Junghyun “JP” and Jeongeun “Ellia” Park, the husband-and-wife duo behind Atomix and Atoboy, has opened Naro, which is focused on showcasing types of Korean cuisine not very abundant in the United States. And while the couple had no intention of further expanding their small-but-mighty restaurant empire, they couldn’t turn down the opportunity to showcase a different side of Korean cooking in a marquee new development right in the heart of Midtown.
“People have this misunderstanding about Korean food,” Junghyun told Eater. “It is known for barbecue, very strong flavors, and a lot of spicy foods.” At Naro, he’s flipping the script, highlighting seafood and vegetables in a number of lighter dishes inspired by traditional Korean cuisine. “I want to bring that aspect of Korean food to New York,” he said.
Currently, that’s expressed through both vegetarian and omnivorous tasting menus, for both lunch and dinner. The two $95 lunch menus start with gim bugak with smoked nokcha and gochugaru and end with injeolmi with brown rice caramel, castella and injeolmi ice cream. In between, vegetarians get a taste of dishes such as potato jeon (miyeok, dashima and bronze fennel) and mushroom kalguksu (oyster mushrooms, parsley and pyogo broth). Diners partaking in the non-veg option will sample courses like octopus naengchae (kohlrabi, Korean mustard and dongchimi granita) and lamb and kimchi jjim (sunchokes, perilla leaf and eggplant rice).
For dinner, the $195 menus walk you through 11 courses, whether you opt for the vegetarian or the meat-filled. Early dishes include bugak (gosari and dubu) and mu (flaxseed bugak, doenjang and fennel bud jangajji). In the middle, vegetarians will find options like tangpyeongchae (mungbean jelly, chilled vegetables and choganjang) and biji (aehobak, soybean and dubu buchim), while omnivores will indulge in abalone mandu (shrimp, aehobak and beef broth) and king crab bibimbap, a lighter version of the beef classic. To round out either menu, there’s pear pavlova, a strawberry dessert and petit fours.
While the Parks have created Naro as the first restaurant under their Naeun Hospitality group—which now includes Atoboy and Atomix as well—they won’t be involved in the new spot’s day-to-day operations. Instead, staff from their other restaurants will take the reins, including executive chef Nate Kuester, pastry chef Celia Lee, beverage director Jhonel Faelnar and general manager Einstein Park. Eventually, the establishment will expand to offering a more casual prix-fixe menu on the terrace, and snacks and à la carte dishes in the lounge and at the bar.
Naro is now open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 am to 2 pm, and dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9:30 pm.