REVIEW: Getting It Done on the Lower East Side

Crab hobak soup (Image: Howard Portnoy)

Modern Korean food is a label that has gotten a lot of play in recent years. Critics have pronounced the high-end creations at Michelin-starred Jungsik to be “modern Korean,” and Hortus, in NoMad, has conferred the descriptor on its own Asian fusion creations. Late last year, another self-described purveyor of MKF entered the marketplace. Its name is 8282, and its motto — “Korean food can be fun too” — conveys the lighthearted approach taken by the kitchen.

The fun begins with the name. According to the restaurant’s website, “8282 refers to Korea’s country code, +82, and has an additional meaning: The numbers, when read together, translate to a phrase that means ‘quickly’ or ‘faster.’ The phrase signifies a get-it-done attitude.”

The fun extends to the menu, devised by chef and co-owner Bong Le Jo (an alum of Perry Street, Dovetail, and Kissaki). Among the small plates, or anju, you will find “Boneless K.F.C.” Unless the “K” is intended to stand for “Korean,” the house is selling itself short. The Colonel could only have dreamed of chicken thighs this audibly crunchy and greaseless. The segments of crispy bird are turned in a sprightly soy-garlic sauce and ably supported by a side of perky pickled daikon “noodles.”

Boneless K.F.C. (Image: Howard Portnoy)

The menu varies with the seasons. Now that there is a nip in the air, the house offers a bracing variation on the traditional Korean pumpkin porridge known as hobak in which butternut squash stands in for the gourd. A generous clump of fragrant red crab transforms the dish into an infectiously delicious seafood bisque. Don’t be don’t too hard on yourself if you forget your manners and use the slices of fried milk bun served alongside to dip up the last precious drops from the bowl.

Chef Bong manages the not-inconsiderable feat of searing a quartet of sea scallops to the point where their surfaces are deeply caramelized but the proteins have barely set. The bivalves are arranged over a mound of barley that fairly oozes umami thanks to infusions of black bean sauce and truffle paste.

Seared scallops over barley mixed in black bean sauce and truffle paste (Image: Howard Portnoy)

The kitchen flouts tradition again in its take on galbi. The dish, traditionally of marinated and grilled beef short ribs, is done here with Iberico pork, resulting in meat that is insanely tender and flavorful. The dish is completed by crisp roasted broccolini and a dollop of the spicy dipping sauce ssamjang for those who like it hot.

Iberico pork galbi (Image: Howard Portnoy)

The lone dessert, an ice cream sundae of sorts, elicits the same reaction from everyone who encounters it for the first time. It goes something like this: I like ice cream and I like parmesan but will I like them together? To give you further pause, a veritable blizzard of the cheese is showered over the other elements, which include a ball of vanilla, a drizzle of honey, and chunks of the rice cake known as injeolmi. But the effect is surprisingly harmonious, the cheese and honey working in tandem to yield a flavor not unlike that of salted caramel.

Injeolmi ice cream (Image: Howard Portnoy)

The term anju also connotes a food to be consumed with booze. Toward that end, you may want to opt for one of the house’s refreshing Koreanized cocktail classics such as the spicy gochujang margarita, which derives its strength from tequila, its heat from the red chili paste, its sweetness and bright-orange hue from yuzu triple sec.

The front of the house is overseen by Chef Bong’s partner and co-owner, Jee Kim, who is uncommonly gracious. The staff, which has obviously been meticulously trained, follows her example.

Price range: Anju (small plates)—$16 to $25; banju (shared plates)—$17 to $28; dessert—$12.

8282, 84 Stanton Street (bet. Allen and Orchard Sts.), 929-837-0360 is open from 5 plm. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.