I’m a big Open Table user. I’m like a glutton for punishment with this site. For out-of-town bookings – I’m in anytime, anyplace. Locally? SOL. And yet they’ve got me coming back for more. Definition of insanity? Perhaps. I’ll look up the same spots over and over and they’ll be booked, regardless of how early I try to snag ’em. And then there are The Others. Those places that always have space. ALWAYS. I could search for a table for 10 for the next night, et voila! – I’m in. Except I’m not. Because of course I’d never book somewhere that was so readily available. Y’know, the whole not wanting to belong to any club that would have me as a member thing….
Such was the case with Koko Share Bar. Any time I visited Open Table, there it was. Table for 2 on a Saturday night during Winterlicious? No problem. Last minute table for 10? Sure, come on in. Rent out the whole place for a private function? The more the merrier. The reviews were uniformly good. The menu sounded kinda perfect for me – modern Korean/Japanese Tapas. And yet they were always willing to have me.
What was wrong with this place?
Curiosity finally got the better of me when I had to find a table for 6. Six who didn’t want the twilight dinner special or the 9:30 seating. Since my top five (ok, ten) weren’t having us, I was left with no choice but to finally bite the bullet, book ‘er down, and head on over to the subterranean spot on Yorkville. Our first impression was that it was yet another cheap ‘n cheerful sushi bar. The kind you’d walk past without registering (which, um, my Man has. Daily.) But a cheery “how ya goin'” from our Aussie server won us over. And once the food started coming, we were hooked.
We decided to go family-style – it was called “share bar” right? After ordering a slew of Soju-based cocktails we were primed. (Soju, for those not in the know, is like the Korean version of Vodka). And then the food started coming. And coming. And coming. First up were veggie gyoza – nice ‘n light ‘n crispy. Next came their “signature modern” sushi and sashimi. YOWSA!!! Tuna marinated in a maple-balsamic reduction was ridiulously tasty. And the torched butterfish with daikon and ponzu was melt-in-your-mouth mmmmm goodness. Maki rolls were unlike anything I’d seen before. The Scallop with armelized shallots were just “ish” for me – I prefer raw to seared. But the Maguro Tuna with the spicy kimchee mayo and okra??? Spec. Tac. U. Lar. Equally unforgettable were the Oysters KOKO – battered and flash fried they gave the traditional raw bad boys a run for their money.
Next came a “Bossam” platter: Spicy chicken, slow roasted crispy pork belly and Korean BBQ beef served with rice, lotsa fun sauces and lettuce leaves to wrap it all up. It was enormous, but we took it down. And fast. A plate of miso black cod was practically inhaled. It was all a little different. And a lot of delicious. Unusual. And incredible.
We were tempted to ride this food train until it’s final stop: Grilled Short Ribs… Spicy Boullaibaisse Hot Pot… Wok-tossed mussels…And so much more sushi, so little time… Unlike some of us who gnawed on garnishes and practically licked the table (you know who you are, L), this place was all class. They handled an allergy issue with aplomb and service was impeccable. Each dish was brought to us already divided into 6, ensuring no one was left out. Maybe they always serve in sixes – I’ll find out when I return. Oh yes, I’ll be back. All of us will. So don’t be surprised if you try to book on Open Table and it’s no longer available. KOKO Share Bar is a secret just waiting to be spilled.