It’s finally spring, and for chefs far and wide, that means one thing and one thing only: the arrival of new produce to play around with. For Atoboy, that also means a bit of spring cleaning, too.
Don’t worry, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Mark Nobello, isn’t coming for the classics. (Yes, the fried chicken and granita remain.) For this menu change, Nobello looked to in-season ingredients of course, to populate the $75 pick-your-own five-course menu. But he’s keeping everything in tune with Atoboy’s DNA, digging through what’s been pickling and fermenting in the kitchen, like using last year’s spring ramps, now pickled to perfection.
“Typically, we look a minimum of two months ahead of the season for what we can start getting our hands on,” Nobello explains of the fermentation process.
Here, he presents two perennial favorites (“I have to put in the classics”) and your three options for course number four, which you only have a couple of months to sample before summer and Atoboy’s next menu change. Pick wisely on your next visit. Or, do as we do, and go with a group so you can order all three.
1. Fried Chicken
Spicy peanut sauce, gochujang sauce
“We’re going to go with the classic, the Atoboy fried chicken. Even as a guest, before I started working at Atoboy, it was so delicious, a great thing to experience. And to now be on the other side and actually see how it’s made, it’s amazing.
The process: We get boneless thighs and break them down to nice, fat chunks of six or seven pieces. We let these sit overnight in our own fermented jalapeño marinade, composed of jalapeños, pineapples, and fish sauce. We make our own dredge batter — all-purpose flour and tapioca starch — and just dip the chicken in and double-fry it to golden brown so that when you bite into it, it’s very crispy but still tender and juicy inside.
We accompany it with two side sauces: gochujang yangnyeom, which is like Korean ketchup, composed of gochujang, corn syrup, tomatoes, a little bit of garlic and ginger, and some soy sauce; and a spicy peanut butter sauce, made with creamy peanut butter with some of the fermented jalapeño we put in, garlic, ginger, and some mirin.
At the end of the night, if there’s extras, it’s just irresistible not to eat. It’s just so good. You never get tired of it.”
Note: The fried chicken is available as a supplement to the five-course prix fixe for an additional $27.
2. Sujeonggwa Granita
Lychee yoghurt, burrata, walnut
“The sujeonggwa granita is one of the staple desserts on the menu. Sujeonggwa is a Korean tea usually served at the end of the meal. In this case, we made a granita form of it.
It’s jujube red paste, ginger, and cinnamon. We let that steep in water, finish it off with some brown sugar, a bit of salt, and then we pair it with burrata cheese, candied walnuts, and lychee yoghurt. You get that sweet, tangy taste and a little spice from the cinnamon and sugar. And nice, cool, refreshing [notes] at the end of it. Like a cheese plate at the end of the meal.
These classics are to die for. They can never come off the menu. People would just lose it.”
Scallion cream, pickled ramps, Pecorino
“These are my first dishes to be launched on the menu as the chef de cuisine here. We do a pan-seared cod with a scallion cream sauce with pickled ramps, Pecorino cheese, and some white runner beans with Perilla seeds on it. It’s springtime, so there has to be some vibrant green on the menu. And this dish itself just pops green [thanks] to the ramps. But it’s very decadent and rich because you have the cream sauce, you have the creamy and smooth runner beans, and pecorino cheese. The only time I’ve had fish and cheese together was from a Filet-O-Fish at McDonald’s. I don’t know why, but it’s just so great and delicious. I would do it all the time if I could. But for this dish, it just pairs so well. Nice, oniony, creamy, velvety, and you finish off with something strong: nice salt [from the] cheese.”
4. Pork Belly
Black mustard, butterball potato, buchu muchim
“Every time I go to Korean barbecue, I always get pork belly, my all-time favorite. With something vinegary, something a little pungent, you add some sambal, and make a lettuce wrap; it’s my go-to. So that’s where I got the inspiration for this.
This is a pork belly dish with black mustard sauce, roasted butterball potatoes, and grilled Spigarello. We make our own black garlic using this very cool machine called Ocoo. It helps with fermentation and makes preservatives. The machine is pretty much a fancy pressure cooker with multiple functions, but for this dish, it speeds up the process of making black garlic, which takes three months if you were to make it in a rice cooker.
We actually got some fresh juniper back in January and we’ve been making our own juniper vinegar, which has been going for three to four months now. We pair it with our own pickled mustard seeds and then the Spigarello is perfect for springtime.”
White asparagus, sugar snap peas
“This one is definitely very seasonal. It’s dry-aged lamb saddle. We dry age it for at least one week and onwards and serve it with a green peppercorn jus with sugar snap peas, pickled spring onions, and white asparagus. It all works together, it’s very simple. Lamb is one of those dishes where it is delicious all year round, but its prime is in spring. It isn’t as gamey [then]; you taste very little to no gaminess at all.”
Note: The lamb dish costs an additional $10.
Atoboy is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.