The main draw of Steve Hanson's new Japanese eatery Kibo is the involvement of famed French chef Joël Robuchon, who consulted with executive chef Darrell Raymond on a menu that features sushi and a robata grill, along with a selection of noodles and small plates. Housed in the former Japonais space, Kibo is big. Like, two levels with two large bars, a sushi bar, robata grill and DJ booth, big. Also large in size is the selection of over 100 sakes.
While some reviewers dig the uber-slick shtick of the place, others are less than impressed. The same goes for the food.
The Good News: The Oyster Blog's thoughts on the opening party: “Although the space did not change much, the food certainly transformed itself, reappearing more tasteful, creative and inviting. The sake was flowing, and the food just kept coming. After a few pieces of made to order sushi, we made our way over to the robata where skewers of beef were coming hot off the stone heated grill. Savory satisfied, we concluded on a sweet note of in-house made mochi ice cream. I with the green tea, and my friend with the mango.” [The Oyster Blog]
The Bad News: One Yelper had nothing nice to report save for a friendly waiter: “Ate here last night. Just OK food. The kind that you can get anywhere in NYC. Nothing special. Large, loud dining area. Think Times Square meets Epcot and you get the idea. It's almost a theme restaurant. Wait staff is not Japanese. Out of towners will love it here. If you love Japanese food stick to the large number of authentic places around the city. Waiter was friendly.” [Yelp]
The Not Even Going to Bother News: A Few Eater commenters have made up their mind before even taking a seat. One writes, “Kibo is a dated non-innovative copycat concept. The decor and the menu style/food have all been done before. Did we really need another one of these??? Common sense and a little market research would have given Hanson the answer..." Another commenter writes, “Excepting maybe the Wagyu ribeye, there is absolutely zilch on that menu that's outstanding or special. I'm all for accessibility, but all that money for something flat? And a four-dollar bowl of rice is trulyamazeballs. It's like a Ruby Foo's for the pseudo-downtown set that doesn't want to think too hard about going out for Asian food in a scenemaker space.” [Eater Comments]
The Shill (With a Hint of Honesty?): One Yelper admits she was invited by BRGuest to opening night and actually reports both the good and less than, including her experience with a blasse California roll: “I came here last night with a friend who works for BRGuest for opening night. It has a really trendy vibe and probably which isn't something you will find a lot of in Gramercy/Flatiron, so I think the placement of this restaurant is an interesting touch. We sat at the bar and the bartenders were very friendly and helpful when explaining the menu. Their specialty drinks were OK, but it felt like something was missing...the taste was very light and clean, which I guess goes well with a menu that is predominantly fish, but I would have preferred a little more boldness. We tried several plates of food and everything was phenomenal; most notably the cod melted like butter in your mouth. Their sushi rolls were good, but one (can't recall the name and they don't have a menu listed yet) was basically a California roll with something on top, so overall not that impressive. The beef tartar was really amazing, but the only thing I would recommend is not making it look like a raw hamburger that is ready to be put on the grill; that certainly threw us off a bit. I know I'm eating raw meat, but perhaps they should adjust the shape a little. Again, we had a fantastic meal with impeccable service. This is a great addition to the neighborhood and when you're finished with your meal you can always head over to Flute or the Flatiron Lounge to continue your night and not have to go too far.” [Yelp]
The Surprisingly Good News: Says an Eater reader: "I really wasn't expecting much given it's a Steve Hanson place and give the menu looked very Ruby Foo's. But my wife and I were just blown away. We didn't try the sushi but everything else was great, especially the American wagyu. I just wish the place wasn't so damn loud, perhaps they would get some actual food lovers in there." [Eater Tipline]
The Social Media Tipsters: Here is what one Foursquare member had to say: “The edimame is fantastic! Sit in the lounge for dinner, its much nicer. ” [Foursquare] One tweeter wrote, “@kibonyc, in the hizzouse with a bonsai tree of mint in my drink at the bar.” Another wrote, “@kibonyc is my new favorite @BRGuestHospitality restaurant and my new go-to spot in the hood.” [Foursquare & Twitter]