Sharing the name of the culinary game

Yorkville fusion restaurant shines

KOKO! SHARE BAR is too good to miss. The Yorkville Avenue location is primo, but the subterranean position has its challenges.

A casual stroller might miss this place entirely, and that would be a shame. The cuisine is creative, the food quality is terrific, and the atmosphere is gracious.

The team of Sang Kim, in the front of the house; Veronica Joo; and master chef Shin Aoyama, in the kitchen, honed their partnership at Ki Modern Japanese. Together they have created a welcoming haute Korean restaurant with a Japanese twist.

Sharing is encouraged.We sit at a long, beautiful table with eight strangers. Chairs along one side of the table are most comfortable, but the bench along the wall side is hard and unyielding — cushions, please. Chopsticks come in cases that we are invited to sign in silver ink upon our departure.

The experience of opening a box with someone else’s name contributes to the global experience.

Bossam and temaki are featured, and each is $25 per person, minimum of two. Temaki presents as a gorgeous platter of sashimi, shrimp tempura, grilled vegetables and soft shell crab accompanied by rice, crispy nori, garlic mayo and sweet soy. A perfect summer dish but it is cold tonight and we want food that warms our cockles.

Bossam is a platter of three meats: slow-roast pork belly, spicy chicken and Korean BBQ beef. These are meant to be turned into wraps, enclosed by a selection of Boston lettuce or Napa cabbage, onions, rice, sweet chili paste, spicy mayo and salted baby shrimp.

Messy for sure but worth the effort. The chicken is deep fried and then sautéed, producing crispy yet juicy nuggets. Beef is a tangle of sweet/savoury micro slices that are no different from the bulgogi that can be found on every city block. Pork belly is not all created equal. Surely this is high-quality meat, but it only works when the fat component is meltingly yielding.

As it cools, it congeals, and this dish suffers for it.

Far more exciting to us is the spicy seafood bouillabaisse hot pot that we share as an appetizer.

The broth is an almagam of anchovy stock fortified with grilled chicken stock (chicken dashi). The pot is placed on a tabletop warmer and is teeming with black cod, mussels, tiger prawns and Hokkaido scallops. Of such things are dreams made ($22).

The problem with ordering a large platter is that it limits one’s opportunity to sample widely.

There are four listings under “signature modern roll,” and we have a wonderful creation of hotate (seared scallops) and caramelized shallots. I also score a piece of butterfish, described as “torched escolar, garlic stem and tamarilemon,” from the people beside us (it is that kind of place).

The delicate sweetness outshines even the scallop rendition. All signature rolls are $13 for six pieces.

The beverage list is concise but thoughtful, with an emphasis on sake.Three homemade desserts are offered tonight: chocolate cake, green tea cake with white chocolate, and the one we choose to share: banana mousse with caramel on a raspberry-blueberry purée. The ideal finale.


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