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DesignAgency’s Kōjin Goes Beyond Ramen

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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.

Kōjin is headed by chef Paula Navarrete

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.  

Interior space of Kōjin restaurant in Toronto

Originally published in The Reno Issue 2018 issue as Kōjin. Still feeling peckish? Check out our features on Biscotteria Forno Cultura in Union Station and Partisans’ upscale Mexican joint Quetzal

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