Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chef Ji leaves Moon Jar in Fort Lee

A bowl of makgeolli, a type of takjuImage via Wikipedia
Fermented Korean rice wine is called makgulli or moon jar.

Chef Ji Cha, who competed on Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" a couple of years ago until sidelined by an injury, has left Moon Jar in Fort Lee.

The restaurant remains open under the Moon Jar name, but is serving only dinner and drinks. Without Chef Ji's stylish enhancements, the all-white setting seems even more austere than before.

Chef Ji's fusion menu has been replaced by one that hews closer to traditional Korean food, but the kitchen brought back her BBQ beef sliders.

We had dinner there on Saturday night, served by Rocky, who was one of the bartenders when the place was called Chef Ji's Moon Jar, and it was a filling and satisfying meal.

In addition to menus, Rocky brought an iPad that allowed us to review photos of the food.
The brushed aluminum back of the iPad Wi-FiImage via Wikipedia

What we ate

We ordered fish ball soup ($15), spicy soy chicken ($15), LA kalbi ($19) and seafood vermicelli ($12) -- all suitable for sharing, though I stuck to the meatless dishes, while my wife and son demolished the meat and poultry, plus a couple of bowls of white rice.

We were given a complimentary appetizer -- halves of baked sweet potato dusted with cinnamon. Other dishes on the menu include kimchi soup and a seafood pancake. 

I loved the soup, with its flavorful broth and skewers of fish balls and cakes, and its root vegetable. 

The tender kalbi -- bone-in beef short ribs -- were served on a bed of stones the waiter ignited with a lighter. My wife and son also loved the chicken dish -- chunks of leg and thigh meat in a sweet and spicy sauce perfect for spooning over the rice.

The noodle dish was long on vegetables and short on seafood, but it's made with yummy, translucent, sweet-potato or yam noodles known as japchae. A glass of the house red wine was $7.

Click on the link below for another diner's experience, with photos. Despite the heading of his post, I believe Chef Ji had already left as general manager of the restaurant by the time he ate there.

I recall one of Chef Ji's minimalist appetizers from my previous visit in October: salad covered by an upended martini glass -- with chopped ahi tuna and caviar mounded on the base.

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