Details: Located at 43 East 28th St., New York, NY 10016. Official site is http://atoboynyc.com/#atoboynyc
Atoboy is a new restaurant that’s opened this year. It is part of a new wave of “New Korean” food. Similar to the “New Nordic,” the practical meaning of this phrase is Korean food, but elevated to the traditional standards of Western/French fine dining. Jungsik is the poster child of New Korean, being one of only a handful of two Michelin starred restaurants in New York City and the only one focusing on Korean food. It’s no wonder why everything I’ve ever read about Atoboy boasts about how the head chef is the former Chef de Cuisine of Jungsik.
There is only way one to order at this restaurant. For $36.00 (at the time that I went, not including tax and tip), you order three dishes, one dish from one of three sections. The menu is on their website so I won’t go into it, but the first two sections seem to be appetizers with the last section consisting of meat dishes. The idea seems to be of doing bon chan (Korean appetizers), but to make each appetizer into its own, full on dish.
I came with three friends so we decided to share and try to try as many dishes as we could. We ordered the eggplant (dungeness crab, tomato, and lemon), the tofu (soybean, king oyster mushroom, mustard), the cobia (Korean pear, Perilla, Sesame seed), the Littleneck clam (avocado, rice cracker, Gochugaru), the asparagus (spicy cod roe, shallot, egg yolk,), egg (sea urchin, watercress, quinoa), corn (taleggio, bacon, Doenjang), squid, (pork, shrimp, salsa verde), chicken (spicy peanut butter, garlic), pork jowl (barley, ssamjang, romaine), NY strip (arugula, poblano, wild sesame oil), and the brisket (fois gras, ginger garlic). We also had the seasonal rice (had seaweed mixed in) for an extra two dollars.
The eggplant, tofu, cobia, asparagus were forgettable and not really all that great. The Littleneck clam was great and came with the tasty green, foamy sauce. The egg was actually a steamed egg with sea urchin mixed in, which was amazing. I’m a sucker for steamed egg. The corn was essentially a corn n’ cheese, like a mac n’ cheese with corn instead of macaroni. It was good. The squid was okay. They wrapped the squid around a pork filling. The chicken was a fried chicken, and it was fine. I’m glad we were sharing because I don’t know if I could’ve eaten a whole plate of that chicken. The pork jowl was good. The NY strip was extremely tender and I enjoyed it very much. The brisket was all right, but the foie gras sauce it was drenched in was kind of overwhelming. The seasonal rice was okay, but probably was about the same as the regular rice. Not going to think about it too much since it was just two dollars more.
Overall, I think it was a great meal, especially considering the price. If you want a taste of Jungsik without paying their prices, Atoboy is a nice introduction I think.
The interior was all right, lots of concrete. There is this trend among new restaurants to have very little indication that it is a restaurant on the outside while having an impressively large inside. I kind of like it. Makes you feel like you’re walking into something exclusive, for people in the know.
The service was very attentive, maybe too attentive. I think the staff was given explicit instructions to never let the water in your glass to be less than half full because they were constantly refilling our water. I guess that’s fine.
Score: 7/10 I’d definitely recommend it. There aren’t too many places for Korean food mixed with a little Western fine dining so if you want to get a taste of that, this place is definitely it. The price is also really impressive considering the quality of the food and helps keep the restaurant casual despite the head chef’s high end background.