Korean cuisine has become increasingly popular thanks to its bold and complex flavours and emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. Now, a new fine dining restaurant in the heart of Sydney is taking the Korean food scene to new heights.
Jung Sung is in a sleek and modern space within the Kensington Street lifestyle-precinct in Chippendale. It offers a contemporary take on traditional Korean dishes, featuring innovative flavour combinations and exquisite presentation. It’s the first fine-dining Korean restaurant in Sydney.
From delicate seafood dishes to grilled meats, every dish is crafted with care and attention to detail and, best of all, can be safely prepared gluten-free.
“The problem when you’re trying to find gluten-free food in restaurants is that not all chefs have the knowledge of when they’re using gluten or not,” says Insup Kim, executive chef at Jung Sung. “Whereas I always buy gluten-free products, so if someone asks, ‘can you do gluten-free’, I know exactly what has gone into the dish when I answer.”
It’s all in the details
Korean food is often challenging for people following a gluten-free diet, predominately due to the use of soy sauce. Insup however, makes his own using a gluten-free recipe.
He was buying the sauce in large quantities from a family in North-West Sydney and he approached them to see if he could learn the technique. “Most of the people who do this are masters and quite old,” he explains. “They have a family history making this kind of sauce in Korea. I told her [the sauce manufacturer] my story and the history of Jung Sung as well. She really loved it and came for dinner. After dining here, she was happy to give up her secret and teach me how to do it.”
Since 2022 this hand-crafted soy sauce has been used exclusively at Jung Sung. “I used to take my chef to them on our day off and help because they’d be cooking 100-200kg of soybeans and it was just the old lady and her husband doing everything,” says Insup. Now he brews the gluten-free soy sauce in house on the restaurant’s balcony, along with his own spicy gochujang (chilli paste).
In fact, the team at Jung Sung make all the stocks, sauces and marinades in-house. It’s this precision and attention to detail that makes it a wonderful place to dine for people with food allergies.
The attention to detail continues through to the garnishes too. On the balcony micro herbs grow in raised garden beds. They are carefully tended to by kitchen staff who ensure they are fresh and bursting with flavour for each dish they create. The herbs sit alongside the house made soy sauce, which ferments in pots for six months.
A Fresh Take
“The food at Jung Sung is our own style,” says Insup using their bibimbap as an example. Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that consists of a bowl of warm rice, topped with various seasoned vegetables, meat and a fried egg. The word “bibimbap” means “mixed rice” in Korean, which perfectly describes how the dish is enjoyed. Each bite of bibimbap offers a variety of textures and flavours, ranging from crispy and crunchy to soft and tender, with a perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy flavours.
At Jung Sung the bibimbap is served with a Moreton Bay bug. An inclusion you would never find in Korea. “There’s no bug in Korea,” explains Insup. “People don’t really catch them or eat them.”
Insup likes to focus on Korean techniques while drawing inspiration from his international culinary training and the wonderful Australian produce. “I focus on Korean techniques and flavours with some modern French techniques as well,” he says. “If you go to any culinary school, you use the French techniques.”
Along with a Moreton Bay bug, the Jung Sung bibimbap is served with a small vial of sesame oil to drizzle over the dish before devouring. Sesame oil is widely used in Korean cuisine and, as a result, sesame allergies are one Insup is unable to accommodate in the restaurant. The sesame oil is made in-house by roasting sesame seeds for 40 minutes and then squeezing for 30 minutes to extract the oil. It’s just one of many thoughtful and special touches delivered on the night that truly elevate this dining experience.
It’s not uncommon for fine dining restaurants to be known for a signature dish. Quay had its Guava Snow Egg, Tetsuya’s had the Ocean Trout Confit and Jung Sung has its Sweet Corn dessert.
The dish is a play on Korean ice cream and when presented to guests it looks just like a corn cob. “People’s first reaction is to take a photo,” laughs Insup, when explaining people’s reaction to the dish.
The Price is Right
The degustation at Jung Sung is by far one of the cheapest currently on offer in Sydney. “Our price point is very low when compared to other fine dining restaurants,” says Insup. “We serve a similar number of dishes but are about half the price.”
Insup works hard to ensure guests receive meals of exceptional quality and he uses the experience he gained in Michelin-starred restaurants to deliver this. For example, for the wagyu, instead of buying expensive cuts and passing that straight on to the customer, he sources the same premium quality meat, but in a cheaper, less popular cut. “If I buy a chewier cut, I’ll marinate it in kiwi or pineapple for 24 hours and it turns really tender,” he says. “There’s no difference once I cook it properly. Just because it’s more expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better.”
It’s undeniable that Insup and his team have a passion and respect for Korean cuisine. They’re not afraid to go above and beyond to ensure that their diners have an incredible dining experience. So often diners with food allergies are made to feel difficult or served inferior alternatives to gluten-containing guests, but not at Jung Sung. To be able to enjoy a 6-course degustation and savour the same delicious delicacies as my fellow diners was a wonderful (and all too rare) experience.
Level 3, The Old Rum Store / 2-10 Kensington St. Chippendale NSW 2008