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: All of the above