A small brushed-metal tin of shortbread cookies. A humble jar of granola. A darkish bottle of wealthy balsamic vinegar. These are among the many presents that the world’s prime advantageous eating eating places give to company on the conclusion of a meal. This 12 months, a brand new tasting-menu restaurant joined that checklist with a takeaway that begs to not be eaten however admired underneath a pane of glass.
It’s a set of 10 notecards, with delicate, colourful, minimalist abstractions of every course on the entrance, and on the reverse, a listing of the substances the dish includes in addition to temporary remarks on its context, whether or not private, cultural, or historic. Every card is introduced earlier than the course is served, a teaser for the upcoming plate, leaving company questioning how these jaunty strains, circles, and squiggles will assemble into one more dish impressed by Korean substances and strategies. On the finish of the tasting menu, the playing cards are boxed up for company to take residence, a memento of a meal that additionally presents a primer on Korean tradition and design.

Atomix, the acclaimed Korean restaurant that opened in New York Metropolis in Could and was awarded a Michelin star final month, takes the aesthetic concord that’s de rigueur in advantageous eating eating places and amplifies it in delightfully shocking methods — and with a distinctively Korean contact. Right here, husband-and-wife duo JungHyun “JP” Park and JeongEun “Ellia” Park have created a refined house infused with thought of modern Korean design particulars. The hanging bilevel house, customized uniforms, handmade tableware, one-of-a-kind chopsticks, and menu cards-cum-design objets had been all crafted by a cadre of Korean designers, whose work the Parks are desperate to introduce to company. Taken collectively, these components instill the meal with a thoughtfulness and quiet intimacy, firmly putting the meals on par with artwork and spotlighting lesser-known elements of Korean tradition, with design foremost amongst them.
“Cooking can also be a sort of artwork, and the chef is one other artist,” Ellia Park, who oversees the restaurant’s entrance of home, says. “The restaurant will not be solely in regards to the meals. It’s the expertise for the company, it’s the entire, the house — how the colours shall be, or the desk texture or the chairs, or what the employees wears.”
The result’s a veritable feast for design heads. Chris Lee, a Brooklyn artist who collaborated with the Parks on the following season of menu playing cards, recollects his go to to Atomix: “You’re simply downloading all of the issues they introduced to you as a result of all the pieces is admittedly thought of. You’re utilizing all of your senses and so typically you may get tremendous overwhelmed. [It’s like] after you go to the Guggenheim or MoMA, after that strolling round and [you feel] like your head’s about to blow up.”

Atomix is located in an unassuming condo constructing on East 30th Avenue. The Parks looked for residential buildings to accommodate a restaurant they envisioned as creating an expertise extra akin to dinner at a buddy’s home. “We all the time thought of it like a hidden restaurant — not open like a advantageous eating restaurant however extra like a house, like an invite from [another] particular person,” Ellia Park says of the design, created with the assistance of Seoul structure agency Studio Writers. “Whenever you open the door it’s sort of one other world.”
Company step by means of the entrance door right into a darkish entry room with a single hanging mild earlier than getting into a comfy bar space. They descend the stark, monochrome stairway, which reveals a light-filled, double-height lounge space. Lastly the dark-marble chef’s counter comes into view, with low ceilings and dramatic spotlights depositing company again to a comforting ambiance. Heat, impartial colours swathe the whole house, accompanied by pure supplies like wooden and stone.
As soon as company are seated on the U-shaped counter, servers in grey smocks (created by Korean-born New York menswear designer Sungho Ahn, a very good buddy of the Parks) place the primary menu card earlier than every of the 14 diners; the play begins.
The menu playing cards serve two important capabilities. The primary is posterity. “We love advantageous eating eating places, but it surely’s actually laborious to memorize all the pieces,” Ellia Park admits. With the playing cards, “I hope all of the company can keep in mind our expertise.” The second is tangibility. “Should you grasp your artwork on the wall, you possibly can see it on a regular basis, or when you make music, you possibly can pay attention on a regular basis. However for meals, when you make it, you eat it and it simply disappears.” Certainly, many company body and grasp the playing cards, and ship her footage. “It actually makes me so joyful and so proud,” she says.
For the primary two seasons’ menu playing cards, chef JP Park despatched Seoul designer Youme Oh detailed notes and tough sketches of every dish as he supposed it to look on the plate. Since Oh (who occurs to be the chef’s cousin) by no means visited the restaurant, she started to see the menu playing cards as a option to study extra in regards to the meals, virtually actually as a scholar would. “I used to be eager about the flashcards if you study vocabulary or some new language as a result of I’m not an knowledgeable on this meals or this cooking,” she says. “The menus JP gave me had been like a brand new language.”
Oh figured that company to Atomix can be new to Korean gastronomy, or least this interpretation of it, and so the concept of a sort of “flashcards to Korean delicacies” was born. They began as life like illustrations of the dishes, till Oh realized {that a} easy, summary graphic was much less redundant (diners can take pictures of the meals anyway) and higher suited to projecting company’ private reactions to and recollections of the dishes.
This previous fall, the primary course of guk, or soup, was introduced alongside a card exhibiting purple and white squiggles dancing round three yellow dots orbiting three bigger inexperienced circles on a inexperienced gradient background. The inexperienced background, Oh explains, represents the inexperienced of the tomatoes within the soup in addition to fading summer season, whereas the three circles within the heart symbolized the scallops, the yellow dots pickled elderberry, and the wavy strains the tomato broth.
The ceramics for every course had been handcrafted by designers in Korea (duly credited on every menu card); many had been tailor-made particularly to the dish they maintain. “JP Park instructed me he wished a bowl for guk however he didn’t know what was going to be in that bowl but,” says Oh, who designed bowls and a plate along with the menu playing cards. The chef was a fan of her earlier collection of wierd, uneven ceramics, and requested for related items that had been tough, darkish, and had a impartial glaze — a transparent departure from conventional Korean ceramics, which are usually, as Oh says, “very even and clear edges and white.”
Together with the names of ceramic artists, every card supplies context for the course, with JP Park sometimes drawing upon his personal historical past for the textual content. “His life is all the time related to meals,” Ellia Park says, including that typically even she is stunned by what he comes up with. The notes have gotten way more private for the reason that opening and are actually scattered with first-person observations: how a Korean TV present impressed one dish, for instance, in addition to how the chef fostered a love of gim, or dry-roasted seaweed, since childhood.
These anecdotes provide actual factors of connection, which was necessary to the Parks, who arrived within the nation six years in the past with out understanding a soul and with no intention of staying longterm. All of the design particulars at Atomix are within the service of connecting with company and sharing Korean tradition in a pleasant, accessible approach. This consists of the second after the primary course when Ellia Park presents diners with a tray of chopsticks, every pair sourced over years from Korean artists and craftspeople. The gesture, impressed by steakhouses the place you select your personal steak knife and Japanese eating places the place you choose a sake cup, alerts that Atomix isn’t just any advantageous eating restaurant, but in addition a cultural place.
What makes these touches all of the extra spectacular is that the couple has no formal background in design (neither went to culinary college both). “We simply love design — vogue design, inside design, we love all the weather of design,” Ellia says, noting that each one aesthetic selections are made collectively. Design was one thing that they had in thoughts after they opened their first restaurant Atoboy, additionally in New York, however honed in on with Atomix. “Atoboy’s a extra hip place, extra enjoyable and easygoing,” Ellia says. “I used to be in search of a cool type for Atoboy, extra like road vogue, like Supreme.” (She doesn’t rule out a potential vogue line sooner or later.) Atomix’s vibe, however, is delicate, balanced, and upscale. “We had been actually cautious about all of the design right here, and we selected each single piece.”

Ellia Park believes Korean fare has been unjustly underrated, particularly in comparison with Japanese meals. “Individuals would pay a whole bunch of {dollars} for sushi at a Japanese restaurant, however when they consider Korean delicacies, they don’t need to spend greater than $50,” she says, noting that company complained in regards to the $39 prix fixe menu at Atoboy its first season. “To non-Korean folks, Korean meals is all the time barbecue or one thing spicy or bibimbap, however we need to present company the number of Korean delicacies. We need to change the way in which folks consider Korean delicacies within the States and on the planet.” To that finish, Ato is the Outdated Korean phrase for reward.
“What’s cool about [the Parks],” says Lee, “is that they’re targeted on discovering Korean and Korean-American folks to work with and actually celebrating the heritage.” Lee, a relative newcomer to design who has accomplished branding for the trendy Vietnamese restaurant Di An Di and Malaysian cafe Parlay, each in Brooklyn, mentioned working with fellow Korean creatives allowed him to “advocate for one thing I actually imagine in. It was actually necessary to me to work with Korean folks and be taken underneath their wing.”
Atomix is predominantly crammed with Korean design, however not completely: A light-weight by the German designer Ingo Maurer hangs on the entrance, and sizzling native studio Equipment created the lighting. Ellia Park cites Fäviken, Noma, and Single Thread as eating places which have impressed her with their design total. “In fact after I go to a restaurant, I verify the menu, the verify plate, the uniform — all the main points are actually necessary,” she says. “However I get the large impression of the design from the entire house and the way it goes with all the pieces.”
Ellia Park now warns all her chef buddies who need to open eating places to not overlook the main points, particularly these past the eating room. “My most necessary factor in any restaurant is the toilet,” she says. “It must be all the time be clear but in addition heat and comfortable. In the event that they’re cautious about even the restroom, I can perhaps belief them on different issues.”
Lisa Wong Macabasco is a author and editor primarily based in Queens, New York. Her writing has been printed in Vogue and Slate.Editor: Monica Burton

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