Friday, August 12, 2016

Yori Brings Authentic Korean Food to Chesterfield

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Jay Moon, left, and Sae Yeob Kim, right, are the owners of Nori. - PHOTO BY EMILY MCCARTER
  • Jay Moon, left, and Sae Yeob Kim, right, are the owners of Nori.

Jay Moon has a saying about his food: If you try it once, you’ll come back for more. Moon’s restaurant Yori (1637 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield; 636-536-7778), co-owned by Sae Yeob Kim, aims to do just that: make even white-bread Americans love Korean cuisine.

“We try to introduce the traditional Korean cuisine to the white people who are not familiar with Korean food,” Moon says.

Yori’s menu features more than 30 traditional Korean dishes, ranging from the beef bulgogi stone bowl (barbecue beef ribeye, and seasonal vegetables with salad) to the yellow corvina grilled fish and the soon tofu soup.

“Korean-style cuisine is very unique; it has some sweet tastes, a little bit salty, and a smoky flavor as well,” Moon explains. “The meat melts in your mouth. The meat is very soft when you marinate with Korean sauce.”

The decision to locate in Chesterfield was no accident. Before opening Yori, Moon researched the different areas in St. Louis and found that 90 percent of Chesterfield’s population is Caucasian. With only three other purely Korean restaurants in St. Louis, Moon and Kim saw an opening for their cuisine.

“I have a strong belief that people in the world, even if they don’t grow up in the same culture or same situation, if one person likes the food, then they will be more open,” Moon said. “Food is the introduction to a culture.”

To increase St. Louisans' familiarity with Korean culture, Moon adds other elements beyond the cuisine, such as playing Korean music in the restaurant and featuring the Korean translation alongside the English words on the menu. The owners position it as a family restaurant, with beer and wine available for the adults.

Yori’s executive chef is Moon’s mother, Manja Shin, who the staff affectionately calls "mom." She prepares all of the sauces, side dishes and broths, Moon explained. Shin is also the executive chef at Yori’s first location in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the restaurant caters to on-the-go Purdue University students.

Although Moon, Shin and Kim are restaurant veterans, Moon expresses frustration about finding workers for his restaurant.

“Hiring people is difficult. It’s hard to find people trained in Korean food,” Moon says.

In fact, Sous Chef John Lee Johnson Jr. left P.F. Changs for Yori. But he still had some learning to do from Shin.

“I knew how to cook Asian [food],” Johnson says. “I had to relearn how to cook Korean, because Korean deals with a lot of smoke in flavor and texture.”

Moon has received great feedback from Koreans and non-Koreans alike. “[Koreans] tell me ‘Thank you for being here,'” Moon said with a smile.

Moon moved from Seoul, South Korea, to California fourteen years ago, before coming to St. Louis two months ago to open Yori. Moon has many years of restaurant experience in California, including both cooking and managing/owning. He graduated in 2009 from University of California—Irvine after majoring in economics.

His dream guest? The Cardinals Seung-hwan Oh. Moon says he'd like to have him by his restaurant for some “fine Korean food.”

Yori opened on June 26, 2016 and has had consistent lunch and dinner crowds ever since. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Sunday it's open from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

The yellow corvina grilled fish. - PHOTO BY EMILY MCCARTER
  • The yellow corvina grilled fish.

Turn the page for more photos of Yori.

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