The gas burners at Cote will never give you the sharp, dark, crackling edges that you find in the charcoal-grilled meats at Mapo Korean BBQ in Queens (and almost nowhere else in the town). The beef, though, is in all likelihood the best at any Korean barbecue place in NY. Its two closest opponents for steak supremacy are most likely Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong and Gaonnuri, and neither can match Cote for richness and concentrated taste.
One night I ignored the butcher’s feast path and went off-road therefore i could try some sirloin that were ripening downstairs for 138 days and nights. Steaks aged that long tend to be described as funky, but the word doesn’t cover this piece of meat. It tasted like something other than beef, or possibly beyond beef, considerably more condiment than necessary protein. At $80 for six ounces, it had been not my glass of barley tea, but it might be yours.
Next time, I’ll stick to the road even more traveled by. The butcher’s feast takes in the majority of the menu’s highlights, avoids the lowlights, and will so at a very good selling price for a steak supper.
No matter what or how you order, though, you will have to cope with Cote’s notions of when to serve the condiments and part dishes that make the difference somewhere between Korean barbecue and a heap of grilled meat. Pickled cauliflower and soy-marinated chayote (both very good), lettuce and ssamjang (the fermented bean paste) arrive as the beef begins cooking. Rice doesn’t arrive until midway through the meal, when you’re finally brought pickled daikon, kimchi, kimchi stew and fermented bean-paste stew. Gochujang may arrive in the beginning or at halftime.
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There is no one right way to consume Korean barbecue, but persons who prefer to bundle the meat into lettuce or shiso with a lump of rice and a pickled cabbage leaf will wonder why Cote parcels the side dishes out in stages.
That isn’t the simply case of the missing kimchi. I couldn’t tastes it in the fried rice “paella” with kimchi and Wagyu. The dish didn’t have very much in keeping with paella, either. I wouldn’t health care what it had been called if it were delicious, but like some of the other efforts to loosen Korean custom, it came off as timid.
Simon Kim, the owner, helps to keep saying in interviews that Cote is a Korean steakhouse. I understand why he wants to draw attention to the steak, but anybody who turns up expecting a kimchi-fied Smith & Wollensky will likely be very confused.
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You will search in vain for a baked potato or creamed spinach in David Shim’s menu. You can, however, get yourself a shrimp cocktail with gochujang cocktail sauce, an idea that’s not as good as it sounds. You can eat an adapted wedge salad with candylike lumps of bacon and an unresponsive tofu-sesame dressing. And, in a homage to Peter Luger, there is bacon as an appetizer, which actually is unsmoked and uncured pork jowl. It’s better with a smear of ssamjang, but most everything is.
More traditional Korean dishes tended to taste considerably more complete. If you would like more starch than rice by itself, the skinny wheat noodles in popular anchovy broth are simple and delicious. Cold noodles stirred at the table with slivered apples, lettuce and gochujang are spicy, lovely and refreshing. There’s a very good dolsot bibimbap, with a chewy bottom level crust where the rice meets the searingly popular bowl.
Aside from the meat locker, the other useful thought Cote borrowed from steakhouses is a wine list that’s chosen with beef at heart and can run into real cash if you’re not careful. Anyone hoping to locate a red for under $100 will find that a quick glance at, state, California or the Côte d’Or could be discouraging. But Victoria James, who wrote the list, located some pockets of affordability in Beaujolais, Southern France, Corsica and Switzerland, and she creates a small adventure from the wines by the cup, all poured from magnums.
Does Brouilly get with ssamjang? Can a Patrimonio get along with galbi? I didn’t know I wanted answers to these issues before Cote came along, but now I really do.
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