A residential district in Seoul, Korea. Home to 1st generation Korean Chef Jae Lee. Also the name of his restaurant in the East Village in NYC. I’ve had the pleasure of working for chef under multiple occasions. We first met at our time together working for Iron Chef Morimoto in Florida. He then continued his path running Morimoto’s Ramen shop and then working under Top Chef’s OG Dale Talde. He had worked in esteemed restaurants such as Chefs Table and ran his pop up out of Black Empire Bar for 2 years before saving enough funds to open his Brick and Mortar restaurant, Nowon in the East Village.
When we dined there, all I could think of was the aesthetic of the East Village. The restaurant blended into the neighborhood and they became one. The restaurant can be easy to miss, but once you enter you are transported into a hip Korean, 90’s baby dream hang out spot. The murals on the wall catch your attention and keep your eyes busy as you are waiting for your meal. You want to see something really cool, go wash your hands. (It’s a sign of a good restaurant when they pay attention to their bathroom(s).)
Let’s talk about food. We ordered a few items and I would explain that it felt like I was cooking for myself. If that makes sense. The dishes were authentic in themselves and carried a type of swagger that reminded you of something you ate before with a korean flare. The food belonged in this restaurant and it told a story. I felt like I could understand the chef’s journey. The food was a story of his life. It was a nostalgic feeling of Korean flavors with a touch of inspiration from other worldly cuisines like the Chopped Cheese from Harlem, or even a Burrata and Kimchi dish, which is a must have. The beverage program is outstanding as far as execution. I don’t drink so the mock-tails are my go to. The Tigers Cub was out of this world. Watch this video here of our journey eating at restaurant Nowon in the East Village.
Nowon is worth the visit. Especially if you are in the area. Make sure to follow there socials as they often host special dinner events, like their squid games pop up!