Eating at Kāwi is a conflicting experience. For every serotonin bump you’ll get from the excellent pickled brisket and rice cakes at this Korean restaurant, you’ll wilt a little inside remembering you’re in a windowless room on the fifth floor of a mall. And after the meal, you’ll spend just as much time memorializing the stewed oxtail as you will assuring yourself you’re giving up on capitalism and never coming back to Hudson Yards ever again.
Ups and downs aside, Kāwi is the best restaurant in Hudson Yards. It’s a Momofuku restaurant where you could celebrate birthdays, impress out-of-towners, and take advantage of those times when paydays and good hair days overlap. But you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you head to this dystopian mall on the far west side of Manhattan. So here’s a preview.
Minute 0: Get off the 7 train at the end of the line. Realize you still have to walk the length of a small college campus to even get to the restaurant.
Minute 5: Rubberneck past the copper staircase sculpture that leads to nowhere called “The Vessel.” Nod to the Cartier watch displays and lose count of how many escalators it takes to find the front door of Kāwi - a Korean restaurant from the Momofuku team serving excessive things like foie gras kimbap rolls, truffle-parmesan rice cake noodles, and meaty stews.
Minute 10: Once you’re seated in what is possibly the biggest restaurant booth in all of New York City, order a cocktail that comes in a ceramic mug shaped like a maneki-neko cat. Get used to the idea of drinking out of cat mugs in big booths, like you’re a tiny child whose feet don’t touch the floor. Examine the other luxury children filling out the rest of the booths in the restaurant. This is who you are now.
Minute 13: Notice there are no windows inside of Kāwi’s two-room space. Panic only slightly. Assume you’re mistaken. Look around again. You are not mistaken. It’s a cage. Its a cage with expensive hand cream called “suede” in the bathroom. It’s a cage with a climate-controlled wine locker. Look for the exit signs.
Minute 25: Starters arrive. These come from the two top sections of the menu, anju (food typically eaten while drinking) and hwe (raw seafood). Eat a piece of the mustardy pickled brisket and pick up a white pepper chicken wing, which is great with a squeeze of lemon. Forget for a moment that you’re in a windowless room. The food is that good.
Minute 29: Take a sip of water and reach for the bowl of raw clams with sofrito and chili oil on the table. The clams are briny, chewy, and feel like they’ve been in your mouth for too long. Go back to eating the brisket.
Minute 46: A server comes over to check in. Kevin. Make small talk with Kevin. Laugh with Kevin. Politely end the exchange by blinking more than is typical in human conversation. Goodbye Kevin.
Minute 55: A person who is not Kevin approaches with large craft scissors and a cast-iron bowl filled with long, noodly rice cakes. There are two rice cake dishes on the menu, both are cut and mixed tableside. Try the one with summer truffles and parmesan - it’s cheesy and great, and should be boxed and sold nationwide. The other one, with wagyu ragu, is comparably worse: it’s over-the-top rich, meaty, and becomes too salty after bite number four.
Minute 72: The peak of the meal and overall happiness at Kāwi comes in the form of a big bowl of spicy-sweet oxtail and brisket jjim. It’s dark brown in color, steaming, and you won’t want to pay attention to anything else on the table next to it. Recline and sink into your big booth. Ponder coming back to Hudson Yards.
Minute 80: The foie gras terrine kimbap roll arrives. This is the most ridiculously excessive dish here. There are twelve pieces laid out in a circle, creating a huddle around a bowl of soy sauce. Each roll is wrapped in rice and seaweed, and tastes distinctly like biting into a stick of unsalted butter. No one needs to spend $40 to experience it. Where are the windows? Help.
Minute 90: See a pile of shaved ice go by and land on another table. Realize you cannot leave Kāwi without ordering this ice mountain dessert for yourself. It comes out. After a few scoops, decide it’s really just blueberries, ice, and a photographic moment.
Minute 101: The bill comes in a nice green binder. Try to guess the check. Think about whether or not it’s possible to have a meal for two at Kāwi for under $100. Probably not - go with $150. Open the binder and discover that you’re still thirty short (without tip) and put down a credit card. Dinner was expensive, but you could have had a much more expensive meal in this mall, and it likely wouldn’t have been as memorable.
Minute 110: Pick up leftovers at the host stand. Lunch will be good tomorrow.
Minute 112: Walk across the pristine, fluorescent, and empty mall like it’s the end of the movie and all the infection-carrying-zombies are long gone. Smile without teeth at the security guard smiling without teeth back. Get lost at least twice making your way down the escalators. Worry you might never rejoin the civilians of New York City. Distract yourself with the memory of the stews, rice cakes, and brisket. Appreciate Kāwi for what it is, even though it’s where it is. Think about the stew again.
Our favorite appetizer, and something we think everyone who goes to Kāwi should try. The pickled brisket is tender, and comes with a perfectly mustardy frisee salad on the side.
Crispy, simply seasoned, and served extremely hot. Give them a minute to cool down, squeeze some lemon on top. These are really good.
This tartare isn’t as flashy as some of the other dishes - and that makes it more forgettable. But it’s nice and acidic, and the pieces of madai (a type of seabream used a lot in Japanese and Korean cooking) are pretty big - so you’ll be able to taste how high-quality the fish is.
These raw clams are small, chewy, and will inevitably feel like they’ve been in your mouth for too many seconds. Having said all that, the sofrito and chili oil sauce is delicious.
Imagine a spicy tuna roll that gets invited to the Met Gala every year. Its accessories include pickled ginger, scallions, and big hunks of tuna. There are twelve pieces, and each of them cost more than a subway fare.
These are essentially butter wrapped in rice and seaweed. Seek a cardiologist after eating them (but, seriously, don’t order these).
This is one of the dishes that will make you forget you’re in a mall. It’s creamy, full of boiled potatoes and sweet pork belly, and absolutely delicious. Also - the portion is enough for leftovers (which you’ll be extremely thankful for the next day). It comes with kimchi shaped like a heart and a bowl of rice on the side.
Another stew we love. This one is spicy, rich, and feels exciting to have in the middle of your table. Partly because the brisket and oxtail are so good, partly because of how large it is, and partly because time sort of stops when you’re eating it. Add some rice and pickled ginger to your bowl - both come on the side.
The novelty here is that a server will come over and shave white summer truffles on top of the dish and then cut the rice cakes for you with a big pair of scissors. Aside from all of that, it’s pretty much just a good bowl of chewy, cheesy noodles.
This dish is not in the anju section of the menu, but it definitely tastes like something you’d eat while drinking. It comes with a meaty sauce and an egg on top - which only makes it richer and more intense than it already is. But, overall, it’s a bit too salty.