A Boldness of Vision at Little Mad

Bungeo-ppang, a fish-shaped waffle, is a beloved Korean pastry that’s usually full of candy red-bean paste. At the brand new NoMad restaurant Little Mad, from the homeowners of Atomix and Her Name Is Han, the thirty-three-year-old chef Sol Han’s bungeo-ppang is an amuse-bouche made savory with a scallion-laden batter, hollowed of filling and fluffed up in texture. The reinvented fish bun arrives sitting subsequent to a pat of wealthy seaweed butter, seeming cannily conscious of its metamorphosis. “Is it a scallion pancake or bread or a Korean pastry?” Han requested after I spoke to him lately. “I like to say, ‘It’s just a Little Mad.’ ”

This opening salvo units the tone for the Korean-inflected delicacies, which, contemplating the restaurant’s proximity to the merry chaos of Ok-town, appears decided to determine its personal id. With a smooth open kitchen and a tapas-style menu (there are not any entrées, solely small and barely much less small plates), Little Mad cultivates a spare, cosmopolitan cool. Han, who moved from Korea to New York at the age of seven, grew up serving to at his mother and father’ Japanese restaurant and has labored in upscale Italian and French kitchens. An easy ease with each the East and the West informs his boldness of imaginative and prescient and his tilt towards experimentation and reinvention.

The rice dish (at thirty-one {dollars}, it ranks among the many costliest gadgets on the menu) is constructed for extravagance and decadence.

At their most profitable, Han’s creations are dazzlingly poetic. Take the yellowtail dish, which grew out of Han’s frustration with the standard presentation of his favourite fish. “I’ve only seen it served flat, and I wanted to give it height,” he informed me. His answer—to sandwich a skinny sashimi slice between translucent wafers of Asian pear—is elegant and sculptural, evoking a fish swimming by way of an emerald-and-yellow pool of scallion oil and lemon juice. “The dressing is something my parents used on the house salad at their restaurant for twenty years,” he mentioned. “So this is also my way of paying tribute to them.”

For the crispy pig-ear salad, cartilage-veined ribbons are braised, deep-fried, and nestled atop frisée. The dressing, a fermented-shrimp French dressing with kombu aioli, cuts by way of the richness of the pig ears whereas supplying a turbocharged explosion of umami—not unhealthy for one thing Han describes as “super easy and snacky.” When requested to outline Mad within the context of Little Mad, Han laughed and mentioned it was in all probability some mixture of “crazy, funky, different, and creative.”

An easy ease with each the East and the West informs Han’s tilt towards experimentation and reinvention.

One of the restaurant’s most Instagrammable dishes is the meat tartare, which comes with outsized moss-green chips, constituted of maesaengi seaweed, within the form of elephant ears. It’s offered with a miniature wood hammer, to interrupt the chips into shards for scooping the meat. All this theatre is innocuous sufficient, but it comes off as gratuitous pageantry—why couldn’t the chips be crushed within the kitchen? One diner, who was attempting to find out whether or not the meat or the chips wanted hammering, mentioned that it gave the impression to be the type of gimmick that felt indulgent reasonably than pleasant.

The Tuna Mul-hwe is one other dish that tries maybe a bit too laborious. Mul-hwe, which implies “seafood in water,” is a Korean summer time favourite that options ice cubes in a chilly broth. To make it Mad, Han swaps the cubes for a tomato slushie, which peeks out from below a stack of jalapeño, cucumber, and pink onion. The idea is novel, however the slushie—which prompted, in a single diner, a “spicy brain freeze”—appears like an pointless distraction.

The menu ends on a powerful notice, with a rice dish constructed for extravagance. (At thirty-one {dollars}, it’s among the many costliest gadgets right here.) Han informed me that he remembered the way in which his white pals ate rice once they had been youthful—with a spoonful of butter. This impressed him to mingle the meaty flavors of roasted maitake and oyster mushrooms with marrow, scraped from the bone tableside. It takes bravado to invent one thing new with rice, and this dish totally earns Han’s favourite description: it’s indisputably a Little Mad. (Dishes $18-$45.) ♦

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