Calling Atoboy a Korean restaurant feels like a stretch. I would say it’s a small plates spot that’s influenced by Korean flavors – fusion, at best. The menu is filled with ingredients you may not recognize or be able to pronounce, but the way they’re used is the opposite of in-your-face. At Atoboy, they take that Korean influence and blow it up into some amazingly composed items. I would know. We ordered almost every single item on the menu.
The dishes are colorful and beautiful, which is a lovely contrast to the blond wood tables (errbody’s lovin this minimalist Scandi vibe) and cement walls. For artwork, they’ve simply hung rectangular canvases that have been covered with gray fabric. Concrete: so chic right now.
I started with a cocktail made with soju, ginger, and grapefruit. It was delicious, so I had another before moving onto wine. The drink menu is small but good. And how cute are those toothpicks?!
The menu is divided into 3 sections. For $39, each diner gets one item from each section and a bowl of rice. Since there were 5 of us, we simply ordered the entire menu, minus one item from each section. The three dishes we didn’t order were the lotus root with dubu, seaweed, and chili oil, the cabbage with mussel, potato, and yondu, and the mackerel with green chili, radish, and scallion. Since that means we ordered 15 dishes, I won’t go into extreme detail on each, but I will tell you about the standouts. Which is hard. Because every single item we tried was good.
The first section of the menu:
My favorite here was the beef tartar with nooruk, mustard green, myungran. The strips of meat were larger than standard tartar, but not tough in the slightest. It melts in your mouth.
The golden beet with persimmon, yulmu, and pistachio was also very nicely prepared – didn’t taste “Korean” per se, but was a bright start to the meal. The nuts underneath had been marinated to a unique consistency that worked well with the beets and persimmon.
Other items, pictured left to right, above: little neck clam with white kimchi, kumquat, and buckwheat, yellowtail with yuza, mustard, and tuna powder, and red pepper with cuttlefish, fennel, and rice crackers.
From the second section of the menu:
The corn with taleggio, bacon, and doenjang is definitely a crowd pleaser. It’s creamy and a little smoky. If you have anyone at your table nervous about venturing into the world of unknown Korean ingredients, this is the perfect dish for them.
My two faves were the sunchokes with oyster mushroom, black truffle, and orange and the egg with sea urchin, gim, and heart of palm. The sunchokes were woodsy and thankfully not too heavy handed with the truffle.
The egg and uni was like luxurious comfort food…which may be an oxymoron. While the look and texture of the egg and uni may freak people out, the flavor of this one was mild so it may also be a good entree to these flavors.
Other items, above: broccoli rabe with bagna cauda, dubu skin, and shallot (left) and endive with shrimp, jalapeño, and chopi (right)
And the third section of the menu:
We may have heard the most “wows” during this portion of the meal. It’s hard for me to choose an absolute favorite here.
I was a really big fan of the trout with scallop sauce, tuscan kale, and lard. This was by far the most sauced dish, but it was just such a good sauce. When I saw some extra sauce, I spooned it over my rice so as not to let that goodness go to waste. I might have liked it more than anyone else at the table. Fine. More for me.
The fried chicken with peanut butter was probably the table’s overall favorite from this section. The batter was light. It was crispy without being crunchy.
I was also a big fan of the octopus with kimchi, chorizo, and parsley. Just…good.
Other items, above: strip steak with anchovy, napa cabbage, and perilla leaves (left); pork jowl with barley, ssamjang, and cipollini onion (right)
And no, I did not know what 85% of the ingredients were. But I can guess they’re to thank for the unique flavors going on in there. I can also tell you that these ingredients may look all intimidating, but none of the flavors are very strong. The intimidation level also drops thanks to the serving style. While the menu is laid out in sections (or courses) the dishes come out without any plates so the table gets crowded with food and a fun free for all ensues, much like at a K-BBQ spot. In an area where most restaurants are either cheesy to the max or boring pubs, Atoboy is a wonderful addition.