With the opening of Kawi in Hudson Yards, Pete Wells thinks David Chang is all grown up. The Times critic gives two stars to the new Momofuku restaurant which is, he claims, quieter than the usual from Chang, and also distinct in its location on top of a luxury mall. “The early Momofuku restaurants were skateboards,” Wells writes. “Kawi is a minivan with sliding doors, armrests, cupholders and Don Henley on the stereo. The ride may not be as fast, but it’s a lot smoother.”
Wells also asserts that this is the first NYC restaurant from Chang “to address Korean cuisine head on and at length.” Executive chef Eunjo Park — who he abundantly praises throughout — makes kimbap that “is built for pleasure,” he writes.
She has a pickled vegetable kimbap on the lunch menu that is truly exciting; you are meant to dip it in a dark liquid that tastes a bit like soy sauce but is made with beets. The dinner menu brings kimbap filled with chives, pickled daikon, citrus jelly and a buttery pink vein of foie gras terrine. Has this really never been done before, you wonder as you eat it, and if not, why not?
He also calls the hwedupbap, a raw fish dish, “as strikingly good as any you’ll find in a $200 omakase.”
But some of the showiness in this Hudson Yards setting rubs Wells the wrong way, as with the “forced” presentation of thee fried cod sticks that are cut in half by the server and then sprayed with atomized yuzu juice, and the $64 boiled chicken dish that comes with plain, sliced breast and fried and spiced dark meat that yields a combination he calls “bizarre.”
Overall, he finds the restaurant uncharacteristic of the typical Momofuku establishment, especially because of his observation that the restaurant isn’t really filling up yet. Two stars.
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.