Although DesignAgency’s Kōjin nods to traditional Japanese craft in key ways, ramen is conspicuously absent from the menu
DesignAgency’s approach to Momofuku’s new third-floor space is entirely appropriate to its menu, which is both surprising and familiar. Kōjin is headed by chef Paula Navarrete, 30, raised in Colombia, and a six-year veteran of David Chang’s Toronto outpost. The surprise is that other than the name, there’s little that’s Asian about the place. But the food is familiar: staples like steak, chicken in a pot served two ways, coconut rice, and Navarrete’s favourite, a mashed-potato pie she calls Tita’s Mash.
The decor fits right in, with its cozy semicircular water buffalo–skin banquettes in back, and tchotchkes – like the little Mr. Potato Heads, because the chef loves potatoes – hidden around the room. Towering origami linen chandeliers, built in situ, are the centrepieces, and beckon the eye upwards through the glass ceiling. The stained white-oak floors complement the walnut shelving, while a wall of black wood panels by the elevator – inspired by Shou Sugi Ban, the Japanese method of preserving wood with fire – is particularly impressive.