Meju (메주) is a brick of dried fermented soybeans. While not consumed on its own, it serves as the basis of several Korean condiments, such as doenjang (soybean paste), ganjang (soy sauce), and gochujang (chili paste).
A new Korean market and restaurant called Little Banchan Shop and Meju respectively are coming to 5-28 49th Avenue in Hunters Point, formerly the home of Mini Play Land. It will be helmed by Hooni Kim and his wife Catharine.
Hooni also owns Danji in the Theater District, which serves Korean small plates meant to be shared, and Hanjan in the Flatiron District, which offers comfort food similar to what’s found in Korean street markets.
We spoke with Hooni while he was in Korea getting ready for a video shoot the next day, and he shared that the LIC location will contain an Asian-specific prepared foods/grocery store in the front called Little Banchan Shop. It will retail banchan foods made fresh every day, which are meant to be taken home and eaten, either immediately or over the next few days. In Korea every neighborhood has this type of market. Hooni’s take will incorporate the same selectivity that his current restaurants do in regards to using local produce, local purveyors, and humane meats.
Way in the back of the 49th Avenue space, which is quite deep, Hooni will operate his passion project: a restaurant totally dedicated to Korean fermentation called Meju. He’s been working on his fermenting for about five years, and all his kimchis and banchans will be made in house. The restaurant will be a fine-dining establishment, open only 3-4 days a week with one sitting per evening and a total of 8 seats. It will serve alcohol including those sourced from a Korean alcohol brewer in Greenpoint.
The location is being designed by Creme Design of Williamsburg, which coincidentally is the same firm that’s proposed and designed a Timber Bridge crossing Newtown Creek to connect LIC and Greenpoint for pedestrians.
If all goes right the doors should open sometime in the first quarter of 2022, and those doors will be right down the street from where Hooni, Catharine, and their 12-year old son live. Like a lot of couples, these parents originally moved to LIC with the mindset of it being a stopover, and then fell in love with the parks, proximity, and growth. Nine years later and they are apartment owner’s and soon-to-be local merchants.
A lot has happened in that time. Danji was recommended by Sam Sifton in The New York Times a decade ago, who noted the crowds thronging to the cozy location. The restaurant was also awarded a Michelin star, which is especially noteworthy given that it’s an accomplishment shared by Meju’s nearby neighbor just a few doors down on 49th Avenue, Casa Enrique. It too was originally lauded for it’s regional cuisine and has thronging crowds. The only thing separating the two gastronomic stars is Shady Park, whose culinary attributes are pilfering squirrels and dropped ice cream.
//DO you want more new restaurant news? ‘Ramen Spot’ is opening at 45-12 23rd Street in Court Square, formerly the home of Aanchal Authentic Indian restaurant. This will be the second location for Ramen Spot, the other is in Greenpoint and serves Japanese comfort food such as popcorn shrimp, gyoza, and …ramen!
//MORE affordable housing is coming to Hunters Point, lots more. 847 units in fact, and it will be located in a brand new tower on the waterfront overlooking Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the East River. And it will have all those amenities that come with similar brand new luxury towers, mainly to attract the 25% of
suckers residents who will be paying the full price.
Anyway this a great deal for those who qualify and 50% of the affordable apartments are set aside for those currently living in the neighborhood. The first tower should be open by early next year, see below for the lottery link and qualifications.
Danji – Michelin’s point of view
Danji NYT Restaurant Review – ‘Go’ says Sam Sifton
Ramen Spot – see menu & more
Gotham Unveils Huge Rent Stabilized Gotham Point Development – two towers w/ 1100+ units, 75% of which are ‘affordable’
Gotham Point Lottery – click on “Do I Qualify” for lottery info
Permits Filed For 29-05 38th Avenue – slowly picking away at Dutch Kills
NY Irish Center To Present Varied Cultural Offerings This Fall – located in Hunters Point