A secret code is required to access the restaurant of the young and talented Chef Dae Kim – Nōksu. What sets it apart is its unique location within the New York subway.
Dae Kim is a young chef who trained at the three-Michelin-starred Per Se by Thomas Keller and Silver Apricot by Simone Tong. Kim was born in Korea, moved to America at the age of fourteen, and has always sought to expand his culinary knowledge, from Korean to French, Chinese to Japanese, garnering the attention of the Michelin Guide, which recently featured his journey. With such an impressive resume, he decided to open Nōksu. However, the restaurant's distinctiveness lies in its extraordinary location inside the Manhattan subway, precisely at the Herald Square station. Nontheless Nōksu is situated in a secret space accessible only by entering a code to unlock the heavy metal door.
"I'm very excited to open a restaurant in the subway station. The iconic culture of New York City starts right there. People sing, dance on the trains, multicultural – it all begins there. An essential element of the Big Apple, a true iconic environment, so why not build an equally iconic restaurant inside it? Nōksu could serve as a 'gateway' to Koreatown," says Kim.
But what do you eat in this unusual New York venue? Each course awakens the senses with excellent ingredients, ranging from seafood to game. The dishes are paired with well-thought-out wine and creative cocktails, enjoyed with a pleasant 1980s music playlist. Kim's favorite dish is mackerel, prepared using the Japanese shime saba technique.
"Shime means marinating in vinegar, and saba is mackerel. We salt it for a couple of hours. We marinate it in our vinegar for about two or three days to get an intense layer of umami. Then we lightly cook it in homemade caramelized ginger oil, with carrot sauce and caramelized onion glaze. It is all served with compressed Chinese cabbage in perilla oil. The dish is then served on a special jellyfish-shaped plate," explains the chef.
The menu also includes two game meats: deer and pigeon. "Our barbecue pigeon dish is inspired by walks in the Chinatown area of NY, where you often see barbecue chickens," Kim says. Although he has to adapt to the limitations of subway cooking, the chef seamlessly incorporates Chinese-inspired marinating, seasoning, smoking, and frying techniques. The sauce draws inspiration from the French Salmis de Pigeons and the Korean gochujang (spicy fermented bean paste). The dish is served with a truffle duck offal bao bun and a small glass of German-style beer produced in Korea. This connection to Chinese cuisine originates from Kim's time at Silver Apricot.
The ingredients used in his restaurant come from all over the world: deer meat from Upstate New York, pigeon from California, fish from Japan, scotch bonnet peppers from Nigeria, and cardamom from Ethiopia. "People often try to use very complex and imaginative words, but in the end, it's about fusion. I adopt different cuisines, drawing inspiration from my diverse backgrounds. I have a background in French cuisine, and my knowledge of Korean cuisine comes from my childhood memories," he explains.
Cover photos by Alex Truong