Let’s start with, “what on earth is Banchan”?! It is a Korean, family-style of eating where you have a bunch of small dishes (meats, fish, vegetables) centered around a bowl of cooked rice. Kimchi, of course, is at the table to join the party….always!
There are parallels to this style of dining in other cultures as well. The first one that came to my mind is my recent experience of Indonesian style of dining called the “rice table” …. which isembraced by the Dutch and called Rijsstafel in Holland. The idea of lots of small plates could also be likened to the concept of Spanish tapas.
I really enjoy the concept of Banchan! It’s kinda like instant gratification because all the food pretty much arrives at your table within minutes of each other. Without stressing over leaving room for the main dish yet to arrive – it gives you the freedom to dine the way you like. Just dig in! Have a little bite of this after a little bite of that. Or take a little bite of this with a little bite of that. But whatever you do, don’t forget to take mouthfuls of the yummy Korean kimchi along with spoonfuls of the rice that beautifully complement the meal!
Last week, my honey and I visited a Korean Banchan style place in New York city called Atoboy!. It has a 2-Michelin starred chef (also a co/owner of Atoboy) at its helm. His name is Junghyun Park. Make a note of that name folks, because I think we will all be hearing many more wonderful things about this man in the coming years. For now, he is earning high accolades from food critics as well as food lovers for Atoboy.
Just a few short blocks from Koreatown NYC, set in trendy and cool space with a strong industrial vibe, Atoboy offers Korean flavors and ingredients prepared using French techniques. The menu is seasonally inspired and constantly changing based on diners’ reaction to dishes served. I loved the bold flavors and fantastic textures of the dishes. At many points during the meal, I was amazed at the genius behind a dish, when ingredients you could never imagine together, were put together for stunning results. Case in point, the Sujeonggwa Granita dessert with creamy chilled burrata (cleverly used instead of a dollop of ice cream) at its base, topped with crunchy candied walnuts adding lovely flavor and texture. Sujeonggwa is a Korean style cinnamon punch. Savoring it as a chilled granita was the perfect last bite of the meal. Refreshing and brilliant!
The only things that failed in execution were the deep fried items. The fried chicken was so juicy inside, but the overly oily exterior somewhat ruined the dish for me. Similarly, the fried shrimp with yuzu mayonnaise was poised for greatness, had it not been for the extra oil. I LOVED the tangy and airy yuzu mayonnaise though.
The Atoboy menu is divided into 3 categories: dishes small, medium and large (priced accordingly). The diners get a choice from one of each category for…… are you ready for this…… $36!!! Complementary house rice comes with these three dishes as well as house kimchi. Each day the chef also offers a seasonal rice for additional $2. At $36, I found this to be a great deal with plenty of food. Just think, if you have a dinner companion or two – you will get to try that many more dishes!
During the course of dinner, the staff brings out special dishes that the chef has whipped up for that day. You get to decide if you’d like to try it at an additional cost. They are priced based on the three categories of the menu. So if you are a bit hungrier than your basic order, you can choose to try more dishes as they are presented and appeal to you.
I found Atoboy to be fun, affordable and quite delicious! From my research I gathered that the Atoboy team is constantly experimenting and offering new, unique dishes and experiences…. so this is one place I wouldn’t mind visiting again and again.
Atoboy, New York | http://atoboynyc.com/