It wasn’t on their mind to open a third restaurant, but when Atomix co-founders Junghyun “JP” and Jeongeun “Ellia” Park got the call to pioneer the rebrand of Rockefeller Center as a destination for elevated dining, they got on board. Tishman Speyer reached out in January 2021 to see if they’d be interested in a spot among restaurants from other high-profile chefs like Estela’s Ignacio Mattos and Frenchette’s Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr; how could they turn it down?
As part of the revival of an iconic Manhattan neighborhood, Naro has been one of the most anticipated openings of the season. Today, the nearly 60-seat restaurant unveils a fresh perspective on Korean food in NYC — one that dials in subtle flavors while highlighting seafood and vegetables.
Naro has double the number of dishes — 25 for the opening — of either Atoboy or Atomix and price points that hover between those restaurants. For dinner, diners can choose among three experiences. In the main dining room, there’s a tasting menu for omnivores and vegetarians ($85 to $195) while the indoor terrace with a view of the ice rink features an abbreviated prix fixe. The most casual option in the lounge offers bar snacks and dishes a la carte. Lunch caters to the heavy foot traffic in the area, and launches with five-course ($95) and two-course ($50) menus, which may change.
“People have this misunderstanding about Korean food,” says Junghyun. “It is known for barbecue, very strong flavors, and a lot of spicy foods.” In contrast, his menu digs into varied aspects of life in Korea: jesa (annual ancestral ceremonies), home-cooked dinners, anju (bar snacks), and royal-court cuisine of the Joseon Dynasty. “I want to bring that aspect of Korean food to New York,” he says.
For instance, Junghyun’s version of bibimbap features shellfish — not beef, which is more common — and is served without gochujang. Radish greens are cooked with Golden Queen rice, and topped with slabs of grilled Norwegian king crab, 10 kinds of vegetables like kohlrabi and minari (water parsley), and a sauce made with crab and doenjang, fermented soybean paste.
His abalone mandu tang, pieced together by Junghyun’s imagination, features tofu dumplings wrapped in thin slices of aehobak, a light green Korean zucchini with a soft peel, instead of a dough wrapper. The soup bobs with chunks of steamed abalone, departing from its more popular Korean preparation as rice porridge.
Korean food is naturally loaded with vegetables and fruits — like yuja (yuzu), gamtae (thread-like seaweed), omija (magnolia berry), gosari (fern brake stems), burdock, and mungbean sprouts — that aren’t always recognized by NYC diners. Junghyun hopes to change that by putting them front and center in Naro’s vegetarian tasting menus.
Naro is the first entity created under the Parks’ Naeun Hospitality group, which now includes Atoboy and Atomix. While Junghyun and Ellia are the founders of Naro, they’re leaving it in the hands of staff from their prior restaurants — executive chef Nate Kuester, pastry chef Celia Lee, beverage director Jhonel Faelnar, and general manager Einstein Park — to run the show day to day.
Naro is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday in the main dining room only with reservations via Resy. Terrace and bar seating will open later for walk-ins.
Caroline Shin is a Queens-raised food journalist and founder of the Cooking with Granny YouTube and workshop series spotlighting immigrant grandmothers. Follow her on Instagram @CookingWGranny.