KOA Review – Modern Chinese Japanese Fusion Restaurant
By Jennifer Shanteau; Photos by Christopher Hart
I have to admit, living and dining in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York, has jaded my palate. It constantly says, “been there, done that”, so when I hear the word “fusion” while describing a restaurant, my palate gets excited, because fusion, to me, means “delightful surprise“. KOA, a modern Chinese restaurant with heavy Japanese influences did not disappoint, and delightfully surprised, I was.
With lighting complimentary even on your worst hair day, and swanky background music, the ambiance of KOA can only be described as sexy. It definitely made me want to put on my sultriest face and drink something fancy, pinky in air. Ali, my attentive and informative waiter, was happy to provide a suggestion, one of the daily cocktail specials, the Green Tea Martini. Seeing how both Green Tea and Vodka are daily staples in my current existence, I did not see one reason to deny their melange.
Its a frothy beverage made from the afore mentioned Green Tea, Vodka and a special high quality Soy Milk they import from Japan, which I was assured had 40% less calories than regular Soy Milk, and thus was claimed to be healthier. Green Tea and low cal Soy Milk…so this is a health drink then, right? I mean, technically, Vodka is a probiotic. Since it was so healthy, I decided to have a few, just to ensure longevity. My dining companion procured for himself one of the other specialties of the night, the Green Tea Margarita, which was refreshingly more sour than sweet, and being that I’m not a fan of saccharine, I loved it.
At KOA, you can enjoy their tasting menu, or dine a la carte. Since my first recommendation of the evening was spot on, I trusted the second, and went with the tasting menu. The first delectable bite that was placed before me ended up being one of my favorites, and was something I could have eaten all night long, Crispy Yuzu Shrimp. I am not exaggerating when I say I cannot remember the last time I had Shrimp this good. It was perfectly cooked, and the crispy topping and Yuzu Sauce complemented each other perfectly.
Next came the always welcomed site of Steamed Pork Buns, moist and flavorful with a slight twist. Just when I thought a Steamed Pork Bun couldn’t get any better, cue the addition of Romano Cheese.
Following that was the Hehe-A-He Chicken and a piping hot bowl of Dynamite Tofu Nabe. If spicy is your ticket, order these. I couldn’t help but wonder who I could hire to deliver this Dynamite Tofu Nabe on the next bone chilling cold winter day when I cannot peel myself from my sofa. I would gladly trade in my chicken soup for a bowl of this the next time I’m feeling the need for healing nourishment.
You’d think at this point I would’ve felt stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey in November, but Executive Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya, who I had the distinct honor to meet, created such balance between every course that I was ready for more. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Chef Yuji Wakiya, you will instantly get it. Not to be “new agey”, but there is a sense of serenity in his presence.
Thank god I did have more room, because the house signature dish, Soymilk Dan Dan Sorba arrived next. This, I was told, was one of their most popular dishes, and I believe it. It tasted like a hug, it was so comforting. First of all, like I mentioned before, their Soymilk is a different breed of Soymilk than the lot we are used to. It has a certain lightness and sweetness that I’ve not tasted in any others, and no weird aftertaste. They told me they are actually going to begin selling it in September, so add that to my grocery list.
The Sorba, a unique fusion of Chinese Ramen and Japanese Soba Noodles is what they are known for. To my knowledge, no one else does this. They make all of their noodles in house, and if you’re seated in the back dining room, you can watch a video being projected on the wall showing traditional Japanese noodle making….loved that. Oh, and if that isn’t enough to satisfy your noodle creating curiosity, they will be giving live demonstrations in September, as well.
My evening ended with the Iced Frappe. I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t care much for dessert, so when I took a bite, and then another, and another, and another, its a sign magic is indeed happening. The Frappe is composed of Shaved Ice and Condensed Milk topped with some Berries. It was light and not too sweet, a really good dessert, even by my standards.
So, the next time your jaded New York palate leads you to believe there is nothing new to be had, go, no….run to KOA and prove otherwise.