Today, we talked to Kim about the contents of her refrigerator, the misbegotten origins of her famous steak and eggs Korean-style, her picks for sushi, pizza, Korean food, and ramen, and the best meal she ate all year.
What do you think of the newer restaurants in Red Hook?
This year we’ve had Fort Defiance, which is a fabulous addition. The owners are actually our downstairs neighbors–we love them to death.
There are a couple of boutiques across the street from Fort Defiance that have just opened: Red Lipstick, Metal and Thread, and Erie Basin, which has really awesome antique jewelry, it’s a charming little place. Foxy and Winston opened this year. And the Red Hook Lobster Pound is awesome, there’s Kevin’s for brunch, and Tini has become Home/Made.
It’s a real retail and restaurant scene that’s developed, and we’re all tight and support each other’s businesses. We’re a close community, and it’s been great to see that develop.
So it’s changed a lot but you know it hasn’t exploded the way people said it was going to five years ago. Which is nice, because it keeps the community vibe alive.
What’s an under-appreciated ingredient that you like to use?
If you talk about flavor profiles, it’s acid, or a squeeze of lemon. I finish a lot of my dishes with a squeeze of lemon or lemon zest to brighten it. I feel like people get the salt, or even the sweet, but acid is always what I miss, what I’m critical of when I’m eating out, or even in my own dishes. Things need a little acid.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?
Opening up a restaurant! [Laughs] No, that was both the greatest and the worst thing I’ve ever done. Well, you know, as a cook you’re always learning and you make a lot of mistakes along the way. The trick is to catch the mistake and not serve it because if people eat your mistakes they won’t come back.
For instance, in the beginning, with the steak and eggs dish, the concept was not a fried egg on top of the rice, it was steamed bean custard egg, kind of like chawanmushi. That was my original concept, but it didn’t work. The steak and savory kimchi rice needed the extra sauce. And the custard, the steamed eggs, didn’t work. So I thought: What about a fried egg? Because when you do it sunny-side up, presto, immediate extra sauce. But for the first week and a half I did it with steamed eggs.
What’s your favorite pizza place?
I love Lucali’s. The owner is truly passionate about pizza. That’s all he does–that and calzone. But try to get in there on a Friday night at 7:30? Good luck. We call very early and get pick up. I think he does a phenomenal job.
Favorite Korean place?
Jang Tuh in Flushing. It’s a really good, small mom and pop place. They have charcoal barbecue at the table, and all the casseroles and soups. It’s really great. I love it, we go there all the time.
What’s in your home refrigerator?
Right now? Good question, because I need to cook as soon as I get off the phone with you. My two-and-a-half-year-old does not like vegetables, so I am going to make a dumpling. I have ground organic chicken, kale, spinach, carrots, garlic, and ginger. I’ll cook all the vegetables down, and process them in the food processor and then add it to the chicken. A couple of eggs, some soy and hoisin, and that’s the filling. If the vegetables are pureed, she can’t pick them out. She might not eat the whole thing, though, detecting the presence of vegetables.
And I have a smoked tongue. You called me on a good day! We cooked it for two and a half hours and peeled it. It’s like a cold cut. We love it on sandwiches with Thousand Island dressing. That’s my husband’s favorite.
What’s the last movie you saw and book you read?
The last book would be Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, but I didn’t finish it. That was four years ago, and I didn’t finish it because that was the book I was reading when we opened the restaurant. And I have the Star Trek movie from Netflix. It’s a great movie, actually, because you get to see Spock and Kirk in their 20s. I’m a bit of a Trekkie.
What was the best meal you ate this year?
Well, I always have a craving for ramen and I like to go to Ippudo. Whenever we’re in the city, we try to swing by. But having a restaurant and a busy family life, we don’t eat out like we used to. So it’s really about comfort food and what we crave: sushi or ramen or fried chicken.
But I think the best meal of the year was The Good Fork’s holiday party. We roasted a suckling pig–and by we I mean my husband, he cooked this year–and made jambalaya, like really authentic Creole jambalaya.
You mentioned sushi: Where do you go for that?
Taro Sushi on Dean Street.