On Monday night, longtime fine-dining chef and first-time restaurateur Douglas Kim opened Jeju Noodle Bar in New York City’s West Village. One of Eater’s most anticipated openings of the season, the restaurant’s story is at once super familiar — fine-dining chef gets out of the hoity-toity game and decides to just cook for a low-key dining room — but also unique: How many Korean ramyun shops from Per Se alums can you name off the top of your head?
Below, a run-down of why Jeju Noodle Bar is a restaurant to watch:
1. It’s one of a kind.
While certainly not the first New Yorker to serve Korean noodles, Kim’s decision to focus specifically on ramyun, Korea’s answer to Japanese ramen, stands out. New York City’s Mokbar, for example, serves Korean ramen, but not as its main focus. And Kim previously told Eater that he’d be putting his own twist on things, which makes the restaurant all the more compelling — there’s only one place (right now) to get *Jeju* ramyun. Also unique: the restaurant has no servers. Instead, cooks bring food to the customers directly, and take turns cooking or serving for the night.
Besides noodle soups, the menu also covers small bites and plenty of fish. The early word is that the hwe dup bap, a sort of chirashi-meets-bibimbap raw dish, is a must-order, as is the spicy gochu ramyen.
2. The chef put in the work.
Douglas Kim has an impressive CV, boasting stints at Per Se and Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. But just as compelling is the time he spent working with large-scale restaurants like Morimoto and Zuma. “I wanted to learn more business,” Kim says, and working in busy, large kitchens offers different lessons than working in the world of three-Michelin-starred tasting menu kitchens. At Zuma New York, he says he managed a back-of-house staff numbering over 100.
And to be sure, Kim also learned more about what he didn’t want for Jeju. “Big restaurants can be trouble,” he said earlier this year. “It’s a baby restaurant; I want it to have my touch, and do what I want to do. I want to start small, and then grow with a team as a restaurant group down the road.”
3. It might be the beginning of something bigger.
Some of his ideas for the future include a barbecue-focused place, a bar, as well as taking Jeju Noodle Bar beyond New York City. “The noodle bar is easy to duplicate,” he said.
But for now, Kim has one clear objective: a Michelin star. “That’s something for me to shoot for.”