Little Mad, a playful Korean-American restaurant from a Cuckoo alumnus, debuts in Nomad


One of the city’s most enterprising restaurant groups, Hand Hospitality, has supported Korean-American gastronomic chef Sol Han to launch the group’s first new large-scale restaurant since the start of the pandemic. Supported by the hand, Han Little Mad’s new restaurant – located in Nomad at 110 Madison Avenue, between 29th and 30th Streets East – opens on June 8 and represents a break from more traditional standards for the old band. ten years.

In this new direction, Han, an irreverent 33-year-old guy from Long Island who has previously worked in high-end Italian and French kitchens including Ai Fiori and Le Coucou, is the energetic and confident face of Little Mad. Unlike Hand’s other establishments which favor more familiar East Asian recipes – including Korean and Japanese culinary hits like Her Name Is Han and Izakaya Mew, as well as partnerships at fine dining restaurants like Atoboy, Atomix and Jua – Little Mad is rooted in Korean. flavors but guided by Han’s years spent in French and Italian gourmet kitchens. “I’ve never worked in Korean restaurants,” Han says. “So I’m just rolling the dice with it. “

Little Mad’s playful menu mixes all these influences: a beef tartare is sprinkled with shiitake mushrooms, pockets of smoked tofu and a candied egg yolk. A menu staple, the Caesar salad, was returned to Han’s hands, with zucchini taking center stage as the dish’s main vegetable, drizzled with an anchovy, garlic, and Parmesan vinaigrette infused with black sesame paste. and accompanied by a few fried zucchini flowers.

Zucchini Caesar
Main Hospitality [Official]

Han also added table service to the experience, a nod to his past dining life and the restaurant’s slogan to “get a little crazy,” he says. For the beef tartare, customers are offered a small hammer to smash the accompanying giant green-hued chip made from maesangi – a specialty seaweed – to scoop up the tartare. Little Mad’s Rice Bowl features bone marrow that the kitchen team digs up and deposits into the bowl in front of customers.

Two hands holding a white piece of bone scrape the marrow with a spoon in a white bowl filled with rice and vegetables

Little Mad Rice Bowl with scraped bone marrow added on top
Main Hospitality [Official]

The restaurant occupies the former space of Korean hot pot On, a former Hand Hospitality restaurant that closed earlier this year. Old On regulars will recognize many similar models at Little Mad. The space has retained its modern, industrial feel, and On’s same low-light wood tables are repurposed here with copper inserts filling the space left by old induction burners. But Han added his own flair to the restaurant, including knocking down a few walls to create an open kitchen for a more communal and relaxed vibe. Dinner service is now tuned to a hip-hop soundtrack.

“If you want to put all of me in a restaurant, it’s kind of all of me in a restaurant,” Han said.

Han says he was set to be promoted from executive sous chef to chef at Le Coucou before the pandemic hit and shattered those plans. “We were in that transition, then boom – the curse came,” he says. Han first cooked for Kihyun Lee, founder of Hand Hospitality, as a Cuckoo customer; now, as the restaurant industry crumbled, he turned his attention to Lee on what would ultimately become Little Mad.

Fish and pear slices arranged on a white plate with green and red oil on the bottom

A pairing of amberjack with Asian pear, sesame vinaigrette and green onion oil
Main Hospitality [Official]

Inspired by Han’s contagious enthusiasm for the future of restaurants – even in the midst of the current crisis – Lee got him involved as a partner in Hand. After On closed, Little Mad was built in its place in about two months, according to Han. As the restaurant gathered, Han supplemented his team with former colleagues: Executive Sous Chef Jonathan Culbert and Deputy General Manager and Sommelier Guillermo Martinez worked alongside him at Coucou – which remains closed – and Managing Director Jean Lee previously worked at Michelin -Starred Scandinavian Spot Aska and restaurant group John Fraser.

Little Mad’s young talent and modern, playful menu spanning multiple types of cuisines is the start of what Hand founder Lee sees as an exploration outside of the more traditional places of East Asia. of the growing restaurant group. “We’re always focused on what we have in front of us, but we want to broaden our horizons,” says Lee. “Little Mad is a starting point for us to work with more chefs who bring even more diversity to our group.”

Little Mad is open for indoor dining only to start, Tuesday through Thursday, 6pm to 10pm; Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Four people standing and smiling against a cement brick wall

From L to R: Guillermo Martinez; Sol Han; Jean Lee; Jonathan culbert
Main Hospitality [Official]

The menu:

Drink menu:

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