REVIEW #71

Koi

Housed in the trendy Bryant Park Hotel, Koi bestrides NYC’s storied Bryant Park, and is stationed near the city’s media and fashion center. As a result, it is routinely populated by the fashion industry crowd and assorted other glitterati. Fittingly, the large, loud, multi-level restaurant is a paragon of design trendiness: minimalist dark wood, earth tones of orange, red and brown, lush bamboo shoots lining the perimeter along with other indoor garden landscaping, a real koi pond, sensual soft candle lighting and a dramatic sculptural canopy that can only be described as a gigantic fishnet or honeycomb.

One could be forgiven for assuming that this was a restaurant that aspired to cultivate a fashionable scene in dereliction of the food. That is far from the case, however, and Koi serves outstanding traditional Japanese dishes vivified with modern California accents. Food comes out on a rolling basis and is served family style.

Like several others we have mentioned on our list, this is a restaurant where it is important to have a deep familiarity with the shoals and reefs of the menu; not everything on the menu is exceptional, or even particularly good. But a properly ordered sequence of dishes is among the best Japanese meals in town. Begin with the koi crispy rice topped with spicy tuna. The dish is a postmodern deconstruction of a traditional piece of tuna sushi: the rice is a golden fried crunchy rice cake and the tuna is the consistency of the spicy tuna in a roll. Depending on the size of your party, consider following it with the light hamachi fusion, which is accompanied with soy citrus and truffle essence. Next, order either the creamy rocky shrimp or one spicy rock shrimp tempura hand roll for each person in your party. Follow these with the miso bronzed black cod, the steamed chilean sea bass and the koi dragon roll. Supplement your meal with our other recommended dishes if your party size warrants it.

Over the course of 10-15 meals, we have had very mixed experiences with the service at Koi, though it seems to have improved recently. This is not a hushed, formal restaurant – it is a loud, fun one that pulses with energy. Provided you go into it with your expectations appropriately calibrated, you can enjoy one of the best Japanese meals in the city.

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INFORMATION

Midtown South
40 W. 40th St.
New York (nr. Sixth Ave.)
(212) 921-3330
Mon-Thurs, 11:45am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11pm; Fri, 11:45am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11:30pm; Sat, 5:30pm-11:30pm, Sun, 6pm-10pm
    SoHo
    246 Spring St
    (212) 842-5500
    Mon-Wed, noon-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm; Thurs-Fri, noon-2:30pm, 6pm-11:30pm; Sat, 6pm-11:30pm; Sun, 6pm-10pm
      Nick Haque, Restaurateur

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