In a world overwhelmed with choice, sometimes it’s nice to have an expert completely curate your experience. Enter the tasting menu — what better way to peer into the mind of a chef and follow their consummate culinary vision? Chef Sungchul Shim and the team from Hell’s Kitchen favorite Kochi (652 10th Ave – corner of W46th St) — opened in 2019 and home to a Michelin Star — have returned to the neighborhood with another well-organized and thoughtful menu at Mari (679 9th Ave – between W46/47th St), this time centered around street-food inspired Korean hand rolls.
After spending his formative years cooking for family and friends in the Korean province of Jeollanam-do, Shim went on to work at a variety of notable NYC kitchens, including Le Bernardin, Per Se, Morimoto, and Neta. October 2019 marked the opening of his first solo venture at Kochi, where diners enjoy a nine-course tasting menu of skewered Korean dishes designed with seasonality and local ingredients in mind. At Mari, he’s continued his collaboration with Kochi’s current manager Jooyoung Yang and veteran sommelier Roberto Longo (who won an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine) to create an elevated, eleven-course menu meticulously constructed to represent the best of omakase.
The rotating menu features a manifold palette of flavors carefully arranged in a balance of savory umami and delicate sweetness — from the convergence of sweet shrimp and charred scallion chili oil in the sundubu, to the snow crab, mackerel, and wagyu hand rolls (an homage to the word mari, which translates to roll), to the 36-hour guksu — a long-simmered chicken, beef, and pork broth poured over slow-cooked pork belly and wheat noodles. Shim buttons the tasting experience with his own version of Korea’s popular Choco Pies — appearing here in the form of a chocolate sponge cake filled with black sesame marshmallow and strawberry jam.
Mari’s cheery, intimate dining space is centered around a long, marble-slab chef’s counter and upholstered high stools, backlit by brass trimmed-blue tiles and all designed by Youngmi Ham, who also created the interior at Kochi. Shim was enthusiastic to build both restaurants close together in Hell’s Kitchen, telling Eater, “I love Hell’s Kitchen because there is high energy in the neighborhood (….)There is an eclectic mix of people, food, and culture that I wanted to stay a part of.” With their inventive menus, attention to detail, and well-curated ambiance, there’s little doubt that both Mari and Kochi will grow to be neighborhood staples for communal, unique dining experiences.
Mari’s tasting menu is priced at $125, and the restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 5-10pm.