Kawi is located on the fifth floor of the new Harbor Yards complex. To find it, look for Brooks Brothers, make a left and take the elevators to the fifth floor. When you enter the restaurant, there is a few banquettes to the left in the bar area, a medium sized bar along the left wall, tables and banquettes in the bar area and to the right is a main dining room, overlooking the kitchen. It is not an exceptionally large space, but relaxed in its décor, and comfortable in the seating.
The four of us were seated in a banquette in the main dining area and the server immediately brought menus, both food and beverage, plus offered water (tap, sparkling, flat). The emphasis of the menu is Korean, and it is advised that you ask a lot of questions to the server, the original server (more on that later) was friendly and quite knowledgeable. The four of us decided to try a few smaller plates, plus a rice noodle dish and a main course.
We knew we wanted the Sweet and Sour Ribs ($15) and immediately placed that order, which include three; the server was quick to point out they could easily make that four ribs so each of us could enjoy. They were delicious, but the description should read sweet and spicy as the glaze offered a little kick as an after-note. The meat was fall off the bone tender and a perfect size to set the tone for the rest of the meal. This was a solid 9.
The next dish to arrive was the overwhelming favorite of the table. The Pickled Brisket ($16) and Mustard was slightly cured, and served with a delicious sauce and mustard greens. The ultra-thin slices were melt in your mouth spectacular, take you time and enjoy every bite. This dish was a 10+.
The most unusual dish was the Foie Gras Kimbap ($36), which resembled Japanese maki, seaweed wrapped rice with a slightly cure foie gras terrine, pickled daikon and chives. A simple sauce accompanied the twelve slices of the bitmap. The luscious creaminess of the foie gras terrine was divine. It was a centerpiece of the dish and so rich and flavorful that the other components were slightly overwhelmed and none of the items complemented the others. I can only give this dish a 6.
The next dish to arrive was the Rice Cake Dumplings ($38) with parmesan and summer truffles. The term, dumplings, is a complete misnomer; I would describe them more in the style of ricotta gnocchi. They arrived in a bowl covered with the Parmesan cheese sauce and the server sliced the white truffles on top. The truffle slices were delicious, the cheese sauce was rich and creamy, but the dumplings were extremely dense and gummy. The dish was so rich and the dumplings so dense that I do not think one, or even two, people could finish. Even with the four of us, there was still some left in the bowl. I would not order this dish again. Except for the truffles this dish only receives a 2.
The last dish to arrive was the Boiled Whole Chicken for two people ($64). Again, a proper description is required. We were told the chicken is boiled for an hour and then the skinless breast is sliced and placed on a large serving platter alongside glass noodles, beech mushrooms, bok choy, spring onions, cabbage, pickled daikon and two sauces. The remainder of the chicken was cut into portions, seasoned and deep fried. This dish was a cacophony of flavors and textures, two completely different dishes in one. We loved the crispy, seasoned fried pieces. The breast meat and the accompaniments were also outstanding, and gave each diner a chance to experiment. Overall it was a great use of every part of the bird and lots of ways to enjoy, I give this an 8.
Service needs more focus. The restaurant has only been open a few days and there are adjustments in the kitchen and on the floor that need addressing. When we ordered the chicken, we were told it was cooked when ordered and it takes an hour. We liked that idea and mentioned it to the server; it would give us time to slowly enjoy the rest of our dishes. We were very surprised when it arrived twenty minutes into the meal, while we were only halfway through our appetizers, even before the rice dumplings arrived. What was very disappointing was how it was handled. I told the server we were not ready for it, that she originally informed us it would take an hour to arrive, and we planned around that information. It took close to ten minutes for her to scurry around and get approval to remove the two chicken platters and all the accompaniments from our table. Meanwhile the table was overwhelmed with so many plates, we could not eat anything else. In addition, it would have been a nice gesture for one of the managers to, at a minimum, apologize. Another unusual event was two-thirds of the way through the meal, our server arrived and introduced us to her replacement. It was very disjointed with a new server now needing to understand the rhythm of our table and the rapport developed with server #1 who worked with us in creating the meal. Given the bad timing of the food from the kitchen, the lack of management oversight when there was an issue, the manager spending more time sipping wine than addressing an issue and the uncomfortable hand-off of servers two-thirds of the way through the meal I can only give the service a 2.
Overall, as much as I enjoyed most of the dishes, I expected a smoother evening from a David Chang restaurant. When you spend ~$100 per person, there is an expectation that the kinks have been resolved, this was not the case. Everyone in the restaurant welcomed us at the table when we arrived, but when we had an issue, they were invisible.
If you go, I would also suggest planning on sharing the dishes to gain a full appreciation for the flavors that Chang and team have developed. Some of the dishes are really good, the ribs, brisket and chicken, while others should be revamped or eliminated. Overall, Kawi was an experience, but it is not a place I would rush back to.