Talking to Ellia and Junghyun Park, it’s hard to not notice that they look like Atomix, their Korean tasting menu restaurant, in human form. They wear the same subdued gray tones, Junghyun’s subtly rainbow hair reveals itself in light the same way the $600 ceramic plates do, and the hushed way they speak feels right in the minimalist, stunning bi-level space.
It’s the Parks’ second act, a fine dining follow up to their more casual Atoboy a few blocks away — located at 104 East 30th St. between Park and Lexington avenues and opening on Wednesday, May 30 — and it’s been their long game since day one.
“When we started Atoboy, we planned about Atomix, too,” Ellia says. “Korean cuisine was not really as popular three years ago, so we wanted to start with a casual restaurant to reach out to everyone in a more accessible way first.”
Here, diners will walk in on the second floor into the bar area, where they can grab a drink before descending into the lounge area. That’s where the $175 meal begins with some snacks, followed by the full coursed affair in the 16-seat dining room that’s set up like a stage. Following dinner, a staircase near the kitchen sends diners full circle back up to the bar area, if they so choose, or deposits them on the street.
Dishes in the seafood-heavy 10-course meal — eight savory courses and two desserts — might include soup with burdock, fish cakes, baby corn, and plum blossom; raw sea bream with uni, mustard, and chungjang sauce; and fried langoustine with nasturtium, chopi pepper, and anise hyssop. The meal plays into Junghyun’s fine-dining background in Australia and Korea, as well as here in NYC at Jungsik. It’s all paired with wine from head sommelier Jhonel Faelnar (the NoMad) for $135.
Upstairs, bartenders Jesse Vida (BlackTail) and Samantha Casuga (Dead Rabbit) created drinks that channel Korean flavors, with a focus on whiskey, though plenty of other spirits appear throughout. There will also be an a la carte menu in that area in the coming weeks, featuring dishes like the Atoboy signature fried chicken stuffed with fried rice or radish with soybean paste and furikake spice.
A whole lot of thought and care went into the space, as Ellia says they want it to go beyond just a meal and be more of a “cultural experience.” Korea-based firm Studio Writers designed the room, with details like diners choosing from Ellia’s personal chopstick collection, custom plateware from Korean ceramicists like Sui Park, Namhee Kim, and Youme Oh, and understated uniforms from NYC fashion designer Sungho Ahn.
NYC’s Korean dining scene has exploded in the last few years, with a set of French-influenced Korean restaurants, like Oiji and Soogil, making waves. None have been fine dining, though, since Jungsik opened in 2011.
Atomix will be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday with seatings at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; reservations are on Tock. The full bar snacks menu will begin in a few weeks, starting at 5:30 p.m.