“I grew up cooking with my mom. In Korea, we would cook a big meal and share our food with the whole neighborhood.”
Myung Chung's neighborhood now is Belmont Shore, so it was no surprise recently when she opened Haewah Dal on Second Street. Chung said she is excited about the opportunity to share Korean cuisine and culture with the Long Beach community.
“Except for Korean barbecues, there are very few Korean restaurants in this area,” Chung said. “Korean food is more than just barbecue. I want to introduce people to the healthy and tasty style of Korean cooking.”
Intent on creating an upscale experience, Chung launched a nationwide search for her chef. She said she was thrilled to find Korean chef Jake S. Jung. Jung, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, cooked for two Michelin starred restaurants in New York City: Gordon Ramsay at the London, and Eleven Madison Park. Jung also has served as personal chef to George Clooney, Lady Gaga, and Hillary Clinton.
Haewah Dal offers modern Korean cuisine. Jung said he uses French cooking techniques to put a unique twist on traditional Korean dishes. A la carte dishes are available, but the menu also has three different tasting menu options. These five-, six- or 10-course tasting menu options offer a variety of carefully curated small bites in an array of creative flavors and presentations.
“We use fresh, local products and make everything ourselves in our kitchen,” Jung said. “Each dish involves creative combinations and many hours of preparation. Because our menu depends on fresh ingredients, it will change completely with each new season.”
Chung has owned and managed Poke Pola with her husband Han since 2016. Their poke has a loyal following; according to Chung, the order-at-the-counter business continues to grow. The hard-working Chungs are rarely away from the site, saying they prefer to greet people with a smile and make sure that everyone is satisfied with their meal.
“Food is very delicate and every detail has to be right,” Chung said. “I’m also a people person, so I enjoy talking to my customers every day.”
When the Magic Lamp closed, the space adjacent to Poke Pola became available. The Chungs decided to turn the area into an upscale Korean restaurant and the task became a family affair, with both Chung children, Nick and Irene, flying in regularly from New York to help their parents. In addition, Davis Owen, Irene Chung’s boyfriend, served as architect for the remodel.
“Our kids are grown up and working in New York. We are very lucky to have them helping us here,” Myung Chung said.
Daughter Irene said she is enjoying the group effort.
“My brother and I don’t usually overlap our visits, but this restaurant is bringing us home together,” Irene Chung said. “It’s truly a family project.”
Myung Chung said the goal for the new space is balance and harmony. She explained that the restaurant’s name reflects the positive and negative energy of the sun and the moon.
“We need harmony in life and food to make us healthy,” she commented. “This is a different concept but I want customers to try it. I think they will enjoy it. This is a place for people to have good food and celebrate special occasions.”
Haewah Dal is at 5020 E. Second St. For menu information and reservations, go to www.haewahdal.com.