Photo: Cote

The competition among a flurry of Korean barbecue restaurants here is heating up with the one-Michelin-starred Korean steakhouse, Cote muscling into the scene in November. The New York City and Miami restaurant, which is known for fusing the concepts of a Korean barbecue joint and American chophouse, will open its first international outpost at Como Orchard, which houses two floors of fashion retail curated by Club21 and famed French pastry chef, Cédric Grolet’s first shop in Asia. 

In the Singapore outpost of Cote Korean Steakhouse, diners can expect a diverse selection of beef, including Japanese Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, and USDA prime beef. 

Its signature dish, known as the “Butcher’s Feast”, includes an assortment of four delectable cuts of meat paired with four types of pickled vegetables. Borrowing elements of Korean cuisine,  the presentation can be likened to a beef connoisseur’s haven, a sumptuous platter of meat accompanied by banchan (Korean side dishes).  Servers will cook the meat on smokeless grills in front of diners. 

Related: Top chef Massimo Bottura to open Italian concept Torno Subito in Singapore

Cote Korean Steakhouse
A beef connoisseur’s haven  (Photo: Cote Korean Steakhouse)

The restaurant eschews the usual trappings of typical steakhouses — instead of cream spinach, Cote will serve side dishes such as kimchi, pickled radish, pickled cauliflower, pickled mustard greens and okra. The meal is thoughtfully complemented with rice,  savoury egg soufflé, and other dishes such as kimchi or tofu stew.  To conclude, a complimentary serving of salted caramel ice cream infused with a hint of soy sauce finishes the dining experience. 

The restaurant will house a dry ageing room where the more premium cuts of beef undergo a transformative process. As moisture gradually dissipates, the flavours become more robust. Much like the ageing of fine cheeses, this results in the development of a captivating umami profile that is both intriguing and sumptuously rich. 

Fans of local cuisine will be delighted to know that one Singapore-exclusive dishes will be the beloved Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup). 

Speaking to The Peak during a recent visit to Singapore, Simon Kim, CEO of Gracious Hospitality Management, which runs Cote, says: “We like to play with low brow and high brow. In Korea, we have a similar dish, which is our short rib soup. We are fascinated by the common denominator of the two cultures. We can still develop and introduce more exciting things as we strengthen our relationship with our Singapore customers.”

To add, there will be many immersive experiences crafted exclusively in Cote Korean Steakhouse in Singapore, including a cocktail bar and music room. “There will be music and service will be world class. We will try to procure the very best.  It’s all about fun. We want our customers to feel the base of speakers, to bob their heads to the cocktails. While I love the culture in Singapore, I feel that it’s missing a little bit of the fun vibe.” 

Branching out to Singapore

Como Orchard
Como Orchard (Photo: Como Group)

The idea of bringing Cote Korean Steakhouse overseas was sowed when Kim was introduced to Mrs Christina Ong, founder of home-grown lifestyle and hospitality company Como Group by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whom he used to work for, in New York City. Chef Vongerichten currently runs The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar with the Como Group.

Last year, Kim visited Singapore and found himself falling for the city’s charm. “Singapore is an incredibly captivating place; it’s like a tapestry of cultures woven together harmoniously. I’m truly enamoured by its diversity, and I notice the striking parallels it shares with New York City,” he reflects.

“I love that everyone integrates easily in Singapore as everyone speaks English. Also, my love language is food and when I go to a hawker centre in Singapore, it’s casual, but the food is delicious. Above all, it’s a clean city — orderly and safe.” 

Among the myriad reasons that endeared Kim to Singapore is the lush abundance of trees that dot the island. This has inspired Kim to create an “indoor living rainforest” for Cote’s Singapore restaurant. Declining to reveal more details about the restaurant’s interiors, Kim would only share that “real trees” will be planted in the restaurant. 

As a  tribute to the rich culinary tapestry of Singapore, both Kim and Executive Chef David Shim from Cote New York City will introduce surprise dishes with local touches to the menu.  

It’s all about fun. We want our customers to feel the base of speakers, to bob their heads to the cocktails. While I love the culture in Singapore, I feel that it’s missing a little bit of the fun vibe.

Simon Kim, Owner, Cote Korean Steakhouse

Fusing Korean and American food cultures

Cote Korean Steakhouse
Korean-American restaurateur Simon Kim is the visionary behind Cote Korean Steakhouse (Photo: Cote)

Hailing from Seoul and raised with Korean roots, Kim embarked on a transformative journey when he relocated to New York City at the age of 13. This pivotal chapter in his life was marked by a profound inner struggle with identity.

Kim reminisces: “In America people saw a Korean dude and in Korea people saw an American dude. Then I realised that if I didn’t belong anywhere, then I belong to both places. It was an ‘aha’ moment— I was both, and I fused these aspects together, just like in my restaurant.” 

During his formative years, his father, a passionate gourmand, introduced him to the world of fine dining, opting for culinary adventures over outdoor hikes. However, a watershed moment came when his father took him to a Korean BBQ establishment. The vibrant cacophony of sizzling sounds, the energetic music, and the mesmerising flames presented a sensory spectacle that captivated him. 

A diverse selection of beef, including Japanese Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, and USDA prime beef, is artfully showcased. (Photo: Cote)

As Kim began working at his mother’s restaurant, he found himself pondering about how he could infuse such refined elements in fine-dining restaurants into the beloved Korean BBQ establishments. This journey reached its culmination with the opening of the very first Cote restaurant in New York City’s Flatiron District in 2017.  Within one year of its opening, the restaurant received its first Michelin star and in 2022, the Miami location also received a star.

Related: Australian chef Josh Niland to headline dining options at The Singapore Edition Hotel

Growing the restaurant empire

The accomplished 41-year-old entrepreneur has an array of exciting projects on the horizon. One of them is Coqodaq, a  fried chicken restaurant that is set to open in New York City this December (or January 2024). The restaurant’s name is a portmanteau of the playful sound roosters make (“co”) and the Korean word for chicken, “daq”.  

Coqodaq’s concept mirrors the successful fusion approach of Cote Korean Steakhouse, blending Korean and American influences into the realm of fried chicken. The aim is to elevate this comfort food, crafting a healthier version with meticulous care and intention. It’s a delightful tongue-in-cheek endeavour, envisioning the world’s most elegant fried chicken restaurant with a quirky name. 

Kim’s mission? To imbue fried chicken with an irresistible sex appeal through refined cooking techniques and presentation, making it a great pairing for champagne. After Singapore, he will open another Cote establishment on Madison Avenue in New York City. It is slated to open in first quarter of 2025. 

Cote continues to bask in well-deserved praise and consistently fills its seats, thanks in no small part to its incredible team. Kim proudly asserts, “We take immense pride in believing that Cote stands as the most delightful Michelin-starred restaurant, where the focus is on fun and enjoyment.”