It is a Saturday night in the Kensington dining precinct, and it’s just a pleasure to see so many diners out after the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. The industry, which lost many good restaurants during that period, needs new, exciting and quality openings to fill that void and offer hope, and Jung Sung hits that mark perfectly. Executive Chef Insup Kim, whose CV includes graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, and working for Mario Batali, before moving to Australia and starring as the Chef de Cuisine at Altitude, is already making his mark here after opening only ten days ago.
As impressive is the front-of-house service team who do not miss a beat the entire night, supporting this exceptional and sophisticated iteration of Korean cuisine. The understated but stylish room is full on this second sitting of this weekend service and is as vibrant as the food that is to follow. There are plans to utilise the balcony space more in the future, but for the moment this intimate mode works nicely.
The textural amuse of delicately charred squid, served with pine nut seaweed juk (Korean for soup or velouté), pear tomato, and tangerine vinaigrette, is the first sign that the traditional boundaries are going to be pushed. However, it is the exquisitely presented red snapper with white soy crystal, perilla extract, seaweed and coastal foraged karkalla that now has our full attention. This zesty dish of excellent textures, with astutely judged acidic counterpoints and exceptional balance, wows even two hardened senior reviewers.
Similarly, the Moreton Bay bug done two ways showcases a level of execution and thoughtfulness that indicates this restaurant has the perfect combination of humility and ambition to make its mark in Sydney dining. The first, richly butter poached, and served with a memorable crustacean jus, is sigh-worthy, not in any way diminishing from the second more playful textural nod to a more rustic and traditional presentation that would be lauded in any other context. Likewise, the tuna with sweet soy, glazed anchovy, capsicum, black garlic and the most more-ish potato mash perhaps suffers a little unfairly in comparison.
The textbook execution of the impeccable 9+ marble score wagyu beef from the Riverina, presented two ways, is counterpointed nicely by brown rice vinegar, jalapeño jus, burnt eggplant and nasturtium. It is hard to imagine this produce being showcased in a better way, and whilst the texture of the lamb served with summer tomato gochujang, onion powder and zucchini chutney cannot compete, it is packed with flavour, nonetheless.
With so many intense savoury profiles, the brilliant sweet corn custard dessert, served like a cob with caramelised pistachio, is both welcomed and equally admired for the technical level of skill that underpins it. The rich cherry chocolate dessert with decadent mousse, cherry sorbet and coconut meringue that follows is noteworthy, but the watermelon and lime sorbet, with puffed Korean rice, roast grain powder, and native finger limes is next level.
For a restaurant to be so accomplished, so early, is a testament to the development committed prior to its opening, and to its team that have achieved so much to this point. What excites me is where the journey of this restaurant could take us, when the complexity of the ferments set aside comes into play, and the overall experience matures more fully. Clearly, I really like what I see early, and this restaurant could both influence and inspire a more refined development of this Korean cuisine in this country, if it fulfils the potential it has shown us at this formative stage. I, for one, wish them well in that endeavour and will be following them very closely.
By Dane Richards
Level 3, Old Rum Store/2–10 Kensington St, Chippendale NSW 2008
+61 400 991 011
Open Tue to Sun, 11.30am–11pm
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