I would hypothesize that chefs in every country in the world would, at some point, attempt to modernize the local cuisine using French or Modern techniques e.g. molecular gastronomy to upscale and elevate the dishes. Sometimes the end result might be visually stunning or grand, but more often than not, it’s just bells and whistles without much substance, and unfortunately, without much flavour or depth to the dish.
But once in a century (okay, probably shorter than that), the prodigal child comes along and blows our minds away with culinary creativity and innovation that is unparalleled. And I reckon Jungsik in Seoul may be one of them.
Previously, I had to cancel my reservations at Jungsik’s sister location in Manhattan, New York; which was recently promoted to Two Michelin stars. So now I’m back in Seoul seeking redemption, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the future of Modern Korean cuisine.
We arrived via taxi at the restaurant, which had recently moved to a new minimalist and sleek venue within the upscale Gangnam district in Seoul.
We started off with an array of Amuse Bouches, with my favourite being the soy infused potato. The spring roll with beansprouts and their take on Tuna sandwich were also quite interesting albeit not particularly flavourful. Quite a light start to the meal.
For the starter, I had the Octopus with Ssamjang sauce. The octopus was initially cooked in anchovy stock and subsequently fried. It was the most delicious piece of octopus I had ever had. The texture was crisp on the outside, and the flesh tasted incredibly meat-like, which was perhaps due to the infusion of the anchovy stock; whilst the Ssamjang sauce provided a nice miso-like flavour to the dish. The tomatoes on the side were also incredibly sweet, and reflected the quality of the produce used.
For the second course, I had the sea urchin bibimbap with millet and seaweed. The combination of textures, the creaminess of the sea urchin, the crunch from the millet and seaweed were certainly a pleasure for the tastebuds. Flavours were subtle but spot on.
For the fish course, I had the seabass with a simple sea cucumber sauce. Fish was decent albeit on the verge of being overcooked. Honestly I’m not sure what sea cucumber should taste like, but the sauce added a nice creaminess as a counterpoint to the crunch from the fish skin.
For the main, I opted for the pork jowl drizzled with a vinagrette, served on a bed of vegetables. The pork jowl had a nice meat to fat ratio, with the vinaigrette adding a nice brightness to balance out the fattiness of the pork.
As an intermezzo before dessert, we were served a coconut pannacotta with wild berry foam, cherries and pistachio. An adequate sweet introduction, but quite unremarkable.
As the coup de grace, was a dish depicting the Sakura Blossom, served with raspberry pannacotta, strawberry ice cream and lemon sour cream. The dish a feast for the eyes, and the flavour was sweet and balanced with the right amount of acidity from the strawberries and lemon sour cream.
This meal was certainly one of the highlights of my trip. Some dishes were truly memorable such as the octopus, as well as the sea urchin bibimbap, which were both successful modern interpretations on the Korean classics.
This place is certainly a must-do for anybody who appreciates good food. At 120,000 won (About USD 120) for 5 courses, it isn’t utterly ridiculous to splurge on, and certainly an experience of a lifetime that can’t be replicated anywhere else, except in Jungsik New York of course.
Location: 11 Seolleungro, 158 Gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. +82 2 517 4654. Website