The inspiration for the name Kāwi, the new Korean-inspired, David Chang-run restaurant in the Hudson Yards complex, is at its most obvious when you order the spicy roasted rice cakes. The dish is based on the popular Korean street snack ddukbokki, which in its traditional form is a glorious mess of carbs and gochujang sauce, but at Kāwi, all those rough edges are completely edited out so that what’s only left is perfection, a single rice cake tightly coiled and covered in a smooth shellac of a spicy, caramelized sauce. It’s a dish too elegant for mere chopsticks, so instead, a server uses golden shears to cut and serve the pieces out to you, a culinary ribbon-cutting ceremony of sorts.
A highly edited and expensive version of Korean food is the theme at Kāwi. It’s consistent with the aura of luxury that Hudson Yards is going for, reminiscent of the super fancy malls that are quite common in Asia. Kimbap, a Korean version of the California roll, is something that we’d eat at school and church picnics, which is to say that it’s normally a cheap and filling snack, but at Kāwi, the prices start at $16 and can reach $59 if you want it fancy with uni. They do taste good, and I suppose if you’re a crazy rich Asian, which is the target audience, then money is no object.
The yesterday’s stinky soybean stew is more reasonably priced, and the flavors stay a little truer to its traditional roots, only the intensity of the soybean are appreciably winnowed down. If someone had told you that the paste had been fermenting underground for years, you wouldn’t have known it.
The most impressive edit was of the kakigori or shaved ice dessert. If you’ve ever had this at a Korean cafe, the shaved ice is piled high and weighed down with ice cream, mochi and fruit, but at Kāwi, the dessert feels weightless. You feel like you’re eating clouds, almost as if you’re eating nothing at all, and so the end of the meal feels like heaven rather than a sin.
20 Hudson Yards, #501 (between 10th and 11th Ave)
New York, NY 10001