The Clever Koi in Midtown Opens With a Splash
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Photos by Laura Hahnefeld "Mission Chinese" Kung Pao Pastrami
Restaurant: The Clever Koi
Clever Koi's contemporary urban-Asian scene.
Location: 4236 North Central Avenue
Open: Just over a week
Eats: Asian fusion
Price: $11 to $30 per person
To understand The Clever Koi, the new midtown restaurant from former Parlor Pizzeria chefs Jared Porter and Joseph Absolor along with co-owners Joshua James and Nicholas Campisano (who also did time at the pizzeria), you should order the Kung Pao Pastrami ($12).
Inspired by a dish of the same name at the San Francisco and New York City restaurant Mission Chinese, it's deliciously inauthentic, paying tribute to its Asian roots as well as taking wild liberties with it. The lamb pastrami is supremely smoky, its flavor mixing with things like confit potatoes, peanuts, sausage, red peppers, and slivers of snow peas for what more or less amounts to a Chinese-American comfort food head trip.
And so it goes with the rest of Clever Koi's menu, a tight selection of reinvented Asian snacks, rice and noodle dishes, and steamed buns and dumplings filled with things like pickled pineapple, Peking duck, and kimchi.
Chinese long beans with crisp duck tongue and XO aioli.
There is an octopus summer roll ($10) -- loosely (too loosely) wrapped in rice paper with peanuts and cilantro -- that lacks the imaginative spirit most of the other dishes have. But if you have criticisms about the Chinese long beans ($8) interspersed with crisp duck tongue and kicked up with an garlicky XO sauce aioli, I will happily take this ridiculously addictive dish off your hands, go into another room, and lock the door behind me.
Octopus summer roll