Most restaurateurs find a successful formula and run with it. They open high-end steakhouses or neighborhood Irish pubs, one after another, with just enough variation to create a sense of identity.
Not Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark. After winning critical acclaim and a Michelin star for their work at Parachute, they decided to do something completely new for their next restaurant.
Wherewithall, their new tasting menu spot with an attached wine bar, is just down the street from Parachute, but the two places couldn’t be more different. Rather than being confined to Korean-inspired flavors, Wherewithall is a restaurant that serves, well, everything. The cuisine has no boundaries except whatever is in season and catches the chefs’ fancy.
“I think we wanted to do something that was free of identity restrictions — something that could be whatever we wanted it to be,” Clark says.
The basic structure: Wherewithall serves a four-course, prix fixe menu that changes every day. There’s no signature dish, no constant signpost on the menu to appease regulars; if you go on a Wednesday and a Friday, most of the offerings will have changed in two days.
“We look at what the farmers send out on their lists, twice a week, and see what’s really good,” Clark explains. “We aren’t thinking of ideas; we look at the food first.”
Kim describes the restaurant as “organic Tetris”: As ingredients come in, they figure out how to get them onto the plate, with no plan, no advance notice, and no real structure.
The two chefs also challenge themselves to avoid waste. In addition to inventing new dishes around whatever is on hand, they use leftovers in creative ways, like making an olive brine granita for an intermezzo, or making beignets out of cheese scraps.
“When you have a product, you have to figure out what to do with it,” Kim says. “It makes it fun, too.”
On a recent visit, the menu included a summer bean salad with chanterelle mushrooms and a cured egg yolk, a lightly seared piece of yellowfin tuna served with firm summer squash, and an herbal, bright ginseng semifreddo popping with fresh currants. While the menu lists four courses for $65, diners will be delighted to find that dinner is really more like eight courses, including (on my visit) an ultra-crisp crudité, an intermezzo of fresh peach sorbet, and a few other goodies.
Clark and Kim took inspiration for what I call an “under-promise and overperform” style of dining from their travels in France, where surprise courses often come out of the kitchens of small bistros.
“It’s filling in these little surprises to delight. I always like surprises,” Kim says.
For those looking for something a little less high-end, the other half of Wherewithall is a wine bar with a large outdoor patio. This area of the restaurant has a menu that doesn’t change much, and includes wine-friendly bites like olives, charcuterie, and cheeses, providing a hangout for those who want a great glass of natural wine without committing to a full tasting.
Eventually, Kim and Clark's goal is to have all-day dining at Wherewithall, serving coffee and pastries in the morning, a full lunch menu, and the tasting menu at night. But for now, the two are just excited to flex their creative muscles in a different direction.
“It’s always been our idea that we had to do a restaurant that had its own personality, where no one was going to draw conclusions before they got there,” Clark says. “We wanted to do something wholesome, using really fresh, good products, and not try to reinvent the wheel.”