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Experience Korea without leaving Manhattan at COTE Korean Steakhouse

Of all the changes that have developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (and there have been many), I miss travel most of all. Sure, it's not like my family and I jet off to Europe or Asia on the regular, but theoretically, we COULD if we saved our money and planned ahead. But while travel in some parts of the world is slowly making a comeback, I'll settle for watching my good friend Darley Newman's travel adventures on PBS while we wait for the girls to be officially vaccinated. Safety first, friends. 

Luckily for us, living in New York City offers an incredible advantage for the travel-starved. One could traverse the world countless times just by tasting the many cuisines available right here within the five boroughs. Simply put, food can transport us to another culture without ever leaving the table (though having a healthy imagination doesn't hurt, either). And if there's anything New Yorkers enjoy, it's going out to eat.

My gal Darley Newman and I recently visited South Korea by way of the Flatiron District at COTE Korean Steakhouse. The restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin star (the only Korean barbecue restaurant in the world to have one, in fact) and while I can't claim to be the foodiest foodie of them all, I can confidently report that COTE offered up one of the best meals I've ever had. For example, I'm still thinking about our Korean "bacon" and jalapeño appetizer a week later.

I mean, just look at that crispy deliciousness (house-smoked crispy heritage pork belly with pickled jalapeño, to be exact)...

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves, shall we?

COTE is the culinary vision of restauranteur Simon Kim, who's successfully managed to combine the best of both Korean barbeque and the classic American steakhouse. With smokeless grills at every table, guests are given a front row seat to the dining experience unfolding in front of them. A feast for the senses, with a menu varied enough that there is truly something for everyone (though no surprises, vegetarians might have a small issue with all the meat being prepared around them). 

After showing our vaccination cards and entering the restaurant, we grabbed an inventive cocktail (my frosty Froze came presented with a flamingo straw; adorable!) at the bar and made our way to be seated.

Comfortably full without feeling overcrowded, COTE definitely feels like a scene, but in all the best ways. Guests are there to be fed (and fed well) and the vibe is upbeat, hip and positive. Maybe it's just that New Yorkers are excited to be out and about again, or more likely, that they are just super excited about the meal ahead of them. 

After checking out the menu with Wesley Sohn, COTE's Director of Hospitality, we started first with a couple appetizers, the aforementioned Korean "bacon" that I'm still dreaming about, and "Steak and Eggs", hand-cut filet mignon tartare with Kaluga Hybrid caviar on milk toast. Here's where I admit that I've never had caviar before. And, now that I've had it once, I'd like to know WHEN AM I HAVING CAVIAR AGAIN?! This appetizer was sooo tasty, so flavorful, and let's give some bonus points to that really cute purple tray, too, shall we?

Next, we moved on to the "Butcher's Feast", which offers a selection of the chef's favorite cuts of beef. Our night's selection included: USDA Prime hanger steak, 45-days dry aged rib eye, American Wagyu Flatiron steak and marinated short rib (my personal favorite). Korean accompaniments included in the Butcher's Feast are Savory Egg Soufflé, Spicy Kimchi Stew, Savory Dwen-jang Stew, Ban-Chan (pickled seasonal vegetables), Scallion salad and Red leaf lettuce with Ssam-jang. 

As we ate our way through the beef courses, there's no question that we began to get full. And since I don't think it can be overstated enough, let me say, when you come to dinner at COTE, come hungry, and maybe skip lunch that day. You're going to leave full (but not uncomfortably stuffed), as you will absolutely want to eat everything that comes your way. 

We loved it when Simon Kim stopped by to say hello, and he and Darley were able to discuss her work as Travel Ambassador to Korea (a tough job, but someone's gotta do it, right?). Her Korea episode will make you want to hop on a plane tomorrow, just be forewarned. I mainly gushed about the food, which was right on brand for me.

I do hope to be able to visit South Korea someday. Husband was in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics in 2018 (working for NBC Sports), and he came home with the most amazing stories of visiting Woljeongsa Temple (his photos are stunning!), the Imperial Palace and Seoul Tower, not to mention the amazing food, of course. Speaking of food, we topped off our dinner with vanilla soft serv ice cream topped with soy sauce caramel (ingredients I would never think to put together, and yet there it was, simply delicious). 

A week later, I'm truly convinced this is one of the better meals I've had in my life. Isn't that remarkable, to get to a certain point in life, and be able to think back on favorite meals you've experienced along the way? Because there's no doubt in my mind that dining at COTE was indeed an "experience", and one I hope I get to relive one day. 

 Here's to traveling the world via our favorite NYC restaurants. Korea, you were well worth the visit!

PLEASE NOTE: Per COVID guidelines, those 12 and older are now expected to provide proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors at restaurants in New York City. 

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