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Kin Gin

Christine Drinan, Founder

For a second there it seemed like all the cool foodie restaurants were opening up in Brooklyn. We almost had to cross a bridge to eat culturally relevant cuisine, but then the Lower East Side stepped up. We would say that the food scene, and the scene in general, is better than ever in this part of the city. And now there’s a new Japanese Izakaya restaurant at the Hotel on Rivington. This is the review.

Overview

Kin Gin is a brand-spanking-new Japanese Izakaya restaurant located in the Hotel on Rivington. Unlike its predecessor Café Medi, which was more of a traditional all-day dining hotel restaurant, Kin Gin is an elevated foodie spot. They’re not open for breakfast or lunch at this point but rather kick things off with a good happy hour that runs from 5-7 daily with a dinner-only service. It’s refreshing that this isn’t another big-chef-name venture or a celebrity chef who is resting on his or her laurels. You can tell how invested the team is to bring a top Japanese Izakaya dining experience to NYC.

Atmosphere

The foundation for success is there at Kin Gin. If there’s a prettier Japanese Izakaya restaurant in NYC than Kin Gin, I haven’t been there yet. The space is beautiful, with expensive-looking marble countertops at the bar and a luxurious color palette of pink, cream, and salmon. You can tell they invested a lot into the design of the restaurant as well as premium materials and furniture.

What’s missing in this nascent stage are the people who used to frequent Café Medi. I actually used to go to Café Medi with my Eastern Euro girlfriends, and I’m pretty sure I danced at our table. The music was certainly lively and there was a good people-watching scene from brunch well into late evenings. Instead, right now the crowd is more people who look like they’re really into food. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not going to fill the restaurant and I hope these guys stick around for a long time.

A Few Suggestions

In the current layout, you walk into the space and it’s hard to tell where the restaurant starts. It looks like Kin Gin is part of the lobby of the hotel, when in reality they’re not affiliated with the hotel at all. This could probably be fixed by moving the host stand to the front, to create a clear start of where the hotel ends and the restaurant begins. It’s pretty confusing right now where most people try to check in at the hotel desk.

A few things can be done to create more ambiance at Kin Gin too. First, they need to get some good mood lighting going. I have to believe that they have dimmers somewhere and maybe they should add those cool table lamps in lieu of candles to create a mood. I also think that bringing in a DJ or creating a good playlist would create more vibe. Right now, it’s a beautiful space that’s about half full without a lot of energy.

Low Hanging Fruit

Overall, the identity of Kin Gin is missing, both literally and figuratively, which is why I think the crowd has not arrived. There needs to be signage outside with their name on it. I think they should take the front lobby area too, similar to the previous layout of Café Medi. With more people, they could make those couches a lounge for the heavy foot traffic to pop in for a drink. They could rock out that front area as a Japanese daytime cafe, similar to what Nami Nori is doing in the West Village. Like opening up the doors and making the best matcha, Japanese snack sandwiches, pastries, and coffees. They’re clearly not doing much PR at Kin Gin or giving the influencer crowd something to latch onto. I don’t think that the integrity of food and smart marketing are mutually exclusive but rather a necessity to thrive.

Food + Beverage

At the time of my visit, Kin Gin was three weeks old, but already you could see that there was so much promise. First, they are serious about the quality of food at Kin Gin. They fly in a lot of the fish and specialty ingredients from Japan. I had a soft shell crab with these tiny river crabs called Sawagani on top, which is a unique Japanese delicacy. There was a curry foam served with the crab that was good. However, I thought the sauce could have been foamed and liquefied a bit more to create a bigger wow factor. It’s just nuances and some presentation too that could be elevated, but the ingredients and preparation are there.

A Few Menu Standouts

The Kumamoto oysters of the day were topped with fresh daikon and ponzu. I could have had a dozen of those and will definitely be coming back for their happy hour. Happy Hour is a steal where they have drinks for around $10, top oysters for $3, and small plates for around $6. Quite honestly though, the entire menu is reasonable, especially for the quality of dishes you get.

Speaking of preparation, they’re going all in on authentic and fresh, where the scallop is taken live from the shell. The crab is still moving too when it’s cooked. I would only comment that the scallop while also beautifully prepared with thin grape slices and radish needed just a touch of Fleur de Sel. The hamachi had all the Michelin-plating vibes. There was an artful design of avocado and mayo along with a nuanced herb oil drizzled on the plate. I’m normally not into Amberjack as it’s a little fishy for me, but in this case, they cut the fishiness with blood orange citrus slices and micro green cilantro.

There’s a full menu I didn’t get to on hot dishes, and I have the tofu in my sights for the next visit. Also, on my wish list are the Brussels sprouts. A woman next to me had been back a second time in two weeks just for the sprouts. For how complex the menu and preparation are at Kin Gin, at three weeks old, they’re doing well.

 

Service

You can tell the team is into the cuisine and what they’re trying to create at Kin Gin. Unlike other typical Japanese Izayaka restaurants in NYC, the staff are cool foodies who easily could be servers at a trendy Brooklyn foodie restaurant. They’re not going to kiss you a– at Kin Gin but they are going to be real with you. Service is attentive and you can tell they have their training down to a science.

Overall: 7.8/10

Kin Gin has so much potential. I would definitely return in a month to see the progress.

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FAQs

Q: Where is Kin Gin located?

A: Kin Gin is a Japanese Izakaya restaurant in NYC. It is located in the Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side of New York City. The address is 107 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002.

Q: What are the hours of operation at Kin Gin?

A: The hours of operation at Kin Gin are as follows:

Friday
  • 5–11 PM
Saturday
  • 5–11 PM
Sunday
  • Closed
Monday
  • Closed
Tuesday
  • 5–10 PM
Wednesday
  • 5–10 PM
Thursday
  • 5–10 PM

Q: What kind of food does Kin Gin serve?

A: Kin Gin is a modern Japanese Izakaya restaurant in NYC.

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