I just experienced an exceptional dinner and most certainly one of my best meals to date for 2022 at Jua Restaurant, New York. Located at 36 E 22nd street in the Flatiron district is this tiny jewel, a 1700 square ft. narrow space. I would describe it as casual, homey, and beloved. Decked out with exposed brick walls, distressed wooden ceiling beams, soft mood lighting, and polished concrete floors. There is a small bar up front with room for about 6 patrons and an open kitchen on view in the back.
This is a one star Michelin restaurant under the helm of Chef Hoyoung Kim, who turns out a multi course tasting Korean menu featuring some modern Western influences using a wood fire grill. Each dish brings a new appreciation for the dynamic and complex flavors that are meticulously prepared. I loved all 7 courses which showcased the talent of the kitchen. It’s difficult to pick a highlight because I was enamored with each and every plate.
I began the culinary journey with Caviar Kim, a one to two bite masterpiece of osetra caviar on top of truffled rice, beef tartare, and pickled mountain yams. This was followed by a Bang-Eo, a yellowtail fish, with sliced roasted thinly sliced beets, jellyfish, Asian pickled peas in a yuzu pepper sauce. Next up a satisfying bowl of Jook. It was a Korean rice porridge with foie gras, king trumpet mushrooms, smoked eel, sautéed spinach and white kimchi. On top a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and chives. I would have been happy with this dish alone. Course four was a black Alaskan cod with green beans, and pickled leeks in a brown butter glaze. Move over NOBU, this version tops yours. Course five was called Galbi and Chan,and had me doing a happy dance in my seat. Perfectly prepared, glorious, marinated beef short ribs, served with a colourful array of condiments. I was joyfully humbled by this sensational dish. Course six was the first of our desserts,Goguma. A brown butter ice cream with boba tea, tapioca pearls, sweet potatoes and a perfect spiced cinnamon tuille. Our last but certainly not our least course seven, was called hotteok, which is a traditional street food served in Korea. It is a sweet, sticky, Korean pancake, glazed with candied pecans and meant to be eaten with your hands. They provide a wet cloth to use afterwards, but I did a pretty thorough job licking my fingers clean. (I couldn’t resist) I think I need to book my next trip to Korea!
If I was to offer one complaint about the experience I would suggest offering some wines by the glass. There was a nice global selection of bottles. They also offer signature cocktails, of which I selected a Jua Negroni made with Roku gin, Campari, and Spanish vermouth. They also serve beers, ciders and Korean spirits as well as a couple of non alcoholic drinks.
It has been a long time since I’ve been so excited about such a brilliant restaurant and I know I will be thinking about Jua for a long time to come.