The East Village’s restaurant saturation is rivaled only by its number of bars, and, now with this fourth neighborhood address, chef Ruben Rodriguez is operating a mini-empire in the area. Kōbo Mediterranean restaurant opened in December with menus influenced by Rodriguez’s formative years learning to cook in his family’s restaurant in Galicia, and later travels.
The space is relatively large between 30 spots at the bar and 85 decently-distanced seats in the dining room, though sound travels easily under the high ceilings that add to the airy environment. It’s bright, even at night, with expanses of blonde wood across two-tops and more than a few configurations that could easily accommodate around six. It feels very casual.
We’ve already established that NYC cocktails are having the opposite of a moment, but Kōbo’s are the closest to good I’ve had at a new place in a while. The addition of Moroccan black olive oil-infused vermouth to a martini ($15), gives it a silken sip, pleasantly softer than a standard dirty. It just needs to be colder. An old fashioned is nice with its bit of ginger, but fountain soda machine-like ice in lieu of bigger cubes makes it more like a quick-melting DIY minibar creation than anecdotally-slightly-under-market-value-libation.
Everything on the dinner menu is intended to share, with three plates recommended per person, but fewer will probably be fine. Kōbo’s stated signature dish is its paella-like fideuà ($34), which swaps rice for thin, short pasta to give a totally different texture to squid ink, proficiently-prepared baby squid and obscured saffron all under a touch too much allioli.
Housemade pasta is the kitchen’s continued focus, and the pappardelle ($23) is great; its long, flat ribbons swirling through pork cheek ragù. This is not a red sauce restaurant-sized pasta, and it’s an enduring curiosity that “shareable” is often incongruously synonymous with “small,” but some terrific even more petite options make this, and any of the items toward the end of the menu, a more complete meal.
Kōbo’s Ibérico pork meatballs ($18 for three) are fantastic. They’re moist to the center, cloaked in a zippy sauce, served atop fluffy ricotta that cuts their near-richness, and served with a trio of bright shishitos. The broccolini ($14) is also successfully done, with tender stems and lightly crisp florets with bites as studied as brushstrokes.
The Vibe: Casual, bright and airy.
The Food: Mediterranean-influenced mostly small plates with standout Ibérico pork meatballs, pappardelle and broccolini. Kōbo’s signature dish is fideuà.
The Drinks: Cocktails, wine and beer.
Kōbo is located at 202 Avenue A. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm.