When groundbreaking new neighborhood Hudson Yards debuts in March 2019, a Momofuku restaurant will indeed open, but David Chang will not helm the kitchen — instead he’s going all in on a Ko cook named Eunjo “Jo” Park, who will be executive chef for the new restaurant and is guiding the process from buildout to menu to open.
Park, born and raised in Korea, says “the backbone” of the restaurant will be Korean, though it won’t be traditional. Her experience at French fine dining restaurants like Daniel and Per Se will come into play, too.
“But I want to actually create my own style; something fun and out of the ordinary,” she says. “I want to introduce not typical, lesser-known Korean food, and I want to make it engaging and fun.”
While the menu has not at all been created yet, Park envisions small and share plates that fall somewhere into a Korean-influenced new American category. The 5,000-square-foot space will have a bar with Korean spirits, dining room, and sushi counter with seating looking into an open kitchen.
The still-unnamed restaurant will be the most expensive buildout Momofuku has ever done, Chang says, but he is quick to make clear that it’s Park’s vision, not his — a newer, but growing role for Chang as mentor that Pete Wells just called out as underrated.
“This is her restaurant. You won’t see me at the pass unless she wants me to. I’m deferring everything to what Jo wants,” he says. “She is developing her point of view, and I’m excited to see where it winds up. My biggest fear is that people are going to put projections on her because she’s coming from a Momofuku spot and her pedigree.”
That pedigree is indeed stacked. Beyond Ko, Daniel, and Per Se here in NYC, she most recently worked at Gaon, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Seoul. When Chang went to Korea for the Olympics, he also talked to her for this project.
Beyond praising her cooking chops, Chang calls out Park’s singular vision. “She has a distinct voice that I think needs to be heard,” Chang says. “There are so many people that say, ‘It’s this or this region,’ or, ‘I cook like this,’ and I’m pretty sure she’ll probably say it’s Korean, but she doesn’t. It’s a moving target and that’s to me what is distinct about it.”
While Park can’t quite articulate yet what the style will be, it brings to mind the increase in modern Korean restaurants with French influence that have opened in profusion in the last few years including Oiji, Atoboy and Atomix, and Soogil. Park says it will most closely compare to Majordomo in the Momofuku empire, the splashy Los Angeles restaurant that opened to mostly rave reviews earlier this year.
Hudson Yards is shaping up to be a star-studded culinary wonderland, with big-name chefs such as Thomas Keller and Jose Andres also headed into the complex. Real estate company Related has developed the project and also owns RSE Ventures, a private investment firm that has stake in Momofuku.