It all started with bacon-centric dinner parties for their pork-obsessed friends. Putting their own twist on traditional home cooking that South Korean–born Phillip Cho and Anna Lee grew up on, the duo quickly realized that they had a concept that they could capitalize on, and it was from these lighthearted evenings that Belly was born.
Cho and Lee brought in executive chef Brian Crawford, formerly of Todd English Food Hall and the W New York Downtown, to realize a menu in which every single item incorporates swine in some shape or form. And while there is an a la carte menu consisting of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, rice entrees, and noodles, the star, no doubt, is their bacon omakase. And while you may be thinking of the fried strips of greasy goodness you devour for breakfast, the focus is really centered on the pork belly variety. But to walk into Belly assuming that you’ll have classic Korean offerings like daeji bulgogi and bossam would be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Photo: Anna Lee / Courtesy of Belly
While ingredients and flavors certainly pull from the Asian country, there are many other influences that play a role to the food served at Belly. A personal favorite is the bacon sushi, where a thinly sliced piece of torched pork jowl sits on a ball of vinegary rice, seasoned with some chili oil, wasabi, and lime. Another winner is the spicy pulled pork taco, where shoulder meat marinated in red chili, garlic, and ginger packs a flavorful punch, and the slivers of pickled cucumber and addition of fresh lime juice add a desired layer of acidity to every bite. Even dessert, made by their French chef Coco, uses pork, where bacon fat is incorporated in the whipped cream for an unbelievable mille crepe cake that I would’ve gladly had seconds of, perhaps even a third helping. Nine courses in total make up this unpretentious omakase experience, coming in at $55. (Should you want to do a drink pairing that involves a mix of wine, beer, soju, and sake, it’s an additional $35.)
The most pleasant surprise, however, is that you don’t leave dinner feeling like you’ve just engorged yourself in an outlandishly fatty meal. It’s most certainly not the lightest fare, but control over portion sizes makes all of the difference. If you’re on the hunt for a fun outing with a friend or two, Belly is most certainly worth checking out. And if you’re in the mood to do some singing afterward (the Top 40 tunes played in the dining room might serve as some inspiration), they even have a karaoke room downstairs.