If you want Korean food your first though may be to head to K-Town. Not totally unreasonable, but if you’re like me and you really dislike Herald Square, we have an even better suggestion: head to Chelsea and hit up the newest Korean hot spot, Zusik.
Just shy of being open for two months, Zusik has already made a lasting impression. Zusik serves up traditional Korean dishes with a modern twist, created by Executive Chef and Owner Yurum Nam. The menu is inspired by his homeland of South Korea fused with all the experience he has gained from his world travels. Chef Nam worked in numerous restaurants in Seoul before attending the Culinary Institute of America and gained further experience at The Modern and Gramercy Tavern.
We started our meal with some delicious cocktails, with their mixers made in-house. I ordered the Yuzu Bees Knees with gin, egg whites, yuzu extract, which now may be my favorite cocktail of all time: light and refreshing, but fragrant and full of flavor. The Fresh Evening with vodka, fresh cucumber, mint, and lime is a great choice for the warmer weather.
Other cocktail highlights include the Summer Sky, a sparkling blue libation with soju and yuzu extract, the Ginger Pom Mojito with gin and freshly muddled ginger and pomegranate, and Fire Obsession with tequila, mezcal, plum syrup and lime with a spiced rim. They also serve a selection of soju, draft and bottled beers, and a curated wine list.
For the most part all of the dishes are designed to be shared for everyone to maximize your options. To start, the house specialties include the Beef Rolls which are stuffed with onions and mushrooms, seared and served with a house lemon garlic soy sauce, and the Pork Buns with soy glazed pork belly, pickled vegetables, and a bean paste aioli sauce – a recipe Chef Nam has been perfecting for over five years.
Korean pancakes are in just about every Korean restaurant, but the Seafood Pancakes here are incredibly well done. A mix of shrimp, calamari, veggies, and scallions topped with a drizzle of house made mayo and sweet soy sauce, pan fried together in a way that it is all held together, unlike some places where it all falls apart immediately. It’s the little satisfying things in life.
Another typically traditional dish are the Spice Rice Cakes in a spicy red sauce, where Chef Nam adds ten different ingredients along with fried fish cakes for added layers of flavor.
Speaking of rice cakes, the truffle mac and cheese, which obviously not a traditionally Korean dish, is given the Korean treatment by embedding the fluffy rice cakes among the elbow macaroni noodles, all covered with cheddar and pecorino cheese. There is all the umami in this dish, and your only regret is if you have to share.
Other popular apps are the Chicken Wings with both Korean and American personalities, served with pickled radish, and the Beef Tartar with an egg yolk jelly, lemon confit and pomegranate reduction. For those who are a little bit more adventurous, try the Korean-meets-Chinese Jelly Pork made from pork belly and skin, paired with a flavorful cilantro salad. You would be hard pressed to find this dish anywhere else in NYC.
For the heartier dishes, there is the Pork Belly which requires 24 hours of preparation, including three hours for braising the belly, so you know it is tender and flavorful. The Mackerel is char-broiled for a crispy finished and served with wasabi pico de gallo. However, I cannot rave enough about the Beef Short Ribs, which are marinated and then perfectly grilled to retain all the juices, and placed atop a light bed of truffle mashed potatoes with lemon salt. If you love meat, this is a must.
One of Chef Nam’s specialty dishes is his Seafood Stew with a light and spicy cream clam broth with an array of little neck clams, shrimp, calamari, and vegetables. Wonderfully comforting and an excellent complement to any dish.
The Uni Bowl is also a great option as a side to pair back to just about every dish. Much like bibimbop, it is brightly colored and packed with veggies, seaweed, pickled ginger, and a runny egg, with the bonus ingredients of flying fish roe, pollack roe, and uni soy sauce.
Although I was ready to burst, without question I knew I needed the Matcha Cheesecake for dessert. They had other options including Hotteok, a Korean pancake dessert, but I had my heart set. The matcha cheesecake was light, creamy, and not overly sweet, a perfectly balanced cheesecake. It came with a scoop of green tea ice cream, which I feel could have used a bit more matcha flavor, and a light strawberry jam, which is not super necessary but added a unique twist.
There are so many other amazing dishes that we did not get to try with only two people, so I highly suggest checking out Zusik with a small group (four people is probably idea) so you get to try even more of their dishes.
They are also open for weekend brunch service with a handful of other brunch-y items plus brunch cocktails – mimosas, Bloody Marys, and a Rossini cocktail made with house made strawberry syrup and champagne. As the restaurant continues to flourish, Chef Nam will evolve the menu and add other interesting items to the repertoire.
Monday through Thursday: 12:00 PM to 1:00 AM
Friday: 12:00 PM to 2:00 AM
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 AM to 2:00 AM