Restaurant Review: The Best of Tasting-Menu Culture Meets the Worst

I can’t remember the last New York restaurant that frustrated me as much as Noksu.

My frustration won’t be widely shared, given how few people can afford to eat there. Dinner is $225 for about 12 courses, before tax, tip or drinks. Drinks can be paired with each course for another $175 (with alcohol) or $100 (without).

It would be easier to dismiss Noksu if it weren’t for the cooking of its chef, Dae Kim. This is the first kitchen he has run and he’s full of talent, a star in the making. But his ideas need to be shaped and formed, and the setting he’s working in is so generic that it distracts from what’s distinctive in his cooking.

Most of what holds Noksu back are things it shares with, and may have copied from, other expensive tasting-menu restaurants. It tries so hard to fit in with Atomix, Kono, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and other places that it forgets to assert any identity of its own.

The restaurant is near the bottom of a subway stairwell.Credit…Rachel Vanni for The New York Times
A few minutes before dinner, a rolling gate goes up to reveal the locked door.Credit…Rachel Vanni for The New York Times

Noksu got some press early on because of its location, one flight below ground inside the 34th Street-Herald Square subway station. Apparently, the concept of $400 dinners a few yards from the turnstiles and tracks struck a lot of people as novel. I’m not sure why. Another generation would have called it slumming.

A few minutes before each of the two nightly services, a rolling gate clatters up to reveal a locked door with a keypad. To get inside, I punched in a six-digit code that had been texted to me several hours before. Behind the door was a heavy, floor-to-ceiling curtain. By this point, I was prepared to see anything behind it. A private sex club? Agent Cooper?

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