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Momofuku Kawi’s Once-Affordable Star Crab Dish Nearly Triples in Price

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But the $42 dish now has meat from three crabs — and is still worth trying, writes critic Ryan Sutton

The light brown bar at Kawi appears lit and ready for service
Kawi’s bar
Alex Staniloff/Eater

Kawi’s ganjang-gejang, raw blue crab sporting the texture of bone marrow, was one of the best dishes of the year from one of the city’s top new restaurants. Times critic Pete Wells awarded two stars to the Hudson Yards venue, while I doled out three. The modern Korean spot charged just $16 for the crustacean upon opening this spring, a heck of a deal in a luxe shopping center where a steak for one could top $100.

Well, the price has since gone up, by a lot. The crab is now $42, an increase that puts the venue more in line with this Maserati of a mall. And while that hike — easily one of the largest of the year — shouldn’t impact the core robber baron demographic of Hudson Yards, rational New Yorkers might politely ask, following a few expletives, whether it’s still worth it.

Raw blue crab sits in a pool of soy at Kawi
Kawi’s old raw crab dish: The crustacean sits over a pool of soy
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

The preparation, to be fair, has changed along with the price. It’s now spicy raw crab, or yangnyeom gejang. Kawi lets the sweet crustaceans marinate in soy, gochu garu, and habanero sauce to absorb all the brick red color and tongue-stinging heat. Her Name Is Han famously serves a face-melting version that costs just $18.

Size, as it turns out, is why it’s more spendy now. In the new version, Park uses three crabs, up from one, a Momofuku spokesperson tells Eater. She cuts one in half and serves it in its shell, then tosses the meat from two extra crabs with a pile of seasoned perilla rice. The chef also throws in a few soft beads of salmon roe for oily oomph.

The quality, at least, keeps pace with the cheaper original.

The raw crab still flaunts a wonderfully gelatinous texture, almost as if it were scooped from a larger bowl of shellfish Jell-O. And the extra meat now means that it’s easier to make lots of crab and rice rolls with the included nori. The only noticeable flavor changes are the obvious ones. The roe adds brine — raw crab by itself doesn’t pack such an intensely oceanic flavor. And the sauce, which is also laced with Fresno chile, adds a level of round, salty heat that’s uncommon for all but maybe one or two other fine dining restaurants in the city.

That is to say: The amount of heat here is just right.

Kawi’s new crab dish: brick-red spicy raw crab sits in a bowl over perilla rice and salmon roe
Kawi’s new crab dish: Gochugaru-marinated meat sits over perilla rice and salmon roe
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Is the new gejang offering still a BUY? Absolutely. I spent the better part of the days after thinking about the silky crab sliding down my throat and warming my lips. And mathematically speaking, three times the crab at just under three times the price is not a bad deal. But the question of whether the preparation actually should have ballooned in size is more complicated. The gejang is admittedly more elegant and complex than the bare bones version at Han.

But it’s also too bad when something so strikingly delicious, a dish whose accessible price likely attracted diners unfamiliar with the delicacy, becomes 163 percent more expensive. The original appeal of Kawi was that it was the least Hudson Yards-feeling of the Hudson Yards restaurants. The lower price on the old crab helped reaffirm that feeling. The hike does just the opposite.

Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.


Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).

Kawi

20 Hudson Yards, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001 (646) 517-2699 Visit Website

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