What does a real estate broker do when he’s tired of dealing with leases and property listings? Well, if it’s someone like Andy Kim, he goes ahead and opens a Korean-style gastropub instead.
The WhaLES, as Kim’s new venture is called, opened last Wednesday at 71 Clinton Street, the space that once housed Wylie Dufresne’s pioneering 71 Clinton Fresh Food and more recently played host to the short-lived Seoul Chicken. The latest tenant features Asian twists on pub favorites, such as (yes) Korean fried chicken, cheesy ramen, and the rice burger, which consists of a patty marinated in Korean spices and topped with a fried egg, served on a bun of rice, and wrapped with edible soy paper. All these goodies are prepared by executive chef Toki Numasawa, who hails from the now-closed Kirakuya in midtown.
Apart from Asian-inspired bar grub, The WhaLES also aims to qualify as a standout cocktail bar. As any aspiring cocktail bar does, they’ve brought in the big guns: obscure liquor. In this case, AGWA, a liqueur made from the coca plant, features prominently in the restaurant’s cocktail menu. There’s the AGWA Bomb, which combines it with an energy drink and a capsule of lime powder. Then there’s also the AGWAhito (a spin on the mojito, naturally) and the Lower East Sider, which incorporates lavender bitters, elderflower and cider.
The name of the restaurant, which might not exactly sound Korean, actually refers to both the spot’s location and the word “whale,” which in Korean is used as a slang term, Kim explained. Apparently it can be translated to “baller,” and is used to refer to someone who lives lavishly. “When someone spends a lot of money, we call him a whale,” Kim said in a statement.
The WhaLES will be open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30am – 3pm, and for dinner on Sunday through Wednesday from 5:30pm- 10pm, on Thursdays until 11pm, and on Friday and Saturday until 1am. 71 Clinton Street at Rivington Street, Lower East Side. 646-882-1305.