Heong Soon Park, who goes by Park, owns Northwest-Italian Bacco Cafe and Wine Bar at First and Stewart, has split his two-story space into separate restaurants, creating 38-seat Cha:n on the lower level that opens onto the courtyard. Park’s name may have tipped you off that he’s not Italian; he moved to the U.S. from Korea more than 10 years ago, first getting a business management degree and later enrolling in culinary school. He plans to apply non-Korean techniques like braising or sauteing to the flavors he grew up with.
Many Korean restaurants in Seattle and its environs have older operators and are aimed at other Koreans, says Park. “This is more Westernized; I’m more focused on balancing flavor instead of making it really authentic.” Like Marché across the courtyard, he will be cooking with seasonal produce from Pike Place Market.
Yes, some dishes will bring the heat, but Park wants his spiciness to progress on the tongue like story, rather than kickpunching diners’ taste buds. He wants Cha:n to be a welcoming place for patrons who aren’t spice seekers, as well as vegetarians and gluten-free diners. Also welcome: people who don’t want to ring up a triple-digit dinner bill. The menu will be small plates, categorized as either modern or traditional, all of which will ring in at less than $14.
Park is planning dishes like a grilled short rib served with a fried rice cake with pickled daikon and a microgreen salad, bibimbap, black cod or local butterfish, and sliders of bulgogi or spicy pork. He will make Korean-style pancakes with mung beans so they won’t contain gluten, “and gives you a texture almost like polenta.” Cha:n will indeed have kimchee, but no banchan, that colorful array of tiny side dishes that signifies Korean food for many of its American fans. The word chan, says Park, means “all the food except the rice.”
Flavors like Asian pear, ginger and jujube dates will permeate the cocktail list, and Park says desserts might include a caramel sesame bar, green tea creme brulee, or a sweet pancake with citron ice cream. Look for Cha:n to open for dinner May 1.