There is much to be said in favor of being ‘unassuming,’ and when speaking of a new favorite dining spot, all the better. Picture a restaurant whose non-descript exterior hints at a place where they serve a mean poke bowl or avocado toast. Once you’re inside and seated, however, you’re swept away by a menu rich with wildly inventive, farm-to-table creations that would be right at home in a Michelin-starred establishment. This was my inaugural experience at 8282, a recently-opened LES eatery serving distinctive modern Korean fare in a casual, comfortable setting. If a restaurant was ever a hidden gem, this is it.
Nestled into the former home of the Meatball Shop — whose unique, bright red door-pull and monumental signage remain in place — 8282 knows how to read the room when it comes to fitting into their new ‘hood. Restaurant owners Chef Bong Le Jo (Perry Street, Dovetail, and Kissaki), and his partner/ fiancé Jee Kim have visualized and created a restaurant that will live up to any hype by serving authentic Korean dishes that eat like American comfort food. If your idea of good Korean dining is a trekking to midtown to grill your own meat at the table, 8282 will blow your mind. Just being serious.
8282 focuses on serving playful yet elevated modern Korean cuisine with plates designed to be shared. Named for South Korea’s area code +82, and a phrase that translates as “quickly” (reflecting a “get-it-done” attitude) the couple devised the restaurant to reflect culinary trends in Seoul, while tweaking them with an eye on New York tastes. Well played.
First, do you like drinking? I sure do. We always start a review by talking about the cocktails, and 8282 owners, along with mixologist Katrina Sobredilla, have created a cocktail program that shares flavor notes with their food to uniquely complement whatever you order. The just-launched program featuring Soju — a rice-derived, clear and colorless Korean distilled spirit — includes drinks like Golden Barley Soju, Seoul Night, and Yangchon Chungju. Collaborative creations include the Yuja Pear Tequila Perilla, a citrus splash of yuja and pear, tequila, lime, garnished with perilla and perilla oil; and the Miss Mija-O, with Korean Omjia berry, vodka, Hwayo, lemon, garnished with omija berries.
The beverage menu also highlights a Gochujang Margarita, a Korean take on the spicy margarita made with tequila, gochujang syrup, and yuzu triple sec, garnished with a dried orange. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can order a fancy mocktail to suit your taste. The bartender is very accommodating!
Now, let’s get to the food!
The menu at 8282 is divided into two categories: small plates called Anju, which in Korean means food you eat with alcohol, and larger shared plates named Banju, meaning alcohol paired with good food.
Highlights from the Anju section include Spring Pea Crudo ($19), featuring aged yellowtail hiramasa crudo with lemon yuzu vinaigrette topped with soy pickled pepper, yuzu kosho, sugar snap peas and pea puree. Seafood fans will also enjoy the Tuna Tartare and Kim Bukak ($25), Bluefin tuna and sesame oil aioli topped with egg custard, served with fried seaweed chips. My dining companion and I shared the following two dishes.
Being a huge fan of both beets and burrata, we split the Red Beets and Kimchi Salad ($16): Red beets and ripe tomato kimchi over creamy house-made burrata, shredded basil, perilla leaves, pistachio nuts, and dressed with yuzu kosho (made with fresh chilis). Oh my goodness, this is one of the most delicious salads I have ever eaten. All ingredients are truly farm-fresh and the dressing has a bright, tanginess that elevates all the flavors in the bowl. If you’re looking for an excellent, meatless starter, this is it.
We also shared the Littleneck Sooejbi ($ 18) with an abundance of littleneck clams in a rich broth of black pepper, soy sauce, butter scallions, ginger, garlic and lemon. The Sooejbi in the dish’s name refers to a tiny hand-pulled, potato dough dumpling that settles down into the broth. Here’s a photo.
This dish really embodies Korean home-cooking. My friend offered that she loved how a brightness shines through the spices, and the flavor combinations were all familiar ingredients but used in an original way to ‘make things taste new.’ What more could you ask for?
Our friendly and enthusiastic waitress brought our order to the table one dish at a time, so we could completely concentrate on the flavors of that dish without any distraction, which is an excellent way to serve food like this. It’s also super fun to share the food with a friend and discuss its deliciousness while you eat it. Bonus: You get to try twice as many dishes that way and you get really full.
From the Banju section of the menu we first shared and loved the Dakgalbi Kimchi-Bap ($21): Gochu-jang marinated chicken with greens over cheesy (mozzarella) kimchi rice. They had me at “cheesy rice.”
Like it’s popular cousin Bibimbap, it is important to stir the Dakgalbi Kimchi-Bap to thoroughly mix all ingredients and facilitate maximum melted cheesiness (see photo above). The chicken in this dish is fork-tender and the umami is off the charts. While I aspire to eventually try all of the dishes at 8282, if I could only order one dish, this would be it. Because it is fucking delicious.
Next up was the L.A. Iberico Pork Galbi ($28): grilled soy marinated Iberico with ssamjang (mildly spicy Korean dipping sauce, served on the side) and roasted broccolini, with red pepper vinaigrette. This multi-dimensional dish was developed in homage to an adaption of Galbi (beef short ribs) created by Korean emigrants in Los Angeles. It’s another show-stopping entrée where familiar ingredients come together in a surprisingly fresh and complex flavor profile. Another A+.