MODERN KOREAN WITH A FRENCH TWIST DINNER AT THE JAMES BEARD HOUSE
Daniel and Masa alum Chef Hooni Kim, and owner of Danji restuarant in midtown, wowed the patrons and newbies like myself, at the James Beard House this past week with a fusion of Korean and French cuisine. We walked in, breathing in the air of old style New York dining, a cocktail hour and mingling with patrons before the dinner.
Chef Hooni Kim preps for dinner at the James Beard House
I busied myself in the kitchen – snapping away alongside the house photographer, watching the Chef command and execute each and every dish with a precision that can only be attributed to being a master at his craft. He seemed tense, worried somewhat – in a good way. You could tell he wanted every single bite to be bursting with flavour and character; based on the number of times I glanced over at him tasting, dismissing or approving a dish before it made its way to eagerly awaiting palates.
Dinner menu by Chef Hooni Kim at the James Beard House - November 2011
Salmon & capers on crostini garnished with dill
Yellowtail Sashimi with Chojang Sauce
Kimchi, Bacon & Chorizo Arancini
Hors d’oeuvres served included Yellowtail Sashimi with Chojang Sauce ; this a sweet red chili pepper sauce, compliments the Sashimi by adding a sweetness to the its fresh, clean, almost buttery flavour. Chorizo Arancini was by far the most outstanding. Crunchy, a tad spicy with a hint of sweetness from the chorizo and bacon. Along with the champagne they were the ideal beginning to a memorable dinner.
Porridge of matsutake, maitake, and shitake mushrooms
Soy sauce poached wild alaskan sablefish with spicy daikon and chinese broccoli
"hanwoo" ribeye and short rib from heartbrand beef with sweet potato puree and satur farm brussel sprouts
Our table was made up of an electic bunch – the chefs’ dad, Patty – a cookbook editor from the South, enigmatic Elizabeth from Blue Ribbon Restaurants among others. Every dish was paired with a carefully selected wine to add a “damn that’s good!” factor. We glanced at the 5 course menu, oohing and aaahing at the apparent fun of it all.
Starting with the Creekstone farms filet mignon tartare with asian pear, pine nuts, sesame seeds and quail yolk. Paired with Mittnacht Alsace 2010 Cuvée Gyotaku Riesling blend. The wine’s acidity cut through the bright, sashimi-like texture of the tartare.
Porridge of matsutake, maitake, and shitake mushrooms was light and filling, paired with a Sherry – Almacenista Manzilla from Spain. A subtle yet odd sherry pairing – but it worked, to my amazement and that of others at our dinner table.
Soy sauce poached wild alaskan sablefish with spicy daikon and chinese broccoli with a Sattler Zweigelt 2009 red wine. Full bodied Zweigelt compliments the soy seasoning in the sablefish and enhanced the daikon flavour.
Last came the “hanwoo” rib eye and short rib from heartbrand beef with sweet potato puree and satur farm brussel sprouts. Pure unadulterated heaven , wow! Not big on meat especially ribeye but this most certainly had me yearning for more (not that the visible bursting of my belly was any indication of having over eaten). The Malbec ‘Hormigas Reserva,’ Argentina 2008 washed it all down with ease and a tart distinct finish.
Fresh Persimmon, cake and vanilla ice cream
The finale – Fresh Persimmon, Crumble Cake and vanilla ice cream, cold, sweet, strangely calming along with an apertif ; ‘Vinferno,’ California 2008, sinful and pleasant. Too bad staying the night at the house is not an option – I was ready to hit the sack!
One of the best, enlightening experiences I’ve ever had at a dinner. Afterwards, the Chef and his staff came out to a roaring applause from the diners. Chef Hooni Kim then proceeded to give us a little behind-the-scenes look at the decisions and circumstances involved in creating each dish and pairing.
As much of an honour and pleasure as it was dining at the James Beard House – I wondered, times are changing and it seems the house remains cloaked in the past. It would be nice to push boundaries and add a little flair to it; perhaps an impromptu performance during or before dinner. Oh wait – I think they already are making strides towards change ; next up – a jazz infused brunch details here : Jazz-Inspired Lunch & Chef’s Jazz!
It’s worth the price of admission to have dinner at the James Beard House. Nothing beats it and it reminds you of what New York used to be like, what it can and should be – safe, homely and communal.