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.
Chef Kim showcases his skill and expertise perfectly. He formerly worked at Jungsik in Tribeca and earned two Michelin stars there, as well as worked in the French 3 star L’Astrance in Paris.
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.