Seoul chiefs Onjium are not only Michelin-quality artisans, they are also recognized scholars, certified trainees, and ancient Korean cuisine instructors. And now, for the very first time, the culinary team is releasing their star-winning dishes from the research institute and halfway around the world, opening a second Onjium in New York’s Meatpacking District.
The service begins on Friday, November 19.
Located inside the new House of Genesis, an immersive project by the luxury automaker to showcase their cars alongside authentic Korean culture in the United States, Onjium will replicate many of the traditional dishes they’re known for, with a few made in America tweaks.
âGenesis really wanted to have a restaurant in this space that showcases Korean cuisine in its proper form. We accepted because it was a great opportunity to showcase our food outside of our own borders, âsaid Co-Chef Park Sungbae through translator Won Chung, chef de partie at Onjium. âNew York is the cultural center of the world in so many ways, and it’s an incredible honor to be here. We hope that through this project, we can reach people all over the world and let them know that Korean food can be like this.
Onjium Restaurant was founded in Seoul in 2013, in collaboration with the Hwadong Culture Foundation, as part of a four-story research institute. The institute has three studios – cooking, fashion and architecture – dedicated to preserving unique Korean traditional culture and training apprentices on how to keep it alive and integrate it into modern society. Onjium started publishing their own cookbooks in 2016 and collaborated with Tartine bakery on a Korean-style sandwich in 2019. In 2020, they received their first Michelin star and retained that star this year.
In the Korean culinary studio, a teacher comes every two weeks to give lessons in ancient recipes; fellows regularly travel to the field in other parts of the country to take a close look at their dishes and markets; and the âmasterâ chefs visit the studio to demonstrate their techniques. Then, the culinary team brings these long forgotten recipes to life with local and seasonal ingredients.
âIt’s not really about teaching, but rather showing the beauty of Korean cuisine,â Sungbae said. âWe are not extravagant or flashy, but rather like to be very simple and basic in the cuisine that we present. “
For the New York menu, Sungbae and his co-chef, Cho Eun Hee, have gone as far as they can go in the history books, bringing together royal Korean cooking recipes and dishes found in noble households in the years. 1300, during the Joseon Dynasty. Eun Hee was educated at the Institute of Royal Court Cuisine and is believed to be one of only 20 academics ordained by the government as the “protector” of the kitchen.
Each dish on the tasting menu tells a story.
For example, suranchae– thin slices of chilled abalone, diving scallops, snow crab, red sea cucumber and octopus, garnished with Korean pear slices, a poached egg and a pine nut sauce – a was served to “distinguished guests of the noble clan of the Choi family in Gyeongju.” ” EoeumjeokâBaking skewers of black cod and grilled shrimp, seasoned with chopped pickled vegetables â were available at the Royal Banquets on the 14th.e century. And yakgwaâCrunchy cookies with honey, sesame oil and ginger â were recreated from a 1,000-year-old Goryeo dynasty recipe.
A la carte options include snacks like fish roe and lotus root chips; noodles and rice like japchae (sweet potato noodles, fall mushrooms, Wagyu beef) and baekwhaban (Queens Gold rice, root vegetables, mung bean jelly, brown sauce); banchan and kimchi; and sorbet.
The drink menu features homemade herbal teas and time-traveling tinctures like Sly Confessor (foxglove root, black tea, and soju) and Transplant (golden barley infused with licorice root and Campari).
The team has been in New York for months, visiting local markets and updating recipes with seasonal and regional ingredients.
âWhen it comes to New York City, we’ve adopted this method and philosophy that informs us in our studio, and we’ve found ways to replicate many of the flavor profiles of our dishes,â said Sungbae. âObviously we’re in a different market, in a different part of the world. Some of the ingredients we had to replace because we couldn’t find them. For example, we use a Korean mountain root in a lot of our food, but we couldn’t find it here. So we replaced it with parsnips, which we find to be a very sweet root vegetable and a very delicious alternative.
They also taught their local team the distinct techniques (drying, fermentation) and philosophy of Korean cuisine.
âWe have a lot of cooks in our kitchen who have never been to Korea, were not raised as Koreans, and have no experience in Korean cuisine,â Eun Hee said via the translator. âBecause they didn’t grow up with this food, because they don’t know it, we had to educate them on the culture, a lot of nuances. Above all, we want to convey the message, the feeling, the emotion that you feel when you cook and eat Korean food.
Their American team needed to learn some basic principles of Korean cuisine like the concept of yaksik gongwon, which means that the food can be consumed as a medicine; it can heal your body and your soul.
âKorean food shows a lot of care and respect for the person you are trying to feed, and there is also a lot of respect and respect when you feed the elderly,â Sungbae said. ” It’s very useful. It takes a lot of steps, a lot of effort. Slicing thinly, grating, thinly slicingâ¦ It’s very difficult, long and tiring, but we do it because we want the people who eat our food to eat it as comfortably as possible. We use a lot of techniques to really replenish and restore your body.
Eun Hee said Americans tend to take a very narrow view of Korean cuisine – they like very salty, tangy, and spicy foods like stir-fried squid and rice cakes.
âWhat we hope to do at this restaurant, using hard research, is show them another side of Korean cuisine,â said Eun Hee. “It’s a lot more diverse and can be very refined, very elegant, very high, much more than what people are used to.”
In addition to the restaurant, the 45,000 square foot Genesis House features an automotive showroom (first floor), tea pavilion, and library (second), which features ancient Korean art and texts. The space was designed by Seoul-based architecture firm Suh Architects and Arumjigi, a non-profit organization that promotes traditional Korean culture. The ceiling is decorated with driftwood shingles and suspended oak beams to resemble Unhyeon Palace, the personal abode of the father of the last emperor, and the tables are adorned with Hanji rice paper placemats, ceramics and of metal containers. The staff uniforms were designed by Bourie, an avant-garde fashion brand based in Seoul.
The New York restaurant will not be run like the Seoul Institute, but education will continue to take place.
âAlthough we are not going to be a research institute per se, like the one in Korea, we still insist that our cooks and chefs have ‘thoughtful hands’. So when you cook, always be very thoughtful and thoughtful in what you are doing, âSungbae said. âWe will always strive to improve, improve and find new ways to advance Korean cuisine. “