In a 50 Best restaurant with limited covers, it’s almost inevitable that patrons will receive an elevated level of service. Although for the guests at 14-seater Atomix, the team have created a hospitality experience that is personal, highly specialised, intelligent and intuitive.
Atomix, a restaurant located in Manhattan’s NoMad neighbourhood close to Koreatown, is owned and run by husband and wife team Junghyun ‘JP’ and Ellia Park. JP works the kitchen and Ellia is in control of front of house – she is the mastermind behind a service structure that has been bespoke designed to suit the countertop, horseshoe setting that chimes perfectly with the multitude of Korean dishes that land from the kitchen. So well-tuned is this service offering that the voting Academy of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants selected Atomix as the winner of the prestigious Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award as part of the 2022 awards programme.
Arguably the most successful way that the service integrates with the food is the manner in which it creates a dialogue around Korean cuisine, educating diners but without preaching. For each dish that arrives, it comes with a beautifully designed card with translation of a Korean word involved in that particular dish. It could be ‘raw’, it could be ‘grilled’, it could be ‘fermented’, or it could be ‘soup’. As diners read the card – and, inevitably, require guidance in pronunciation – the fluent staff will mouth syllables and steer phonetics. For the Parks, this gets the conversation started: while defining what Korean raw ingredients or kimchi fermentation entails, guests inadvertently receive a greater understanding of the nuance and technique at play on the plate.
The flow of the guest experience is likewise elevated to a highly stylised art. The Parks commissioned a full-scale refurbishment of the upper two floors of the townhouse that Atomix calls home when they launched in 2018 and each element has been considered to ease diners into the eating experience. It begins with a trip to the pale-leather bar, where drinks are served and canapes delivered, before being ushered through to a sun-dappled skylit lounge for another couple of snacks. It seems fully intentional that the Parks intend to graduate guests away from the bustling city outside, before delivering them primed, ready and relaxed to the counter for a front-row seat for the chefs’ hansik performance.
The ability to communicate a cuisine that is both complex and unfamiliar in a way that does not come across as supercilious and in the style of a lecture is the greatest achievement of Ellia Park and her service team at Atomix. Guests leave subliminally educated, with an understanding and appreciation of Korean cuisine that they will not have had before.
Discover more about the previous award winners