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A hand with painted nails holds up a piece of fried chicken against an orange background.
A fried drumstick from Coqodaq.

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Meet New York’s Fanciest Fried Chicken

Dinner can cost $50 or $1,500 at Coqodaq, the new restaurant from the Michelin-starred steakhouse Cote

There’s a famous Portlandia sketch where Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein play two well-meaning diners debating whether to order the chicken. “Is it local?” they ask their server. “Do you have a good relationship with the farm?” The skit takes a turn when the restaurant pulls out the chicken’s birth certificate. The bird they’re about to eat has a name, Colin, and he likes sheep’s milk, soy, and hazelnuts.

If you haven’t seen the episode, you’re in luck: The real thing opens tonight in Flatiron. Simon Kim, the owner of the Michelin-starred steakhouse Cote, is opening his newest restaurant at 12 E. 22nd Street, near Broadway. It’s called Coqodaq, a portmanteau of the French and Korean words for chicken, and it serves the city’s fanciest fried chicken.

For starters, the chickens eat better than you do. The birds grow up on Mennonite farms in Pennsylvania, but instead of hazelnuts, they eat misshapen farmer’s market produce and vegetable scraps from Michelin-starred restaurants, like Le Bernardin. After eight weeks of the good life, they’re sent to Flatiron where they’re breaded in gluten-free rice flour and triple-fried in sustainable oil. For those who believe they are what they eat, this is one of the more compelling places to have dinner right now.

The fried chicken is surprisingly affordable for all the fuss. It’s served with all sorts of sides as part of a $38 set menu, called the Bucket List. The meal starts with a cup of consomme that’s fortified with ginseng: to “coat your stomach for a big feast to come,” Kim says. Next comes banchan: pickled daikon, celery, and more. The fried chicken is served in two waves: First, “naked” with homemade dipping sauces, like barbecue and honey mustard; then, in the Korean style, glazed with either a gochujang or soy garlic sauces.

Somehow, that’s not all. After the chicken, there’s still a bowl of noodles tossed with soy sauce, seaweed, and perilla leaves, plus lemon soft serve for dessert. It’s a generous quantity of food, even by the gluttonous standards of a food writer.

Coqodaq, a Korean fried chicken restaurant with high, vaulted ceilings.
Coqodaq has 190 seats.

Kim calls Coqodaq a cathedral of fried chicken. The metaphor is justified with all sorts of intentional details, from the high vaulted ceilings to the row of green sinks by the entrance, where customers can wash themselves with exfoliating Hermès hand soap before eating.

It also shows up in ways he probably didn’t mean. Like an actual church, the restaurant wouldn’t work if people didn’t sin. “If everybody came in and ordered the Bucket List and left, I don’t think I would be able to sustain my business,” Kim says.

The business relies on customers ordering more than chicken, so Kim and his partner, chef Seung Kyu Kim, have invented a hundred and one temptations. There are seafood towers, $800 tins of caviar, $18 chicken nuggets with trout roe, and a list of 400 Champagnes rumored to be the largest in the country. Dinner can cost $50, if you order the set meal and the cheapest glass of Champagne — or $1,500 with chicken, caviar, and a bottle of bubbles.

Eater’s longtime critic, Ryan Sutton, had a formula for evaluating restaurants like this. He would take the cheapest starters, mains, and desserts on the menu and add them up — then do the same with the most expensive ones. The range between the two extremes is telling.

Take Sailor in Fort Greene, where a four-course meal for two will cost anywhere from $120 to $163, a reasonable range of $43. Or look at Rolo’s in Ridgewood, where the difference between the cheapest and most expensive meals is about $61. The nice thing about menus like these is that diners usually feel like they’re getting the full experience. When dishes cost similar amounts, people can choose what to order based on what they want, without worrying too much about individual prices. But when the range is, say, $200 or more, the thoughts start to creep in: “Did I miss out?”

Kim isn’t denying it. At Coqodaq, the price of the set menu is subsidized by big ballers. “Some people will obviously spend a lot more money,” he says, “which will help us serve a very value-driven food menu.”

Even if the fried chicken is priced for the masses, that doesn’t mean the restaurant will be for everyone. If you fall in the camp, you can always do what Armisen and Brownstein did at the end of that Portlandia skit, and drive out to those Mennonite farms yourself.

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