While in an urban culinary cornucopia like New York City you can find the most obscure and specific of establishments—from vegan Eritrean food to Cantonese dim sum dens—in the less densely populated Hudson Valley, we often find ourselves stuck in the wide-cast nets of fusion food places. Nowhere is this more common than in the realm of Asian cuisine, where Korean dishes are often served up alongside Japanese ramen and Szechuan beef.
KorPot, Poughkeepsie’s newest restaurant, aims to remedy this cultural and culinary dilution with its authentic Korean menu. (Don’t even look for sushi here.) Opened in early January by husband-and-wife duo Kwang and Ji Kim, KorPot brings the recipes and rich kitchen tradition of Chef Kwang’s mother and grandmother to the Hudson Valley with a local twist.
The couple, who moved to the area from Maryland, had long planned to open a restaurant together that builds on Kwang’s 18 years of experience in professional kitchens and catering operations. When a vacant storefront on Route 9 at the south end of Poughkeepsie, near the IBM building, became available last fall, they decided to go for it. “We thought, even though the pandemic was going on, this was a good opportunity to open,” Ji says. “There is no Korean restaurant in this area.” (While that may be true for Dutchess County, across the river in Newburgh, we should note that Seoul Kitchen serves up lip-smacking homestyle Korean cooking.)
With eight mains, the concise menu leans on familiar favorites like bibimbap ($14), bulgogi ($18), spicy stir-fried pork ($18), and grilled, marinated short ribs ($30)—executed at a high level, using many local ingredients sourced through Hudson Valley distributor Red Barn Produce. The Kims are not interested in innovating, but rather in perfecting the classics in an area where an authentic representation of their country’s food has been sorely lacking. “This is a really authentic Korean menu for restaurants. Not all but most of the restaurants have this menu I’m sure,” Ji says openly. “But the chef here tried to make the dishes beautiful.”
People will have to wait to see the dishware imported directly from Korea until KorPot opens for dine-in service, but you can see Kwang’s attention to aesthetic even in the to-go box “plating”—the vibrant pinks and stark whites of the Korean pickles, the delicate intricacy of the microgreens salads. And beyond the visuals, his flavors sing.
“I worked on the recipe for the bulgogi sauce for six months,” Kwang says. “I tried more than 100 times.” The sauce has 13 ingredients and takes six to eight hours to make on the stove top. He also makes the four other house sauces daily, as well as the kimchi, pickles, and broths.
You may notice ramyun on the menu. While Japanese ramen is generally made with a dense, cloudy pork or chicken-based broth, Kwang’s ramyun is a play on the Korean street food made with instant noodles. Hie makes his own proprietary seafood broth with dried anchovies, herring, shrimp, kelp, and half a dozen other ingredients. “This is my style,” he says. “Korea is like Italy—it’s a peninsula. So they use a lot of seafood and a lot of meat.” Though he was born in Seoul, Kwang’s parents come from the southern tip of South Korea, and it is those rich flavors, informed by sea and salt, that influence his cooking.
Start your meal off with the umami-rich seafood and scallion pancakes ($9) or an order of mandu twigim (fried dumplings, $8). And don’t leave without satisfying your sweet tooth. The desserts at KorPot go beyond your standard-issue green tea and red bean ice creams to offer up delightful Korean pastries like kkwabaegi, twisted cinnamon sugar doughnuts, and hotteok, sweet pancakes filled with brown sugar syrup (both $8). All the dough is made in house.
Most recently, Kwang worked at Willow by Charlie Palmer, the restaurant at the new Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Rhinebeck, and Dutchess County Biercafe. Now he gets to shine in his own environment, producing food that is most meaningful to him. “We are trying hard to make great food,” Ji says. “We are trying to make authentic Korean food so people know what it looks like. And we’re trying to give them good service with a smile.”
KorPot is open daily for takeout, 11am–3:30pm, and 5–9pm for dinner. Call or drop in to order.
2494 South Road, Poughkeepsie