On The Line: Kacy Jun of Urban Seoul, Part One
Photo by Eleonor Segura Jun with his favorite meal: Urban 3b with purple rice and grilled chicken
We arrived at the tail end of Urban Seoul's Sunday lunch rush to conduct this week's interview. With a fist bump in lieu of a handshake, our meeting was more conversation than interview-- we learned more about Kacy, the individual. More on that tomorrow. Today, we kick off a new week with Part One.
What does it mean to be a "borderless kitchen"?
To have no limitations with the type of cuisine we wish to fuse. It's like eating in Koreatown and Tijuana at the same time.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Hands down, Vietnamese cuisine. In Westminster, you can find a lot of hidden gems at the lowest prices. One of my favorites is Van's restaurant on Brookhurst. They have the best banh xeo.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Salt. Something so simple, but too little/too much can change the flavor of anything [Editor's Note: Kacy also recommends using Kosher, not iodized salt.].
What did you learn from working with Azmin Ghahreman (Sapphire) and James Hamamori (Wasa Sushi/Hamamori)?
Chef Azmin G. taught me how to manage cost and never to waste anything.
Chef James Hamamori (aka Hama San) taught me the joy of cooking. There was never a day, when I was working with Hama-san, that I thought to myself that I hated my job. He always had a smile on his face, and rarely would get upset.
One food you can't live without:
Fish. Nothing is better than a perfectly pan seared Chilean sea bass, or eating a raw piece of toro.
Weirdest customer request:
We have a partition made out of jars used to ferment kimchi and Korean bean paste. A customer wanted one of them, but I had to tell them that they are bolted to the floor.
Have you tried any of the cuisine in Diamond Jamboree?
Yes. I tried every restaurant in the center. My favorite (besides mine) has to be SWSH Shabu Shabu.
Strangest thing you've ever eaten:
Wild boar gallbladder. Went on a hunting trip with my dad when I was younger, and one of the first things you do after you shoot a boar is to skin it and take out the inners. At that time, they took the gallbladder, mixed it with something and told me to eat it, because it makes you stronger.
Favorite meal growing up:
Rice, raw egg, soy sauce, sesame oil and seaweed. We always had those ingredients at home, and it was the quickest and easiest thing to make.
Do diners often come in expecting to find a typical Korean bbq joint?
I don't think so. Our front of the house staff explains the menu and concept pretty well.
Tell us about the artwork.
Painted by Tony Kim, it depicts the chaos and beauty of the God-driven soul in every person.
What is your most popular item?
The pork belly tacos or the urban 3b, which is our version of bibimbap.
Tell us the inspiration behind your sliders.
Bulgoggi is one of Korea's main meat dishes. When I was younger, we always had it at the house. I would get bored with just rice, so I would experiment and put American cheese on it, and eventually between a couple of slices of bread.
Is there a menu item that gets misunderstood?
The chorizo kimchi fried rice. A lot of people complain that they can't see the chorizo. I use a lot of ground chorizo cooked with the kimchi. The ground pork gets lost, so I added some crispy pork belly on top.
What is your beverage of choice?
A plain iced coffee from 7 Leaves Cafe in Garden Grove. I like simple things, but when they do something simple right, it's really good.
Your best recent food find:
Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking in Costa Mesa. Everything on the menu!
Is there a dish that you'd like to learn how to make?
I would like to learn more about Peruvian food.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
In OC, California Shabu Shabu, Wasa Sushi, A&J, Pho 79 and El Gallo Giro.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Lox and a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese, red onions, capers, lemon juice and an Orangina to wash it down.
The Executive Chef of Abigaile, Little Sister and Wildcraft Sourdough PIzza, Tin Vuong. I worked with Chef Tin for about five years at the St. Regis and Sapphire Laguna Beach, and I learned the most from him. From coming up with a menu, to beautifully plating up a dish.
Your earliest food memory:
Smoked salmon. I remember one night, my dad came home with this fish wrapped in white butcher paper, with cream cheese, bagels, red onions and lemon. I thought it was the weirdest thing (eating bagels at night), but it was one of the earliest memories thinking back.