Many a business deal have been closed at the dining table, but the partnership between David Wang and Jimmy Yeager was in large part due to the result of sharing stinky tofu and “gratuitous amounts of dumplings” in the night markets of Taipei, says Wang.
Yeager—the proprietor of Aspen’s venerable Jimmy’s—invited Wang, who does catering, consulting and “underground” culinary events through his company, King & Cook (formerly he was the chef at Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop), to join his staff on an October culinary tour of Wang’s native Taiwan. Yeager and his management team had already made the decision to close sister restaurant Jimmy’s Bodega because the landlord had plans to redevelop the property as early as this summer. After returning from Taiwan, Yeager asked Wang if he’d be interested in “testing out a winter pop-up concept” in the former space. Wang, who, in 2017, spent two months traveling and cooking in China to expand his knowledge of Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine, then recruited Ki Yong Kim—whose expertise lies in Korean and Japanese cuisine—to partner with him, and together they developed a menu inspired by their heritage, family traditions and mutual passion for East Asian dishes. “Those flavors and dishes are deeply rooted memories,” says Wang, of the home-cooked meals and restaurant banquets of his childhood.
Hao House (307 S. Mill St.) opened in December and became an instant hit. The rotating menu evolved organically, says Wang. “Japanuary” featured dishes such as beef sukiyaki and oyakodon, while this month honors the Chinese Lunar New Year with regional specialties from the mainland and Taiwan. In March, a Greatest Hits menu will include dishes like mapo tofu and zha jiang mian, a noodle dish Wang’s father prepared for him as a child. The shareable menu is accompanied by globally inspired cocktails, Asian beers, sake and wine.
For now, Wang is in his happy place, cooking what he calls “craveable” food derived from his and Kim’s taste memories. “We didn’t just pull recipes off of the internet; we’ve collected these from direct interactions with family members, friends and instructors, or developed them based on our own experiences. We offer what I call heritage flavors, pure tastes based on the original dish or at least our perception of it.”
If a craving for heritage flavor hits during the summer, visit @kingandcook for updates on Wang’s insanely popular restaurant ramen takeovers.
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