Owner Lee Ae-ran is a force of nature. She’s the first female defector to earn a PhD, studying food and nutrition. Her restaurant, Neungra Bapsang, and her nonprofit, the North Korean Traditional Food Institute, provide jobs for female defectors and help them adjust to life in a capitalist society. And as for the food? She tells us: “Our goal isn’t taste; it’s nutrition. If you use good ingredients, the taste takes care of itself.” A good choice for spring is the dong-dal-naeng jeongol, a porkbased stew with two kinds of fragrant spring greens. Its heat and mild spice are tempered by the addition of doenjang and nutty perilla seed powder. The gamja mandu are another popular menu item—these dumplings have a thick and almost-translucent wrapper that’s pleasantly chewy to bite into, especially while they’re still warm (tip: eat them with the perilla leaf they come served on). If you order the mung bean pancake, take a bite with a piece of the pleasantly sour white kimchi on top. Perfection.