Review: Atomix, New York City; Art of Hospitality

Intro

Atomix NYC, a hidden elevated Korean tasting menu restaurant inside a Townhouse in the Nomad /K-Town neighborhood of NYC, is probably one of the hardest reservations to score in the city that never sleeps these days. Having experienced it now, following a stroke of luck with their waitlist, I can see why. Atomix most recently climbed to score the #33 spot in 2022’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants, highest ranking U.S. restaurants, it holds 2 Michelin Stars, and won 2022’s Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award. With that list of achievements its no wonder people log on to Tok at 3PM on the first of each month trying to score 1 of 14 Chef’s Counter seats of 1 of 5-6 Bar Tasting seats. But the restaurant goes beyond those accolades and has truly curated a very unique and well-rounded experience from start to finish. It is a very down to earth, educational, engaging, easy to absorb and understand yet fully elevated and sophisticated culinary experience for every palette and level of experience/expertise. 

From the Atomix NYC website:

NEW KOREAN CUISINE

Ato, stemming from the ancient Korean word for ‘gift,’ is the innovative cuisine that husband and wife team – Chef Junghyun and manager Ellia Park, hope to deliver to the world using New York City as their stage.

Atomix, a follow-up to their well-loved firstborn Atoboy, is a place where guests can really dive deep into Chef Park’s cuisine through a tasting menu that is inspired by Korean traditions and techniques.

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Summary 

The food, good, meticulous and elevated, while no one dish was a big stand out “OMG orgasmic” so to speak, everything was done nicely and the best damn sea cucumber I’ve had in my life. There was a lot of balanced textures which I really enjoyed. But really, you come to Atomix for the full experience, from start to finish, the service, flow of operations, presentation was executed to perfection. But not only that, it’s amazing how each dish is presented alongside a card that details the inspiration or vision for the dish as well as every ingredient in it, not just the highlights (though you do get a card at the end with the usual shortlist of ingredients). The team is super nice and they aim to learn together with the guests about Korean food and culture/traditions, not preach to you about it. It is no wonder they got recognized for their hospitality. Its a full on cultural and culinary immersion and exchange. 

My only minor gripe about the food is that overpowering chili sauce/powder used in many dishes. Of course, this is a staple flavor and ingredient in Korean cuisine, and I love it normally, but I felt in many instances below, it simply overpowered all other flavors. I mean I still liked the taste, as I love spicy, but could have perhaps used a little less to really showcase the subtle complexity of other things happening in the dishes and what the chef does so well, which is elevate what is normally seen as just a street food/ BBQ only cuisine. 

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Restaurant Info and Reservations

Nonrefundable prepaid reservations can be made on Tok. Reservations for the following month open on the 1st of the month at 3PM Eastern Standard Time. Atomix has 2 seatings each night for both Chef’s Counter and Bar Tasting menus, 5:30PM and 8:30PM. Chef’s Counter is downstairs, with maximum capacity of 14. Bar is upstairs with a capacity of 5-6. As with all Tok reservations, reservations can be transferred through Tok but cannot be cancelled. 

Chef’s Counter Tasting menu for parties of 1-4, is USD$375, Wine Pairing $250; Reserve Wine Pairing $450; payment on Tok includes all taxes and gratuities. You only pay for any additional beverages you order during your meal. Bar Tasting is $270 for parties of 1-3. You have the option to choose and prepay your wine pairing option on Tok, or you can do so on the spot when you arrive. The tasting menu is 100% prepaid on Tok though. 

The reservations disappear in seconds. I have made it as far as seeing availability, clicking on it, getting to info page, clicking submit, and only to error out as that same slot had been taken by someone else. Do what you will, count down clock, multiple devices, multiple people….etc, still near impossible. HOWEVER, definitely waitlist for as many dates that could work for your schedule as possible. The waitlist really works, and the team told me as of late many people have gotten off; a mix of COVID still going on as well as “life happens” or travel chaos affecting people’s itineraries. So dont think the waitlist wont happen! TIP: ensure your email has pop up notifications on your phone or desktop so you see the waitlist clear email come through, they send it out in mass, and its a first come first serve basis based on first response and you must respond indicating interest as well as food allergies, if any. The first time, I was too late, but managed to respond in time the second email I got. I also then received many more emails for the dates I waitlisted; and all were for Friday or Saturday nights. 

Simple dress code: smart casual. Basically no shorts, flip flops. Otherwise they just want you to be comfortable and cozy. 

Atomix
104 East 30th St
New York, NY 10016

Tues- Sun: 5:30PM-11PM

https://www.atomixnyc.com/

https://www.exploretock.com/atomixnyc

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Service

It is no surprise they won an accolade for their service and hospitality. 

The evening beings with everyone for your seating time waiting outside having been told to arrive 10 minutes early. Doors open, we walk in, check-in, they then have you wait in the open space by the bar so that someone on the team can escort you down the front steps to the lower level, past a 2 story open air lounge and into the Chef’s Counter to your seat.

You are seated and take it all in, I actually made it to this restaurant! Then you are presented with the drink menu, even if you have prebooked a pairing and are asked on water, the usual. This part may be my only complaint was that it was not overly well paced, especially if you need a wee bit of time to think through the cocktail or drink list and ask questions, but it might be personal since I booked a pairing but wanted a cocktail to go with the Amuse bouches per their recommendation to do so. Essentially what happened was, I didnt get to ordering my cocktail until the 2nd Amuse and by the time the wonderful drink arrived, the 3rd and final Amuse was served. Not a huge deal because what followed was a beautiful orchestra of a service. 

The Cards

This is by far the most unique and best part of the entire service and what sets Atomix apart. Their use of index cards. It is both a vessel for education but also engagement with the guests, and personally its great as it gives us solo diners something to ponder on/ fiddle with/ read in between dishes. But these cards really allow the team to pull each diner into the kitchen without physically doing so. It builds a bridge and helps connect the Chef to his diners and bridges whatever gap there may be or have been between a diner and Korean culture/history/cuisine and culinary technique. But the cards enable this to be done without being pretentious, or condescending.  

Before each main dish is served, they bring around a beautifully printed card. Each season, the cards feature a Korean artist, the season’s artist is based in NYC. On the flip side of each card, it notates the Chef’s inspiration, or his vision for the dish, and ties in with Korean culture and history. As well as more extensive details of every ingredient in the dish, and at the very bottom is the name ceramic artist/brand that made the serving ware as well as instagram handle if they have one. Throughout the meal, you get served by every front team member, they describe the dish first by using 1 Korean work and translate it for you, then they come around with the dish and explain in more detail.

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Every team member of the diverse team here is very engaging, friendly, genuine, passionate and humble. There was a mix of Korean, Japanese, mixed-race, Chinese, Vietnamese, American, European and more ethnicities among the group. Also the managers all came to each guest throughout the evening to introduce themselves and chat, and they also served the dishes. You got to meet and interact with every single member of the front-of-house staff as they rotated through the evening in serving each dish to each group of guests. And in between they would also chat with you, be it solo diners, couples, or families. You truly are being welcomed into their home.

After the meal, one of the team members escorts you back up the back stairs and chats with your a bit before seeing you out the door. From entering to exiting, you are almost at all times with a member of the Atomix family. 

Oh, one super neat thing is that you then get to choose your own chopsticks for the night! I have seen fancy restaurants let you choose your steak knife, or sake glass, but this is a first for chopsticks!

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The Meal

The Maesil, I Suppose: The Plum I Suppose (made by Empirical Spirits in Copenhagen), Won Mae, Abricot du Roussillon, Preserved Meyer Lemon. You could indeed taste the liquor made from apricot pits.

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Sweet Shrimp, dashima, bone marrow

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Mussel bun, Myeongran jeot

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Sundae, corn, black truffle, tomato

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2020 Weingut Knoll, Loibner, Federspiel, Wachau, Austria

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Butterfish, eggplant naengguk, myeok, chervil

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NV Krug, Grande Cuvee, 169th Edition, Brut, Champagne, France

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King Crab, golden kaluga caviar (a lot of it), celtuce, gim

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NV Hana Makgeolli, Takju 16, Brooklyn, New York, USA (Korean rice wine); Brooklyn distillery that started as a COVID project that has since exploded in popularity! 

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Red pepper, jellyfish, quail egg, pine nut milk; one of my favorites from the night. Earthy, sweet, fresh, creamy yet crunchy, balanced, textured and complex

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2017 Marc Morey, Les Vergers, Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru, Burgundy, France

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Bamboo, scallop, black truffle, duck dashi, potato & radish namul, egg yolk

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2020 Egon Muller, Scharzhofberger, Kabinett, Mosel Valley, Germany

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Sea cucumber, jidn, gogchugaru, shrimp, squash stem rice, dubujang; most incredible sea cucumber I have ever had. Not disgusting or slimy or chewy or crunchy, just nice soft, melt in your mouth. The squash rice with fermented tofu was super good too.

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2014 Do Ferreiro, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain

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Sea bass, fava bean, monkfish liver, black daepa, lotus root jorim, soy milk gel. There were a lot of flavors at work here that balanced each other out from the heavier creamier liver and beans rounded out by the lotus root that was marinated in some soy (sweet and slightly salty balanced the other items out); not to mention the soy milk gel.

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2000 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France; best wine of the night, made the reserve pairing somewhat more worth it

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Porcelet (pork belly), avocado, beltfish innard jeot, raspberry, buckwheat noodle, gochugaru, gim; Raspberry really added to this dish. The refreshing, sweet yet acid of the Raspberry balanced out the rich creaminess of the beltfish innard and avocado all brought together by the crunch and and smokiness of the BBQ pork belly, very delicious. 

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Maesil, sugar snap pea, ginger, chopi

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Matcha: Hwanggeum Bori 17 Soju, Matcha, Black Lime, Lemon

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2018 Heidi Schrock, On the Wings of Dawn, Ruster Ausbruch, Burgenland, Austria

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Burdock, black truffle, jocheong, ricotta

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There you have it, my experience at Atomix. 100% would recommend and would definitely return to try another season’s menu as I do think it is over all very well worth it. And remember, dont give up on the wiatlist!

 

Bon Aptite,

TheGastronomicTraveler 

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