Chef Jenny Kwak likes to keep her business in the family. The restaurateur, formerly co-owner of the dearly departed West Village spot Do Hwa, opened the Korean home cooking–focused Haenyeo with husband Terrence Segura right before the holidays. (The other owner of Do Hwa, Kwak’s mother, Myung Ja, has retired but acts as Haenyeo’s resident kimchi pickler.) While the last few weeks of the year are better known for restaurant closures than openings, the corner of Carroll and Fifth has quickly become a neighborhood hot spot, attracting Brooklynites, families, gastronauts, and everyone else in between. If you thought the city’s best Korean food could only be found in K-town, we have a few reasons why this Park Slope sensation should make you reconsider.
The seafood dishes are works of art.
It only makes sense to try a few fish-forward dishes, considering the restaurant name is a tribute to Jeju Island’s legendary female divers. Gently cured cod roe and sashimi-ed tuna lie alongside thin chiffonade strips of perilla leaves and microgreens in picturesque bibimbap bowls. Panko-crusted sea scallops are perfectly crisp on the outside and lusciously buttery on the inside—and the corn tartare presented with it acts as a tasty reminder that summer is on the horizon.
You’ll be glad to discover that the briny mussels and steamed clams taste even better with an extra hit of umami.
And Haenyeo’s towering version of bouillabaisse is particularly stunning, incorporating touches of Korean and Southern cooking (peel-and-eat shrimp, sliced rice cakes layered at the bottom) into the traditional Provençal dish. You might be initially curious as to why it’s accompanied with a hoisin dipping sauce, but you’ll be glad to discover that the briny mussels and steamed clams taste even better with an extra hit of umami.
The Korean cuisine is surprisingly—and delightfully—Nola-inspired.
The dining room boasts a brassy jazz soundtrack; bivalves dolloped with salty seaweed butter are charred and grilled like they are in famed New Orleans oyster houses Acme and Casamento’s; and a quintet of fluffy beignets covered in confectioners’ sugar transport you to the French Quarter’s famed Cafe Du Monde, if only for a few fleeting moments.
It wins the prize for the ultimate winter comfort food.
The standout dish on the entire menu is the restaurant’s Tex-Mex approach to tteokbokki, a spicy street food beloved in South Korea. Cylinder-shaped rice cakes remain marinating in thick gochujang, but they are blanketed in a generous sprinkling of crispy chorizo and milky, stretchy, molten Oaxacan cheese made for cold nights—and Instagram boomerangs.
The adventurous libations will be the talk of the neighborhood.
While many pockets of NYC have already been swept up in the Asian-inspired cocktail movement, Park Slope hasn’t quite caught on. (Aside from Talde, which was one of 2018’s casualties.) That changes with Haenyeo’s drinks program, which has mizu lemongrass shochu shaken in a masterfully frothy The Squid and the Whale; ume plum wine stirred in the rye-and-absinthe-tinged Seoul Train; and lychee syrup in a very bubbly Schoolgirl Cocktail. Sake and soju by the glass are also available for straightforward drinkers, but doesn’t a new year warrant a new sip?