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Upon first glance, the Manhattan outpost of the immensely popular namesake chainlet from larger-than-life Korean personality Kang Ho Dong looks like more of the riotous same. It’s chaotic, sure, but it’s calculated chaos. Before you can even take in the raucous trappings, you’re ushered to your table, where your coat’s promptly tucked into a compartment beneath your seat cushion as a mosaic of metal banchan bowls (cloud-soft slabs of tofu in chili-sesame sauce, pickled daikon radish spritzed with yuzu and beet juices) is instantly splayed across the tabletop.
Those freebies are the first clue that this is not your garden-variety KBBQ haunt. Despite the noise and crowd (a one-hour wait is a given, FYI), the cooking speaks of a quiet refinement with steakhouse-style quality control. Omaha beef is wet-aged for three weeks before the well-trained servers showcase the carne in escalating degrees of flavor and heft: Thin ruby-red sheets of brisket, gorgeously tender nubs of short rib, pork jowl.