When the tajarin arrives tableside at the newly minted It’el JAE, it is a decadent, mouthwatering affair -- a sumptuous tangle of handmade pasta bathed in sage-infused butter, strewn with translucent slices of black truffle and showered with pungent Pecorino and Grana Padano cheeses.
A barely poached yolk, golden and glossy, is nestled in the center.
After politely waiting for diners to document the dish in photos, the servers use a fork and spoon to break the yolk and delicately blend everything together so everyone can enjoy precious forkfuls of soft, eggy pasta redolent of truffle and coated in yolk, butter and fragrant cheeses.
“Tajarin is a traditional Piedmontese pasta,” chef Yi Jae-hoon, 45, explained.
Yi broke down how this regional pasta is crafted with a dough that only uses yolks instead of whole eggs.
It’el JAE serves housemade tajarin in sage-infused butter, strewn with slices of black truffle and showered with pungent Pecorino and Grana Padano cheeses. A barely poached yolk is nestled in the center (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Yi knows pasta.
After steadily working his way from sous chef to executive chef at a prominent Italian restaurant in Seoul, Yi decided to strike out on his own, teaming up with Lee Jae-ho, also a restaurant industry veteran, to open It’el JAE in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong last month.
At this new 38-seat space Yi not only showcases his take on Italian cuisine, but also brings his experience as the executive chef of a well-known French restaurant to the table as well.
“There are no borders,” Yi explained, adding that he draws inspiration from Italian, French and Korean cuisine to craft toothsome eats at It’el JAE.
The menu at It’el JAE, as Yi indicated, is expansive.
It’el JAE’s pan-fried potato gnocchi is paired with a sauce made from cream, Pecorino, Grana Padano and Parmesan cheeses, prosciutto and Parmesan chips (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Korean-inspired seafood dishes rub shoulders with French-style, homemade sausages. In addition to seven pasta dishes, there is plenty of protein, including a hearty chicken stuffed with truffle paste.
“A paste crafted from confited mushrooms, truffle oil and truffle paste is placed between the skin of the chicken and its flesh,” said Yi of a rib-sticking dish where the chicken sports a crisp, crackly crust.
Yi definitely understands the mouthwatering appeal of a crisp crust, showcasing it again with It’el JAE’s pan-fried potato gnocchi.
“I was inspired by garaetteok,” Yi said in a nod to the traditional Korean rice cakes shaped like long cylinders. “I thought, let’s grill it like garaetteok.”
Yi and team pan-fry the gnocchi in olive oil so it is crisp on the outside and chewy through the center.
Paired with a sauce crafted from cream and Pecorino, Grana Padano and Parmesan cheeses, salty ribbons of prosciutto and crisp Parmesan chips, this rich, velvety dish begs to be paired with a glass of wine.
For those who want to enjoy several glasses of wine instead of a whole bottle, there are 200- and 375-milliliter options available.
“We change the wine menu frequently,” It’el JAE’s manager Lee, 42, added, elaborating that the wine list also includes natural wines.
1F, 644-7 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily, closed Sundays
Dishes cost 25,000 won to 59,000 won
By Jean Oh (email@example.com)