The East Village welcomed Nowon, a restaurant from Chef Jae Lee, serving non-traditional Korean fare. Most recently, Jae operated the pop-up, Him (Korean for strength), out of the kitchen of Black Emperor bar in the East Village, where he generated a cult following. Nowon is his first solo venture in a brick and mortar space.
Nowon, which is the name of the town in Seoul that Jae is from, will offer dinner service to start, and will add brunch in the coming months. The food is modern and creative Korean fare that’s meant to be shared, and will celebrate Korean ingredients, but presented in very different ways. Highlights include: Honey Butter Tater Tots with labneh, seaweed seasoning; Black Sesame Caesar with romaine hearts, wild sesame leaves, rice pearls, parmesan; Octopus & Spam Fried Rice with bone marrow butter, dill, lemon; Chopped Cheese Rice Cakes with beef, secret spice and soy pickled jalapenos; and of course the sensational Dry Aged Double Cheeseburger with ‘murican cheese and kimchi mayo, dill pickle will also have a place, however only available from 5-7PM daily. The restaurant will also serve beer, natural wine and innovative soju cocktails in the coming weeks.
The 34-seat restaurant (10 seats at the bar and 24 in the dining room) will open at 507 East 6th Street, which formerly housed the Taiwanese restaurant, Carma East. NOWON will bring to life the vivid flavors of Seoul Korea in a playful atmosphere that marries vibrant nightlife culture. A cross between a pojangmacha (street food and drink vendors) and a Brooklyn neighborhood spot, Nowon will be dimly lit with nuances of an old New York 90’s hip-hop vibe, with graffiti and murals on the wall – both American and Korean, an ode to the fact that Jae is a hip-hop enthusiast, but also an amateur beatboxer and karaoke rapper. In fact, Jae made a rap mixtape and sold over 300 copies in high school! The murals will be courtesy of artist, RAZO (more info below). The space will also honor and pay tribute to the culture of Korea, and will celebrate his South Korean Marine General grandfather’s past (Jae’s grandfather played a huge role in his life).
Prior to opening Nowon, and launching and running the pop-up, Jae was the executive chef at both Rice & Gold (under Chef Dale Talde), and Momosan Ramen & Sake (under Chef Masaharo Morimoto). Jae also spent some time with Danny Meyer’s USHG, working the line at Tabla. Nowon is very personal to Jae as a chef because it is representative of his Korean American immigrant journey – he is also no one (“Nowon”), without his culture and roots, and it was a family effort to open the restaurant.
Nowon is located at 507 East 6th Street (bet A and B).