New York is saturated with restaurants, so when one stands out I get super excited. Little Mad, which opened in June 2021, at 110 Madison between 29th and 30th, exceeded my expectations.
Chef Sol Han is a 33-year-old with an impressive provenance, he previously worked alongside Chef Micheal White at Ai Fiori and became a sous chef at 25 years of age. Eventually, he moved on to CouCou, which landed a Michelin star, becoming an executive sous chef there.
Chef Han’s Korean heritage makes its way into the food at Little Mad. He incorporates Korean cuisine mixed with American fare and French techniques. The menu is original, unique, aesthetically pleasing, and drop-dead delicious.
The location is long and narrow, seating around 50 and indoors only. The design is minimalist and industrial, with polished concrete floors, cement walls, exposed wood ceilings, low lighting, and wooden tables with a copper inlay. Hip-hop music plays, and the place exudes an energetic and cool vibe.
The menu has maddening eye-popping food, with over a dozen outstanding choices – each item is dazzlingly creative. They start you off with a fish-shaped pancake bread and a chive butter, and we also ordered the, “mad toast”, an incredible Wagyu, caviar, and seasonal truffle showstopper. I could have just feasted on that and been happy. Actually, I could have ordered the entire menu, but we stopped at ten selections. The yellowtail inside a sort of taco Asian pear in a sesame dressing, with scallion oil, is drop-dead gorgeous. The beef tartare that comes with a wooden mallet to break the Maesangi chip is not only a visual joy, but it was also fun to eat. Another highlight course is the baby oksusu, which involves a melted cheese with which the chef performs service tableside. The cheese is drizzled over an edible corn silk, with bits of caramel popcorn scattered over top. We also savoured, both visually and deliciously, a tempura maitake mushroom served with an onion that when opened, reveals sour cream and onion dip. Next, a scallop dish, topped with sunchokes, shallots, and black garlic cream was enjoyed by all. The prime Galbi beef in a brown butter could have been a touch more tender – but that is my only criticism. The branzino with artichokes, mussels, and ramp kimchi was top-notch, as was the noodles and crispy duck skin, covered in a umami foam. The highlight of the evening was the rice, served with seasonal mushrooms, and then topped with a mixture of bone marrow and maple soy, scooped out tableside. We all fought for extra servings. All the flavours are so dense and satisfyingly transporting. There were just two desserts on offer, a matcha brest, a take on a Paris-Brest, and an Earl Grey shaved ice dish with strawberries and strawberry cream.
There is a creative list of drinks using traditional Korean spirits. Our young guests received lovely yuzu mocktails, and we opted for a rosé Pinot noir, that paired well with our dinner selections.
Our interactive dinner was fun, playful, inventive, and bursting with flavours. I predict a Michelin star is in the offing, or at least there should be, in my humble opinion.
They encouraged family-style here, and this is one place I suggest going that route, so you can try as many dishes as possible.
The food has a mix of cultures, with influences of Italian, French, American, and Korean all intertwining into interesting and wonderful creations. This is definitely on my must-return list. After all, there are at least 5 other dishes I need to try before they change the menu.