Spanning just a few Midtown blocks, Manhattan’s Koreatown is having a moment. Increasingly more restaurants within the neighborhood are led by or are winners of Michelin stars and awards. In the same vein, QB Hospitality––the team behind 2021 Michelin Bib Gourmand Winner Antoya BBQ––is trying its hand in the realm of fine dining, and it did not have to stray very far from its original New York City location to do so.
Nestled away on the mezzanine level of Antoya, diners can now find WANGBI, an entirely immersive chef’s counter. A play on owner Tony Park’s wife Katherine Wang’s last name, and the Korean word for “Queen,” the restaurant name WANGBI encapsulates the concept’s dedication to creating a regal dining experience while also highlighting the familial values around which Korean culture is centered.
Executive Chef Taewoo Kim hones his culinary mastery at WANGBI, preceded by his tenure at Michelin-starred restaurant, Jua, along with distinguished culinary experiences across South Korea, Australia, and the United States. Chef Kim oversees the kitchen nightly, personally guiding his guests through the execution of all seven courses.
The twelve exclusive seats are situated around the open kitchen. Diners can directly witness the meticulous care and attention with which Chef Kim and his team prepare each plate. The in-house making of the Kimchi geotjeori is almost theatrical. Composed of hand-minced ingredients entwined with onions, garlic, ginger, Korean pear, and chili peppers, the secret ingredient is the addition of sauces and pastes by the esteemed purveyor Andong Jebiwon––of which QB Hospitality’s restaurants are the sole American importer.
Patrons will also have the pleasure of witnessing the making of hand-rolled noodles and bone broth. The coursed offerings rotate based on seasonality and chef’s preferences, though the fifth course of Hangsang will continue to live on in different capacities. As will the decadent finale: Megatoni, a Korean ice popsicle inspired by the shortbread cookie tins Chef Kim found in his grandmother’s closet that were somehow filled with anything but sweets.
One of only 247 master sommeliers worldwide, international award-winning Kyungmoon Kim, was brought on to personally select a unique list of Korean spirits for the cocktails and traditional soju tasting. In keeping with the motif of “seven”––a number believed by Koreans to bring good fortune––the cocktail list consists of seven different drinks, inspired by Korean and American popular culture. Options range from A-Galbi (Damsoul soju, mezcal, Cynar, umami, jalapeño, agave, and lime) to Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Hendrick’s gin, Wonmae soju, Korean plum, lemon, and bitters). Naturally, seven different soju were chosen for the menu pairing.
With each aspect of WANGBI thoughtfully designed by DESFA GROUP, the mezzanine’s enchanting interiors transport diners to a serene haven within the heart of Koreatown. Inspired almost entirely by the royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, a miniature replica of their palace “Geunjeongjeon” floats in midair adjacent to the counter. Overhead, authentic Korean wooden ceiling structures are fused with anti-glare ALTO lighting, casting a warm illumination that enhances the space’s pristine beauty.
Leave all coats and any boisterous activity at the door; at WANGBI, come prepared to savor each bite and sip with great intention.
Location: Koreatown, New York City
Address: 37 W 32nd St, Mezzanine Level, New York NY 10001
Price Point: $$$
Takes Reservations: Yes – Resy
The vibe: There is a stark contrast between WANGBI on the mezzanine level and the main dining room of the casual and convivial Antoya BBQ. As an intimate, traditional chef’s counter experience serving elevated Korean plates, WANGBI is a tranquil culinary haven.
Our favorite thing on the menu: The first course, Yukhoe, is comprised of just two ingredients: ribeye and truffle. Hangsang is the fifth course, made up of multiple different bites to be enjoyed simultaneously; be sure to try Chef’s Boon-Hong sausage. This Korean delicacy truly made Chef the lunchroom favorite, as it was an honor for anyone’s parents to add it to their lunchbox “banchan.”
The attire: Smart Casual
Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner: Dinner: WANGBI’s intimate chef’s counter accommodates 12 guests with two seatings per evening Tuesday-Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.