The restaurateurs Bobby Kwak and Joseph Ko have teamed up with executive chef Dae Kim—a 20-something who previously worked under Thomas Keller at the Michelin three-star Per Se—on the subterranean chef’s-counter spot, which boasts a mere 13 seats. Opening Friday, Noksu will have just two seatings nightly, during which you’re served both dinner and a show, as the kitchen team carves squab and tweezers tiny flowers onto the beautiful plates.
While that image may bring forth ideas of staid fine dining, Noksu isn’t that. Over the din of lively conversation, you’ll hear Whitney Houston coming from the speakers, part of an ’80s-focused playlist that’s way more fun than elevator music. And the servers will encourage you to eat with your hands, at least for the aforementioned squab. The bird, which has been aged, smoked, and glazed, is Kim’s nod to the ducks you see hanging in Chinatown restaurant windows. Here, it’s served alongside puffed duck feet and a truffle bao bun filled with squab liver, the chef’s take on Korean bar snacks. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, it’s a delight—and the servers will offer you extra napkins to clean up your mess.
The 12-course menu ($225 per person) is a stunning display, with the dishes plated to perfection and the servingware part of the story too. One of the earliest dishes is also one of the most exquisite: a sardine, aged in plum vinegar and sliced into four neat rectangles, served atop a potato crisp with Caesar emulsion and Castelfranco. The fish, heartier than your Caesar salad’s anchovy, is an umami-packed snack that prepares your palate for the larger dishes. Those include a decadent hen-egg custard topped with surf clams in a scallion emulsion and Kaluga caviar, as well as a tender, almost salmon-like piece of trout alongside a teensy artichoke flower. For dessert: a palate cleanser of winter melon with passionfruit and apple, before black-and-white dragonfruit topped with cream sorbet.
For an extra $175, the beverage pairing includes a varied selection of wines from Europe and the States, plus some beer (to eat with your squab bar snacks) and Korean rice wine. The sommelier and beverage director Juliette Dottle will expertly walk you through each drink, with a conversational approach that even the least oenophilic diner will be able to appreciate.
Who knew that the New York subway could be so delightful?
Click here to see all the images of Noksu.