DINING OWL AWARDS: 4th – standout dishes; 4th – serving staff
When I visited: May 2013
Location: NYC, near NYU (between East 10th and 11st Street, 1st avenue, behind a discreet peach door) – NOW MOVED LOCATION
Team: Sean Gray (Executive Chef), David Chang (Chef and Founder)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 2 stars
What to wear: Could go casual
Ambience: Casual, you sit at the bar, all about the food
Course of the meal: Flying fish two ways
If I could change one thing: More comfortable seats
Ko is one of the most unusual and most special restaurant I’ve ever visited. It only seats about 11 people, so is very hard to get into; there is no dress code, so most of the diners look very casual; and you all sit at the bar and watch the food being created in front of you. The courses are tiny and pretty healthy, with an emphasis on lightness and protein, and the location of the restaurant is difficult to pinpoint as it’s hidden behind a discreet door with a peach on it (AMAZING) which makes you feel like you’ve gained entry to a secret club. The wine is also absolutely delicious.
I visited with my partner Owl and we had the dinner tasting menu, with a white Tonerre Agicote wine. We started with a fish crisp (reminiscent of those at Texture), followed by lobster with mustard seeds. We then had a standout course of flying fish done two ways, followed by Hamachi sushi and then mackerel with grated blood orange. To their credit, although the chefs were preparing this with impressive attention to detail while being watched by all the diners, they still took the time to be friendly and explain each dish, and laugh and joke with the guests.
Next we had scallop with bacon and milkless chowder with potato bread, followed by poached egg with caviar, potato crisps, and onion sous vide with potato bread. You can see from these middle courses that some of the ‘posh’ ingredients prevalent in Michelin restaurants (such as caviar and scallops) did appear here but they were presented in such unusual ways that they were far from standard or boring.
The fish theme continued with sea bass served with fern and mushrooms, then we had a rare meat course of smoked duck jerky with pea ravioli. Following these courses was perhaps the high point in a meal full of high points: frozen foie gras with lychee and pineapple – just utterly perfect and fresh. The ‘main’ courses ended with lamb, potato and garlic.
We got two desserts: lime meringue with coconut milk ice cream and dehydrated discs of lime meringue, and chocolate and sesame seed sauce with grapefruit. Amazing.
I would definitely recommend that anyone visiting NYC visit Ko, but as I said it is very hard to get into so you’ll probably have to put some effort into booking it beforehand and maybe compromise on your dining time / day if possible – it’s totally worth it!