New York

“A refined-dining experience from inventive-Korean super-hit Atoboy ”

104 East 30th Street

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The well-dressed sister of that hipster boy

Claim to fame: A refined-dining experience from inventive-Korean super-hit Atoboy  

Reason to go: Korean food as haute couture

To look out for: The artfully presented menu––finally you don’t have to pester the staff with your detailed questions

What if you could wear a restaurant?  What if the dress code to that cocktail party was “tasting menu”?  If fine dining was a fashion label, Atomix would be Rick Owens or Martin Margiela; sophisticated, chic, minimalist and clever. Just like a favorite little black dress.  Except Atomix is never going to be your Friday night go-to outfit as it’s not easy to get a resy at the 16-seat chef’s table. Book this ten-course chicness way in advance, just like you would an appointment with Tilda Swinton’s stylist.

The elegant Korean eatery, owned by husband- and wife team Junghyun and Ellia Park (the couple behind progressive, hip Atoboy), doesn’t announce itself much, preferring to hide in plain sight.  

You enter on the second floor of a residential brownstone and are ushered into an unmistakably Asian-sleek lounge with a few banquets and, since the bar is sunken, dining chair-height counter seating.  Slip into a kimchi Gibson and you’ll be perfectly dressed for the occasion, it’s a suave cocktail with a soupçon of fermented funk, just enough to keep things edgy. Before you know it you’ll be whisked to the lofty downstairs antechamber where the Noguchi-esque milieu gives you a moment to effectively shut out the real world, it faces the dining room whose décor is like a fine leather bag without blingy labels.

Then the show begins.  An arty, tarot-ish card is presented before each course is served, flip it and you get detailed explanations of what the dish contains and what it was inspired by.  “Guk” is Korean for soup, Chef Junghyun Park has transformed it into a complex, velvety and briny thimble of tomalley-reminiscent garlic custard and frilly Hokkaido uni dressed in dried anchovy-assertive pork stock.  Next up, “Hwe”, the raw portion of the menu is a bright fermented carrot concoction accessorized with silky ribbons of yellowtail, glistening drops of horseradish oil and a perky whiff of gochujang.  “Jjim” means steamed, in this case snow crab on a pool of mild, yet umami- and Meyer lemon-zippy, white kimchi sauce.  

The dish gets aromatic warmth from pickled Grenada peppers, and a textural pop from tapioca pearls.  To give all these haute offerings some street cred, Park serves a fried course, “Twigim”.  Meant to evoke local bar food, it’s a pork blood- and minced pork sausage wrapped in perilla leaf, dipped in yeasty batter, fried golden and gilded with nasturtium leaves, edible flowers and pickled perilla seed pods.  And so it continues in a catwalk of unctuous flavors, accessorized by jewel-like banchans.  

And while the beverage program is on the casual side, a sort of designer jeans- and t-shirt-look of predominantly Rieslings with a couple of wild cards thrown in, the service is a kid glove-caress.  

12forward by White Guide lists 12 eateries in each chosen city that represent the very forefront of gastronomy.

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