Chef Dave Park made a name for himself, in of all places, at a food stall in a strip mall in Westmont. People caught wind of his artfully plated Korean tasting menus at the stall, known as Hanbun, and traveled from the city to see what the fuss was about. Now Park, who has worked at hot spots around the city like The Aviary and Takashi, has opened the 40-seat Korean spot Jeong (pronounced Chung) in West Town with his partner and fiancée Jen Tran. And Chicago couldn’t be more ready for it.
While the concept is a contemporary departure from traditional Korean, it’s based on Park’s childhood in the kitchen. “I have very fond memories of my grandmother’s food [and] wanted to give an homage,” he says, adding that the restaurant is named for his grandmother and is also a Korean term loosely translating to a feeling that envelops love and appreciation. Flavors and ingredients mirror “the soul of Korean food” but are elevated by the refined preparation Park has perfected throughout his career.
The Imaginative Menu
The choice is yours: a seven-course tasting menu ($87) or à la carte selections. Imagine sweet, spicy, and sour Japanese cured and brined mackerel with genmaicha, sesame chojang dressing, wild rice, and chopi ($15). Save room for juk, a traditional Korean porridge that he puts a luxe spin on with nutty pearl barley, uni, pepper cress, and king trumpet mushrooms ($24).
The Homey Vibe
Park and Tran were intricately involved in every detail of the restaurant, from importing art from Korea to creating the perfect table scape. The space is designed to resemble the traditional Korean house, called a hanok, with a modern twist. A warm vibe shines through in the wood and straw trimming, and custom-made light fixtures inspired by stately Korean brass wear. Soft fabric drapes the ceiling to cloud-like effect. Local ceramicist David T. Kim designed the bespoke plates and bowls.
The Sweet Finishes
Desserts are a main focus, and Park gave a sophisticated makeover to some of his childhood favorites. The fruity flavors of Hi-Chew candy find their way to mochi and choco pie (similar to moon pie) that’s deconstructed with a matcha marshmallow puff, crumble of black sesame and chocolate caramel.
Jeong is located at 1460 W. Chicago
Photos by Hahm Visuals