Katherine, a newly-opened venue offering upscale cocktails and Korean-inspired tapas, has opened in Midtown, NYC just a few blocks from Manhattan’s Koreatown. lready buzzing, it is the newest and only entry to midtown nightlife. Owner/entrepreneur/ chef/Korean restaurateur Tony Park, in keeping with naming his eateries and bakeries after family ( Antoya BBQ and Angelina Bakery are the names of his children), is calling the new lounge Katherine, in honor of his wife.
Walk into the lounge and look up to a vine-climbing plant at the top of which is a red tomato as large as a giant beach ball. The tomato hols that place of honor because Park’s wife, Katherine, is a tomato lover. The venue is warm and cozy with exposed brick walls, tables with chairs and banquettes and seats at the bar. There are gold and glass light fixtures over the bar, and candles on each table. The 65-seat, 1,421 square foot space is intimate, and the clientele and music are mainly Millennials. The idea is to turn the place into a buzzy nightlife destination. In warmer months, the front area will expand onto the sidewalk with glass doors opening the full width of the space.
Open the first page of the pamphlet-sized cocktail menu, and there are only two words: “For Katherine.” The second page explains the cocktail process, part of which is based on Benjamin Franklin’s milk washing punch process. First is the Milk Wash, marrying milk with a spirit for up to 48 hours. The citric acid causes the milk curds to separate. It is then filtered and strained, resulting in a velvety texture which melds the contrasting flavors together. The second process removes and clarifies solid particles from liquid, bringing out the essence while maintaining the aromatics. I asked my server, Nola, about the uniqueness of the cocktails. “It’s a science, and I love it,” she said. “It gets super geeky.”
There are many cocktail offerings (non geeky) developed by Japanese industry-expert Shigefumi “Shige” Kabashima of famed Angel’s Share and NR. Being a chocolate martini lover, I started with the closest thing to it: the Caffè Martini, a mix of vodka, coffee, milk brew, lillet blanc and miso. It was no thicker than tea, pleasing and not super sweet like a chocolate martini.
Next, I tried the AM Apple Dew, a mixture of gin, apple. Shiso, elderflower, prosecco, and edible roses. Nola came by with a spritzer of rosemary tincture for the drinks. The cocktail was very light, but extremely refreshing, and the flavors blended together perfectly. In short, I loved it.
Time to try some Korean-inspired tapas, small plates which the restaurant says will change seasonally. Right now, they offer Galbi Jjim (Korean short ribs), Black Cod, Tilefish, Duck, and others. I started with the Langoustine: two New Zealand shrimp with tuna, castella, and white kimchi. In other countries I’ve had to peal the shells myself; happily, not here. I took my first bite and the ingredients melted in my mouth: excellent.
Next, I went for the Spanish Octopus with leek, Idaho potato, Gochujang (a red Korean chili paste), Mojo sauce, and black olives. It was plated so beautifully, it seemed a shame to eat it – but of course I did, and it was delicious.
Time for a new drink. This time, I chose the Hey Mambo (Campari, sweet vermouth, yogurt, cola, grapefruit and Cacao). Not only was this my favorite (light and full of flavor), but it was served in the most unique vessel I’ve ever seen: an oval-shaped glass orb imported from Korea with a hole so it could be e sipped through a straw, and suspended from a hanging metal stand. The Hey Mambo was the most delicious of the three cocktails I tried, and not just because of the unique presentation.
I asked Nola exactly what was Katherine? She said, “The focus is on cocktails, but food marries everything together.”
And it certainly does. The Hey Mambo drink worked perfectly with the Sea Urchin from Santa Barbara served with Ossetra Caviar, Champagne, Dongchi-mi (radish water kimchi) and creme fraiche. Over the top.
If I weren’t so satiated, I would have tried everything else on the drink and food menus, but I couldn’t imbibe or eat another bite.
Tony Park, known for his Korean culture as well as his creative and innovative characteristics, plans to open five more nearby restaurants before the New Year. With his focus on venues around Koreatown, Park has helped grow the neighborhood into a culinary destination. I have no doubt, that even with only a month left, Park will succeed in completing the projects. In the meantime, get to Katherine for a unique and delicious drinking/tasting experience. Katherine is located at 41 West 35th Street. Reservations can be made through OpenTable.
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