July 20, 2019 Update:
Its a new record me thinks. The quickest update in the history of Eating With me. While the EWZ statisticians check the validity of these claims, let me tell you how awesome Kawi is. Kawi is awesome! Its scary how easy it is to get a table for 4 on a Saturday night. They keep a big chunk of the space for walk-ins it seems, and its just a little unnerving to get in so easily when you account the quality here. Lets call it mild Ma Peche Syndrome. The location in Hudson Yards may have something to do with it.
But in three months, Kawi got even better. Shortly after the first report, they started to offer dinner, and essentially unleashing phase two. Stews, specifically Yesterday’s Stinky Soybean Stew that is generating a lot of attention but absent on our last visit. Instead we settled for the Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, a fiery meat stew with sweet potatoes that were no match to the Habanero. If you like spicy meat stews you will enjoy this even in the summer.
You can have an enjoyable meal here just by ordering from the Hot Anju column. You will be hard pressed to find better wings than the white pepper wings, flakier fried fish than the cod, and more flavorful ribs. All already mentioned below. But the dish to get these days may very well be related to my least favorite dish from the previous post, rice cakes. The Wagyu Ragu with table side scissored rice cakes has the type of Umaminess not experienced since I tried the Ssam Bar spicy rice cakes.
But I’m yet to have a flawless meal here. While we enjoyed the rice that came with the Grilled NY Strip, the beef wasnt particularly beefy or inspiring last time. And note to self: Skip Trading Card drink, stick to BTS
April 16, 2019 Post:
I will start this one the same way I started the previous post. It took me some time to warm up to Hudson Yards. After all, it represents everything that is wrong with NYC dining today. Higher rents and a surging mouth shift from the mom and pop to the corporate. One doesnt need to walk too far to find available space, and the rate of closures seems to be accelerating. There’s a street on 3rd Ave between St Marks and Stuyvesant where every single retails space is available. They were all taken not too long ago. With Hudson Yards we got a little closer to Vegas.
With that said, its hard to curb the Hudson Yards enthusiasm. A mega public art piece dedicated to the Shawarma (aka Vessel). Little Spain with its big names, and little balls. Jose Andres is from Asturias, so why not serve Asturian dishes that are hard to impossible to get here like Fabada and Arroz con Pitu instead of more Paella which is really just a Valencian specialty. And then there are the new Momofukus to save the day. Peach Mart, a new Fuku branch, and Kāwi – perhaps the #1 reason to go to Hudson Yards today.
This is another Momofuku outpost where the cuisine is hard to describe to out of towners. Executive Chef Eunjo Park describes it as “playful” and thats pretty much how you can describe the rest of the Momofukus. Inventive, Asian (mostly Korean) influenced lab recipes. I call it Momofunk. While this one feels more Korean than the others, the Kitchen, for the time being at least, consists of Fuku All Star Avengers, like Josh Pinsky, bringing in some of their own influences. The sweet and sour ribs, the clams – I’ve seen clips of this movie before. But while Park is getting some temporary help, this is entirely her baby.
As of this writing, Kawi is open for lunch only. I cant think of any such place that started as such, but considering the location it makes sense in this case. Rumors are that dinner will include more stews and much of the same. The space is spacious and quite striking. Some of it overlooking the very open, action packed kitchen. On my fist visit, while sitting facing that kitchen, I witnessed a team of five chefs and managers closely, and somewhat nervously following a health inspector. At some point me and the inspector briefly exchanged smiles and nods, so I would like to believe I had something to do with the earned “A”. This place is cleaner than my house after cleaning.
Here’s the food rundown at Kawi which means scissors in Korean, hence the brilliant cutting edge title…
White Pepper Wings – The prototypical wings at a higher dining establishment. There’s a curious Yelp review out there urging to skip this item – “The wings are not crispy and the chicken meat is not juicy”. That could be so at that time, but what I got was pretty much the opposite. Crispy, peppery, and juicy alright. These are three whole wings, and a must get for the wing lovers of the world.
Fried Cod – In a strange way, this glorified mini fish and chips without the chips might be the most memorable dish here for me. You will be hard pressed to find a flakier, more fresh-tasting, lightly battered fish. But its the gentle Yuzu spray that elevates it to the point of thinking about it many days later.
Sweet & Sour Ribs – No surprise here as I’ve had and touted similar ribs at Nishi before. While its a slightly different flavor profile, this is the same fall of the bone, succulent goodness.
Madai Tartare – One can live here a lifetime and not realize the importance of raw seafood (Hwe or Hoe) in Korean cuisine. Kawi has a column devoted to it. Called a Snapper but technically a prized Sea Bream, this is a firm, delicious fish treated properly at Kawi. I would opt for at least one “HWE” here.
Spicy Yellowfin Tuna Kimbap (top)- If you like spicy tuna rolls, you may want to avoid this at all costs as you may not be able to enjoy them the same way again. Love that crunch from the fried Myoga (ginger) bits especially.
Spicy Roasted Rice Cakes – Just like at Ssam Bar, this is yet another brilliant use of rice cakes, that come with scissors. Its topped with a good amount of crispy puffed rice, chili jam and ham that blends in nicely. While interesting, this is more of a large side dish, suited for larger groups as its big and can be a bit heavy.
Dry-Aged Striploin Set – Just what dry-aged beef should taste like. Served with a Miso-like soup, an assortment of fried veggies, and delicious rice with more beef fat.
BTS – One of the cocktails we tried. I wouldnt list a cocktail unless its good. Its good! Soju, honey, strega, lemon. On the sweeter side, but nicely balanced.
Kakigōri – This is their version of the Japanese ice dessert. Ultra light, not too frozen shaved ice with whipped cream, ginger syrup, and pear. Like a perfected Halo-Halo.
20 Hudson Yards
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Cod, Wings, Ribs, Tuna Kimbap, Madai Tartare, Oxtail & Brisket Jjim, Wagyu Ragu Rice Cakes, Kakigōri, BTS (drink)