I forget how much I like 5th Ave. The other one, in Park Slope. As soon as you enter it, no matter what area of the city you are coming from, you are transformed into an atmospheric, calm chaos of sorts. And yet very New York, due to the 50 shades of red brownstones (oxymoron?) lining the side streets, and the multi national array of dining options from Caribbean to Israeli, Greek, Indian, and of course French. In the past decade or so, due to the thousands of French immigrants flocking into that part of Brooklyn, new bistros and boulangerie are popping all over the place. French food to me is like Big Bang Theory. I never seek it, but enjoy it whenever I have it. I would love to finally try Le Succulent, among other notables on 5th and surroundings.
But this post is about yet another Korean, Haenyeo. Named after the famous female seafood divers of Jeju Island in South Korea, at the expense of being unpronounceable, and difficult to spell. That’s right. There’s a method behind the title madness. To remember how to spell the name without Googling requires a certain level of concentration akin to the mysterious ability to remember a person’s name after an introduction. What auto shop sells these filters?
This copy and paste gem is run by a husband and mega talented wife team. Sort of like my house. Jenny Kwak is a Korean food pioneer that no one heard about. She opened her first restaurant in 1992, Dok Suni in East Village when she was just 19, before opening a second one with the help of Quentin Tarantino. While the two places eventually closed, they were open long enough not only to garner celebrity fame, but open the door to a plethora of Korean establishments all over town. In fact Oiji and its addictive honey butter chips replaced the very same Dok Suni’s space.
Haenyeo is in the very solid two stars, “very good” category. It has its hits, few misses, and one particular hiccup that not only drives me crazy, but changed the way I order food in restaurants. Bringing the mains before we finish the appetizers is a little pet peeve that grows into a big one at spendy places as such. Its inexcusable really, and I cant even hide my displeasure when it happens. I understand that NYC rent is sky high, but at least let me enjoy something with my wife for a full 90 minutes. Anyway, here’s the food and drink rundown..
The Squid and the Whale cocktail – mizu lemongrass shochu + sesame oil + egg white. Love Sesame oil in cooking, but it was just too prevalent and too weird for me in a drink. I was intrigued due to the rave reviews. Maybe if it came with a side bowl of noodles?
School Girl cocktail – blanc de blanc + elderflower liqueur + lychee. Wife liked it and demands I now make it every Thursday (while pretending to be a school boy, which I dont mind but why does it have to be catholic).
Grilled oysters – seaweed butter, brioche toast. Nice and buttery escargot-like oysters. Not the heavy breaded ones you find in NOLA. Kwak’s husband is from New Orleans hence oysters and Beignets on the menu.
Crispy wings – yang yum. Sweet, sour and spicy. Typical high end Korean wings. Thats a good thing.
Dukboki – fundido saucy & spicy rice cake, chorizo, Oaxaca cheese. Probably our favorite dish of the night. Mexican, some may even say Staten Island inspired (bakes ziti, a SI staple) but unmistakable Korean flavors. Best part is the Oaxaca cheese soaked (eventually) in all that chili.
Sablefish filet – pan sauté simmered in soy garlic sauce. Very good. Like a nice and flaky miso glazed cod.
Kalbi jjim – beef short ribs, carrot, jalapeño. Supremely flavorful, tender short ribs in a thin broth. Served with plain dry white rice for some reason, but still an enjoyable dish.
Sugar dusted beignets – Not bad. Not nearly as fried, or good as the famous Cafe du Monde. More like sugar dusted Gnocco Fritto. Try not to make the mistake I usually make, exhale while biting.
Final cost for two $220, but we ordered an extra dish. Expect something more in the $180-200 range, although I would recommend sharing a main and ordering a bunch of apps instead of what I actually did in this case. Worth checking out.
239 5th Ave, Brooklyn (Park Slope)
Recommended Dishes: Wings, Oysters, Dubkoki, Sablefish, Short Ribs, Beignets