A new neo-Japanese eatery with a hip, yet hushed, setting in Rye
The luxe hip Japanese design in the front entrance of Koo—the stone floor, garden-inspired open front steps, amber flicker from rows of candles—bespeaks volumes about the experience of dining here.
Traditional Japanese design forms a solid foundation for the appealing contemporary tweaks and twirls: on one wall, opaque glass and cherry wood fashioned like a shoji screen are interrupted by a sweeping arc of brushed steel. Thin slats of wood run across the ceiling, lending warmth to a room with so much stone and glass. The design, in accordance with Japanese aesthetic, is spare and muted. The look is both an ideal setting for—and a perfect analogy to—what the restaurant describes as its “neo-Japanese cuisine.”
There are many “new” notes in the food, some of which will be familiar to Nobu devotees. Co-owner Yona Hsieh, who worked at Nobu for two years, has recreated several of the famed restaurant’s dishes, including broiled black cod with miso glaze; a salad of chunks of fresh cooked lobster in garlic, lime and soy dressing; and another Nobu signature dish, yellowtail tuna with jalapeÃ±o.
Not all the creative fare comes so directly from the pages of Nobu’s menu. Koo’s chef (who hails from the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore) created a spicy king crab tortilla using Japanese mayonnaise and Japanese seven-spice chili powder, and an impressively well-balanced, light, crispy summer roll filled with lobster chunks, mango and bean sprouts and wrapped with flaky, crisp filo dough.
A tempura dish of king crab claw is served with a Malaysian-style coconut curry sauce. Other global influences include sun-dried tomato and avocado sushi roll, seafood ceviche and a tomato avocado salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Don’t miss some more traditional Japanese dishes, which are impressive without being innovative. From uni to toro to striped bass, all the sushi was fresh, sweet and clean tasting, as though it was just pulled from the sea.
A less well-known traditional dish served at Koo (Japanese for sky) is the marinated duck, which is cooked to medium rare and served either in kamo soba—with buckwheat noodles in duck broth—or as sushi or sashimi. Beware of the addictive Japanese shichito—fried sweet green peppers that make a fun salty-sweet snack food. You can fill up on these all too easily, especially when they accompany one of the house special drinks.
Among our favorite drinks were the Dragon’s Eye, made with lychee purÃ©e, Cointreau and Bacardi Gold, and the Mango Tai, which, like all the house drinks, is also made with fresh purÃ©ed fruit and top-shelf liquor.
All this wonderful food and drink comes at a price. It is a simple matter to spend $150 on dinner for two, including drink, tip and tax. (Hseih reports there are plans to add an Omakase tasting menu shortly, and the menu will undergo some minor alterations.)
Spend handsomely on appetizers, entrÃ©es, sushi and sashimi, but don’t bother with dessert. Banana tempura on one occasion was a warm sweet treat and on another made with starchy, under-ripe bananas. The Japanese cheesecake, not made on premises, is not worthy of this wonderful new gem in Rye.
17 Purdy Ave., Rye
Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 11:45-2:45 pm
inner, Sun. to Thurs. 5-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5-11 pm