Jeong, the eagerly anticipated restaurant from Chef Dave Park and Jen Tran opens its doors Friday in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Park and Tran open Jeong following the success of their acclaimed chef-driven restaurant Hanbun located in a food court that earned Park a James Beard semifinalist nomination and Eater Young Gun award. Hanbun served fast casual Korean fare for lunch as well as upscale tasting menu dinners in their kitchen, and Jeong’s cuisine will continue in that more refined style.
The name “Jeong” has a dual meaning for the couple – it’s Chef Park’s grandmother’s maiden name, but it also holds significance in Korean culture. “Jeong” is a certain kind of love that builds a soulful connection and bonds people – something that the couple hope to convey through their food and warm hospitality. Park’s love of food was first sparked by cooking with his grandmother in Korea, and much of the menu is inspired by those early food memories.
Jeong offers both a seven-course tasting menu for $87 as well as a la carte options. The full menu can be viewed online here. Each dish is inspired by the traditional ingredients in Korean cuisine but interpreted using modern technique. Jeong sources ingredients from local purveyors and Korean producers but also makes many base ingredients in-house, including silken tofu and kimchi. Park features the silken tofu as the base of a dish with King crab, maesil (Korean plum), and chili-braised fern. His take on the Korean tteokbokki (rice cakes) is roasted with schmaltz and glazed with chili sauce, served with marinated quail eggs, charred cabbage, and pickeled mustard seed. Desserts also utilize traditional ingredients like dwenjang (fermented soybean paste) – Park incorporates this into a carmel which he serves with a chestnut financier topped with smoked chestnut cream and chocolate.
Crafted by Park, the cocktail program also draws heavily from Korean ingredients, with each of them named after the one they incorporate. The “Gochujang” features the Korean chili paste shaken with gin, calamansi, lime, and raspberry liqueur, and the “Jujube” highlights the sweetness of the fruit mixed with Rye, cacao nib, orange, and sherry. Jeong also features a carefully curated wine program as well as a selection of sake to pair with the meal.
While Park mans the kitchen, Tran fosters a warm front-of-house experience for guests in the restaurant’s Korean-inspired dining room. Servers don uniforms inspired by traditional Korean hanbok dress designed the couple’s fried Joanna Um. The 40-seat restaurant draws its design inspiration from Korean tradition as well – including Korean rice paper wall dividers and hammered brass lighting. Jeong also features a lounge area which offers additional seating for guests.
“Chicago gave us such a warm welcome when we opened Hanbun, and we’re thrilled for the chance to share our food again as we open Jeong,” says Park, “We could not be more excited to continue our cooking and hospitality in this new space that feels like home.”
Jeong is open Tuesday – Saturday, with reservations available from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations can be made online through OpenTable.