Bryan Moon and Hoon Smith's Kichin has been around for a few years now, popping up here and there in a variety of spaces and formats, including a take-out spot under the Marcy Ave elevated that got them a Times review, a stint at Williamsburg's Baby's All Right, and as supreme snack purveyor at virtually every one of Bubble_T's rowdy, sexy, "slaysian" dance parties. But now Moon and Smith seem ready to settle down, with a comfortably spacious permanent home in Bushwick and a new chef with Roberta's on her resume, Patty Lee.
The new Kichin is located in one of those odd, triangular buildings along Myrtle Avenue, under yet another elevated train, though this time it's the Central Avenue M stop. (It's where Juno used to be, if you're familiar.) You enter into the awkwardly shaped, high ceilinged bar area where you can eat and drink if you want to, or continue toward the back, peeking in at Lee in her kitchen along the way. Here you face a choice: upstairs to the "treehouse"? Or down to the "lounge"? Both dining rooms feel cozy and comfortable—upstairs is probably brighter in the evening—and each can seat about 20 at firm banquettes and sturdy tables.
It's stylish here in an understated way, the legacy tile floors and raw wood-frame windows set off by abundant plant life, arty black-and-white photographs of the crew, and a sculptural piece involving vintage TVs that's a nod, perhaps, to Nam June Paik.
The food at Kichin is what the website calls "Asian-American," but it definitely skews Korean. I ate at least a half dozen dishes from the short menu this week, and while I fear Lee might be playing it a bit too safe with her flavors (I mentioned this after my first dinner, and my second dinner had much more fire to it), overall there are lots of terrific things to be had here.
Starters include the Fried Chicken that first got Kichin noticed over on Marcy—you get about five or six boneless thighs with a ribbon of kimchi aioli on top, and they are plenty juicy—and a crock of super-cheesy (but not actually spicy) Spicy Rice Cakes sitting in a pool of gochujang sauce. The mushroom-stuffed, tempura-like Perilla Leaf Jeon makes for a fun snack, and there's also Wings or Cauliflower cooked with bird chili, and a Chrysanthemum Salad.
Down in the always-compelling "Rice and Noodles" section of the menu you'll find a
delicious, extremely pink update of the classic glass noodle stir fry, Japchae. The color comes from beets, and much of the flavor from the generous supply of chewy shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The Kimchi Stir Fry rice, co-starring "spam" (really more like hot dogs), kernels of corn, and a runny egg, is one of the dishes that could use some punching up.
Three entree-sized plates include a dramatic-looking Whole Crispy Fish covered with wasabi-infused tobiko, a perilla leaf ssam featuring big chunks of Pork Belly, and, my dinner on night number two, a bowl of plump, sweet Mussels in a lively kimchi stew. This latter comes with a slab of first-rate sourdough, grilled and anchovy-buttered, which you can, and should, also order separately as a side.
For dessert there's homemade Ice Cream and Sorbet, flavors changing frequently. The house brought me a bowl of each one evening, a creamy Barley and enjoyably icy Chili Pineapple, and they were both superb. There's also a list of $12 cocktails, a bunch of draft beers and ciders, and wine.
Kichin is located at 1264 Myrtle Avenue, between Cedar and Hart Streets, and is open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., on Friday until 4 a.m., on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 a.m., and on Sunday from 9:30 until midnight (347-405-8948; kichin.nyc)