Sungchul Shim — a fine-dining chef with roots in acclaimed and Michelin-starred restaurants including Le Bernardin, Neta, and Per Se — made the decision to branch out on his own in 2019 with the opening of Kochi in Hell’s Kitchen. Since then, he has helped to shape New York City’s modern Korean dining scene. In September, Shim opened his third and fourth New York City restaurants, Mari.ne and DonDon Korean Barbecue.
Shim’s first restaurant, Kochi, is known for its nine-course tasting menu of charcoal-grilled skewers inspired by both Korean royal cuisine and street food, and it was awarded one Michelin star just two years after its debut. Next came Mari, also in Hell’s Kitchen, which opened in late 2021, serving a tasting menu of Korean handrolls, which also received a Michelin star.
Shim’s latest restaurants add new flair to his growing group. Mari.ne is the casual “little sister” concept to Mari located on 41st Street near Bryant Park. The 16-seat restaurant is bright and airy, with white marble counters and dark wood stools. Shim is joined at Mari.ne by chef de cuisine Daniel Jang, who has worked alongside chef Shim for a decade, having previously served as his executive sous chef at Neta, Kochi, and Mari.
Like Mari, Mari.ne also serves handrolls, but in a more casual space and format. Handrolls are available a la carte or in sets, like a four-handroll set featuring fatty tuna, spicy tuna, yellowtail and shrimp, or a five-handroll set that features both tunas in addition to salmon, scallop and crab. There’s also a vegan set with soy bulgogi, mushroom, eggplant, burdock, and yuba.
Additional menu items include wang mandu — steamed dumplings with pork, chive and tofu — and a mini pho that pairs braised wagyu brisket broth with vermicelli noodles. The food is complemented by a selection of Korean drinks like soju and makgeolli, plus sake, beer and wine.
Shim sees Mari.ne as a good entry point to the restaurant group. Guests who enjoy the food and service might then want to visit the more upscale and more expensive Mari or Kochi. But the entry point works in reverse as well: He said that a lot of Mari and Kochi guests have already visited Mari.ne, which has a casual format appealing to anyone who wants to pop in for a quick meal. Mari.ne is open for lunch and dinner, and while the restaurant does take reservations, it leaves a few spots open for walk-ins.
“With Mari.ne, we would love to have guests from all over the city — guests that work around our location, tourists, foodies, couples, and any single diners,” Shim said. “Our location is in a very convenient location for most people using public transportation.”
DonDon Korean Barbecue is located just north of Bryant Park, about a five-minute walk from Mari.ne. It’s a casual retro spot where guests can grill meats directly at their tables. Those meats are predominately pork, with varieties including pork belly, collar, loin, and jowl. There’s also kimchi fried rice, a few stews, noodles, and sides, and meals are served with banchan and an assortment of dipping sauces for the meat.
Shim isn’t done expanding his portfolio yet: He’s planning another restaurant, Gui Korean Steakhouse, which is expected to open in the Theater District next spring.