There’s something about car dealerships I just don’t like. Seeing a sexy sportscar in the middle of the room is not very exciting to me, and who really wants to test drive something in the annoying streets of New York City? But Genesis House, the name of the new showroom for the luxury car brand in Meatpacking, is one that I would willingly return to. Similar to Lexus’s Intersect showroom not too far away, Genesis House is more of an experiential studio in which visitors can immerse themselves in all sorts of activities. On the ground floor is the car showroom, and on the second floor is Onjium, a high-end Korean restaurant, as well as a lovely reading area and a small home furnishings display. Korean culture is the thing that ties everything together, as Genesis is a luxury offshoot of Hyundai, and Onjium is a Michelin-star restaurant based in Seoul. While the ground floor is impressive, and I do have my eye on the G80 SUV, Onjium on the second floor is more my cup of tea.
During the day, Onjium serves tea and light snacks, while at night it offers a full dinner service. You can opt for the 6-course tasting menu at $150 per person or you can order a la carte. The portions here are on the smaller side, so I would recommend that you and one other person order 4 small plates, 1-2 mains, 1 noodle/rish dish, and of course, a dessert. While the food here is Korean, it will be slightly different from the plates you’d expect to find in Koreatown. The original Onjium in Seoul is a research institute for traditional Korean culture, and its focus is on Korean Royal cuisine and dishes prepared for the nobility.
You’ll want to start out with some of the small bites from the “Bugak and Po” section. Bugak is a type of deep-fried vegetable dish in Korean culture, in which leafy greens like seaweed and chrysanthemum leaves are coated in glutinous rice and fried in oil. Po is a terminology for a type of jerky. We tried the seaweed and fish roe bugak chips, and the fish roe chips were especially tasty. The fish jerky was solid too, but the fish roe chips were the star.
For something a little more substantial, the dishes from the “Small Plates” section will do the trick. We tried the big eye tuna chamchi muchim, which reminded me of a korean tuna tartare coated in gochujang, and a dish that was new to me called suranchae, consisting of chilled abalone, scallop, snow crab, octopus, poached egg and pine nut sauce. Even my mom had never heard of suranchae, but I guess some noble Korean family in Gyeongju used to eat it. I found the textures a little too soft for my liking, and the pine nut sauce a bit too sweet.
Japchae is always a fan favorite at Korean restaurants, and the one at Onjium was solid, and very generous with the mushrooms. When the large plates arrive, they are accompanied by banchan plates such as kimchee, seaweed and lotus roots, which were very delicate and refined. The cod, which appeared to be lightly fried and came adorned with a small salad and a small bowl of soy sauce for dipping, was just outstanding. Next time I would order two plates of these. Note that the entrees don’t automatically come with rice, you’ll have to order rice separately if this is necessary to your meal. We rounded out the meal with a homemade tofu and rice dish, which was just the perfect amount.
When it came to dessert, Onjium offers familiar hits like shaved ice bingsu and more novel fusion things like a pine nut custard and baked cookies with chestnut cream. I had seen pictures of their yakgwa cookies, a traditional Korean cookie that is deep-fried and made with wheat, honey, rice wine, sesame oil and ginger juice. It’s something I ate when I was growing up, and I remember it being served during special occasions, so nostalgia was key in my craving. It was exactly the way I wanted to end the meal, a little sweet, crunchy and full of fondness. They don’t typically serve the yakgwa as a standalone dessert during dinner, it’s meant to be something enjoyed during their daytime tea service. That was smart of them to do because all I want to do now is to drink tea and eat these lovely cookies in the beautiful reading room at Genesis House. Some people have weekend homes and summer homes, but I’m content with intermittent getaways to the Genesis House.
Onjium at Genesis House
40A 10th Avenue (between 13th and 14th St)
New York, NY 10014