While Los Angeles is the home to the largest Korean American population in the U.S.A., and there are many enclaves of great Korean cooking (from Koreatown to Garden Grove and places inbetween), “Modern Korean” or perhaps “Elevated Korean” cooking has been much rarer, with only some recent attempts over the past few years, with mixed results. One new Korean pop-up series shows some promise: Known as “Korean Bistro Bar by Sunny Jang”, this is a new month-long Modern Korean dining experience popping up at All Good Things restaurant in K-Town.
In chatting with Chef Sunny Jang, she previously worked at Michelin 2 Star Atomix in New York, and Michelin 3 Star Quince in San Francisco. She’s moved to Los Angeles, and has been working on a few projects, the most current one being this pop-up simply named “Korean Bistro Bar.” She mentioned it’s actually in the style of her favorite type of Korean Noodle Bars back home, but there’s a pressure to develop a lot of Noodle dishes if she named it a “Noodle Bar” pop-up, and it’s challenging as she’s doing this as a 1-person show (going to Farmers Markets, buying everything she needs, cooking, cleaning, even washing the dishes) (she did have 2 servers helping this evening, thankfully).
The menu is A La Carte. We began with:
Candied Shrimp with Garlic Scapes:
A seemingly simple-sounding dish, the Candied Shrimp with Garlic Scapes were very good! The Candied Baby Shrimp were mixed with Powdered Shrimp, Pumpkin Seeds and Gochugaru Chili among other ingredients, and the result is a wonderfully lightly briny (in a good way), sweet, savory kiss of the ocean and meaty bits of Shrimp, some nutty Pumpkin Seeds and the Garlic Scapes.
Shishito Pepper + Tonnato Sauce:
This is an example of something from Chef Jang’s culinary perspective, her Korean heritage and classic European training. It’s a plate of summery blistered Shishito Peppers, fresh in-season Farmers Market Grapes, Bell Peppers, atop a creamy, lightly briny Italian Tonnato Sauce. And it works. It’s balanced, creamy, some aromatic notes that only Shishito and Bell Peppers give, and tied together by the brininess of the Tonnato Sauce. Tasty.
KFQ - Korean Fried Quail:
This Korean Fried Quail dish arrived freshly fried per order, with a pleasing crunch on the exterior and moist, tender Quail meat within. It sits atop a “Sweet and Sour Sauce” as Chef Jang puts it, but that name belies the complexity. It’s got an addicting sweet tang and enough savoriness to work with the Fried Quail itself. One suggestion might be to season the Fried Quail itself a bit more, but you understand why it was kept simply seasoned to work with the Sweet and Sour Sauce itself.
Chicken Liver Mousse + Cherry Compote:
This is probably not Korean at all, a straight up Chicken Liver Mousse dish, but it was a great interpretation of this commonly-seen dish. The Chicken Liver Mousse was clean, light, not overly minerally like some versions can veer into. The creamy Chicken Liver Mousse was nicely offset by the Cherry Compote, a rich, dark stone fruit sweetness and flavor.
Matcha Noodle with Red Snapper:
And for her Korean Noodle Bar inspiration, the first of 2 Noodle dishes arrives. The Matcha Somen itself tastes store-bought, very thin, delicate, silky strands, but it’s the interplay of those simple earthy Noodles with the flash fried Red Snapper. The Red Snapper skin was crispy and crave worthy, the Red Snapper meat was moist, tender, and just cooked through, and the Broth was a very clean, light-handed touch. Delicious!
Geoduck Clam Cold Somen + Seaweed:
This sounded incredible and the result was surprisingly crunchy(!) and refreshing. It reminded us a little of a great Naengmyeon (Chilled Korean Noodles dish) but deconstructed, but this was obviously more than that. The Micro-Herbs, Sprouts all added a refreshing note and worked with the Geoduck meat itself and the smooth, soft Somen. It might’ve been nice to get a little more Geoduck, as it felt a little lost in the pile of other ingredients, but the whole dish was cool and refreshing and a great antidote to the Summer heat.
The new pop-up “Korean Bistro Bar by Sunny Jang” shows great promise of what elevated, Modern Korean cuisine could look like. It shows off Chef Jang’s heritage, but also her experience at Michelin 2 Starred Atomix (NY) and Michelin 3 Starred Quince (SF). There’s a deft touch to all of her dishes. Nothing gets into the “tweezer food” category of super fine dining. Instead, it feels casual, approachable, and the flavors are interesting.
This is a rarer type of Modern Korean cooking (or maybe Korean Fusion?) that isn’t seen much in L.A. Chef Jang also mentions she’s worked on a pop-up series for Korean Royal Cuisine, and might bring that back next. Whatever it is, I can’t wait to try more of Chef Jang’s cooking to see how it develops.
(Note: The current Pop-Up is running through the month of July 2022 at All Good Things Wine Bar & Market.)
Korean Bistro Bar by Sunny Jang
(Pop-Up for July 2022)
(Inside All Good Things.)
2748 W. 8th St., Unit 107
Los Angeles, CA 90005