photo credit: Noah Devereaux
It’s tempting to call Atoboy the future of fine dining. That would make for a nice catchy hook, and such generalizations can be helpful. But, despite the attentive service and prix-fixe format, we wouldn’t lump this place in with spots like Le Bernardin and Momofuku Ko. Atoboy is something different, less categorizable, and perfectly tailored to the current moment.
The prix-fixe menu at this Korean restaurant in Flatiron involves four courses and costs $75 (gratuity included). That’s significantly less than what you’d spend on a lot of other four-course meals around town—so what’s the catch? The catch is something we’ve already discussed: Atoboy isn’t fine dining, and it doesn’t fill that special-occasion niche. This isn’t a celebratory spot for a pre-gala meal. It is, however, a place where you can spend a considerable amount of money on expertly-made food that you can enjoy in jeans and a t-shirt. If you require a label, call it recreational fine dining. Come hungry, but leave the ball gown at home.
In this narrow, windowless, mostly-concrete room, you’ll find yourself seated at a non-descript table surrounded by folks who look like they spend half their weeknights nights nerding out over food. When it comes to choosing a drink, natural wine should be your default. That’s what you’ll find on the wine list, and there will be plenty of swirling and sniffing happening in time with the mostly-electro pop soundtrack. If you do need a cocktail, there’s exactly one on the menu. It’s a negroni, because why wouldn’t it be. (Apologies to Florence, Italy, but the negroni is now a New York City beverage.)
The menu is constructed so you can choose from various options for all three of your dinner courses as well as the last course, dessert. Dishes change often, but your meal will most likely begin with some raw fish, like a plate of meaty yellowtail with potato crisps that provide a nice textural contrast. Next, you might get a bowl of citrusy octopus over warm sweet potato puree, followed by a slightly larger main like a stack of glazed pork belly over whelk and diced vegetables.
The most important course at Atoboy, however, will always be the optional one. For an extra $27, you can get a supplemental bowl of fried chicken with gochujang and a creamy peanut sauce—and it’s important that you order this. The puffy and crisp chicken is some of the best-cooked poultry you’ll ever encounter (not a dry, stringy bit in sight).
We also strongly endorse dessert at Atoboy, but mostly on the strength of one dish that’s become a fixture on the menu: a granita inspired by a Korean punch that comes layered with burrata, lychee yogurt, and bits of walnut. Crunchy, creamy, and tart, with an ice-cold burst of cinnamon, this dessert makes a very compelling case that more is more.
Impressive as that dessert is, Atoboy still won’t make you feel as if you’re about to attend prom or a movie premier. But that’s not why you come here. You come to casually swirl natural wine that doesn’t really need to be swirled and spend an above-average amount of money on food that is emphatically above average. If you'd like to nonchalantly part with $75 on a Wednesday night, this is the place to do it.
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This chicken is incredibly juicy with a thick, crispy crust. You'll have to pay an additional fee if you want too add it to your meal, but don't question this. Just say yes. You'll get a small bucket that contains enough chicken for around two people, along with some gochujang and peanut dipping sauces. Make use of that peanut sauce.