsense: "Are you all old enough to drink?" (but didn't check ID), "Oh Korean girls these days all like to dress like 18 year olds" (wtf does that even mean). The sommelier sounded like a used car salesman. When asked to describe the difference between two wines, he replied "Well both would be great with your meals. I definitely recommend getting either of these." (Yes I got that part. I believe that was your reply to my original question.)
After some confusion, we decided on this half bottle of champage to start. We needed it after navigating the cryptic EMP-like menu. Just to prepare you, all three of us were voracious.
Amuse bouche 9/10: Great start. From left to right: black sesame crisp, house-made tofu with more black sesame, fried chicken, and some kind of gazpacho that was dominated by the mango foam on top. The black sesame crisp tasted like a high end rice cracker - I would have loved a bag of these to go. The tofu was silken, the chicken had kick, and I love mango.
I rarely take pictures of bread, but this earl grey and raisin bread was as soft and fluffy as a brioche. Their olive bread was very good as well.
Yellowtail 7/10: There was nothing wrong with it. I thought the radish and all the other bright crisp tubers were a strange combination with the mild flavor of the fish.
Octopus 8/10: I didn't think it was super special for an octopus dish, but I knocked it up one point because my dinner mates loved it. I swear it tasted like it was lightly fried at the finish. There was something extra crispy on the outside. Once again, a lot of tubers.
Some bold but delicate burgundy with dinner. The sommelier kept repeating that it was not a wine that we could find in wine shops... and presumably that was the primary reason for getting it. The logic escaped me.
Despite the bizarro service, they took great pains with their decor. The butter had the same logo/markings as the wood frames hanging in front of the windows, and the forks had a heart-shaped cut out that reminded me of people with hello kitty backpacks.
Uni rice 9.5/10: The uni was amazing. I actually had a fun time crunching into the black seaweed rice and the crispy quinoa. They were just coarse enough to highlight the butteriness of the uni. They either didn't cook the rice properly, or it wasn't a great rice though.
Pork belly and rice 9.5/10: The pork belly was flavored amazingly with just the top of the fat a little crisp. I thought that the flavor of the soy bean rice was far richer than the uni rice, but it was more fitting for the dish and heavier protein. Once again... the rice itself just wasn't quite right.
Branzino 8/10: The green block is wasabi tofu... that tasted nothing like wasabi. The mussel broth with jalapeño, and sea squirt oil was good enough to drink. The rolls of zucchini were also a nice touch.
Lobster with beurre blanc, raspberry sauce, and tapioca 9.5/10: My only complaint was that the lobster was not perfectly butter poached. We had just come back from Maine, so the fact that the lobster was not super fresh was forgivable. The presentation was stunning. The sauce was rich, brought out the flavor of the lobster, and I loved the fact that I could just make out the raspberry and tapioca. I was extremely impressed.
Wagyu beef with kimchi sauce 9/10: Beautiful marbled beef. I had just a little bit of trouble cutting through it. Kimchi sauce was just spicy enough that it offset the fattiness of the beef (and was too spicy to drink with a spoon), but not so spicy that I felt the need to drink extra water. It was also less pungent and acidic than your usual kimchi sauce, so it did not dominate the dish.
Pork Jowl 9/10: The taste was actually a 10/10, but they really looked like dead blocks of dried tofu especially before they added the sauce. Jowl meat, like head meat, is amazingly tender and under appreciated. For that fact alone, I loved the fact that it was the center of the dish. The dashi-based sauce on the bottom was light and citrusy sweet.
Fruit and ginger palate cleanser
What's this?! The table next to us had 2 additional amuses bouches. I felt slighted... perhaps we could have taken the offbeat comments better.
Green Tea Cremeux 6/10: I don't get it. If I had not looked up the name, I would not have known the focus of the dish. We were eating dollops of random sides. I know that a lot of restaurants do this... but usually the plate would be *a lot* larger.
Strawberry Cremeux 7.5/10: Only 1.5 points more coherent. At least there was a story here.
Plum with lychee-rose mousse 10/10: Everything about this dish evoked a fragrant bouquet, so when the spoon cut easily through the gelee on top into the white fluffy mousse releasing the smell of roses and white chocolate, it tickled the senses.
Peanut St. Honore with frangelico and praline cream 9/10: This was rich. But I have a great love for frangelico and praline. The pastry was not perfect, but good enough. The brandied cherry pieces were a great touch. I thought it was funny that on the other side of the chocolate window was another smaller runt pastry.
Overall, I felt that every dish was well thought out (maybe except for all the turnips and radishes at the beginning). Most dishes had a delicate touch and a complex flavor profile. Not many dishes had obvious Korean - or even Asian - influences... but I guess that was fine.
This meal took a surprising 3 hours for 5 courses. It took 3 normally decisive people an inordinate amount of time to gather the menus and order, and if it weren't for the great conversation, I would have been a little worried about the lag time between courses.