April 12, 2024


Free For All Food

Meet Naemo, a new Korean great dining pop-up from two NYC cafe vets

Bold layers of Korean texture, taste and and shade will unfold at a new cafe pop-up this 7 days, but very first you’ll have to have to unwrap that bojagi. 

At Naemo, a new West L.A. enterprise from two vets of tasting-menu–driven Atomix in New York Town, the ikura gets marinated in soy. The mandu trade dumpling dough for hollowed-out hen wings. The japchae is served with wagyu, and the namul is topped with Santa Barbara uni—each delicate banchan filling a sq. of containers imported from Japan, all wrapped up in a patterned, folded cloth to untie.

The thoughtful new curbside-pickup operation is a joint concept from executive chef Ki Kim and functions manager Arnold Byun, the two of whom a short while ago landed in Los Angeles right after a long time in some of the world’s most renowned Michelin-starred kitchens and eating rooms. It’s also a contender in a increasing fine dining movement, a single exactly where Korean taste is eventually entrance and center in exquisite sorts and enjoyable new presentations.

“A lot of the Michelin-starred dining establishments we’ve worked in are honestly not Korean—they’re both Japanese or French, Italian, what have you,” states Byun. “So the idea is: Let us take California cooking and deliver and use our identity as Korean-People in america and what we know, and check out to set Korean flavors at the forefront of our minds as we construct out the menu for our pop-up. [It’s] California cooking with Korean flavors and finesse.”

Naemo Korean fine dining pop up
Photograph: Courtesy Naemo/Ben Hon

The structure is very simple, the pricing, very affordable: Each food is designed to feed two and involves mixed-grain farmer’s rice dotted with turnip, lotus root, nori and ikura farmer’s soup of doenjang, or soybean paste, as properly as shiitake mushrooms and a shrimp dashi and all those eight suave banchan, which will improve just as seasonally as L.A.’s farmers’-market bounties, all priced at $75 per bundled-up meal.

Before long, Kim and Byun will expose their caviar provider, a playful bit of understated luxury in which caviar, soy-soaked ikura, smiley-confront French fries, fried rooster, wasabi, home mustard and potato-salad–stuffed inari arrive with a 30-gram tin of aged caviar from Pasadena’s Astrea—ideally all priced amongst $80 and $90, considerably beneath the caviar’s retail price tag alone.

“I don’t want to continue to keep pretentious elements for pretentious persons,” states Kim, incorporating, “My fashion is to acquire out all the flamey part of the dish, include a humorous, sweet accent to it, and make it straightforward and more satisfying for men and women that are basically ingesting as an alternative of Instagramming.”

Supplied how aesthetically satisfying Kim’s plating is—especially for a takeout-only format—it may possibly be hard to resist snapping a image of those people squares of contemporary acorn-jelly banchan, decorated by edible flowers and sitting atop longsword-lettuce salad, or these smiley fries topped by crème fraîche, caviar and chives. 

The pair have invested their times checking out L.A.’s farmers’ marketplaces and diving into the city’s additional common, longstanding Korean spots—heralding L.A. as dwelling to some of the finest Korean eating in the earth. With total reverence, theirs, they share, will be some thing a bit more recent. “Korean food items in nature is very humble and pretty comforting, but we also experience there’s area for it to improve in other approaches,” claims Byun.

Naemo caviar service
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

And L.A.’s present day Korean foods scene is rising.

The now-defunct pop-up Dandi brought us fried sizzling quail and beef-tongue jjim tostadas in 2019, though 1 of its founders, chef Jihee Kim, went on to launch one of L.A.’s most remarkable to-go operations of 2020, Perilla. More than the weekend the team driving Baroo just opened their lengthy-awaited Korean-foods stall, Shiku, inside Grand Central Sector, and Spoon by H’s to-go dosirak has proved one particular of the most artful takeout meals in the town. The new Hanchic seamlessly blends Korean and globe-trotting flavor, resulting in dishes like ragu tteokbokki and a pho-like hen soup with perilla, whilst a comprehensive-company wonderful dining operation, Yangban Culture, is established to open in the Arts District afterwards this yr. 

Informing both equally Kim and Byun, New York City’s possess contemporary Korean growth is nicely underway with Michelin-starred eating places like Atomix and Jungsik pushing the boundaries of Korean flavor through a good dining lens—Kim, by the way, has cooked at both—and cafe group Hand Hospitality (of Acquire31 and Her Identify is Han fame) virtually solely riff on a selection of Korean and Japanese classics and reimaginings.

“When we both of those established out, we considered the closest we’ll get to operating in an Asian cafe was a wonderful Japanese cafe, let’s be honest,” suggests Byun. “I feel Atomix was a serious improve in tide for me, and I’m absolutely sure for Ki, and which is wherever we satisfied.”

Kim, who emigrated from Korea 12 years in the past, credits the movement’s momentum to chefs these types of as Jungsik Im and Corey Lee for inspiring a new wave of Koreans and Korean-Us citizens to cook dinner professionally in the aughts, and to America’s recent consciousness of Korean society past the kitchen—citing Bong Joon-ho’s award-winning film Parasite and around the world smash K-pop band BTS.

“Quite frankly I assume Korean tradition was appeared down upon again in the day,” suggests Kim. “No 1 truly understood about Korea. When I convey to folks I’m from Korea—still now, but not a good deal of times—people would talk to, ‘So are you from South Korea or North Korea?’ But now people are extra educated. From my level of see more Korean-Us residents are getting associated in cooking and as that is a growing motion, there’s a lot more persons contributing. In New York there are so lots of Korean chefs that are so formidable and just seeking to make it, and in L.A. and New York I feel there is a superior demand for it. Now folks are far more ready for it than ever. I feel it is just working out properly, time-intelligent.”

Byun, left, and Kim
Photograph: Courtesy Naemo/Ben Hon
Naemo Korean fine dining pop up
Photograph: Courtesy Naemo/Ben Hon

Naemo is now offered through on the net buying, priced at $75 for every food for two. Pickups are accessible Wednesdays to Saturdays, from 4 to 8pm, at 2435 S Sepulveda Blvd in West L.A.

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