You wouldn’t expect to find an acclaimed Korean tasting-menu restaurant in a suburban mall food court outside Chicago. But for years that’s what Dave Park and Jennifer Tran were able to pull off with Hanbun, where they managed to be booked solid despite being out in Westmont, Ill., about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago.
Last year they decided they were ready for the big city and closed down Hanbun in order to build out a new, more refined space in the Windy City’s West Town neighborhood. Diners have been eagerly awaiting their reemergence ever since, and tonight the duo is back with the hotly anticipated Jeong.
The centerpiece of the restaurant will be the $87, seven-course tasting menu (along with some à la carte items) that will take the ingredients and dishes from Park’s upbringing in Seoul, where he loved to cook with his grandmother, and reinterpret them with modern techniques.
Ingredients like silken tofu are deployed as the base for a king crab and Korean plum with chili-braised fern. He’s not hewing too close to tradition as he takes the classic Korean tteokbokki (rice cakes) then roasts them with schmaltz, glazes them with with chili sauce, and tops them with marinated quail eggs and charred cabbage. Even the desserts see a twist on the traditional, with dwenjang (fermented soybean paste) used in a caramel sauce.
Park and Tran’s new location givens them a little more space, a more refined design, and a liquor license to create a more complete dining experience. Park will run the kitchen, while Tran oversees the service side of the 40-seat restaurant.
“Chicago gave us such a warm welcome when we opened Hanbun, and we’re thrilled for the chance to share our food again as we open Jeong,” Park says. “We could not be more excited to continue our cooking and hospitality in this new space that feels like home.”