Rockstar chefs Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau had phenomenal success in Manhattan with Neta in the West Village. These pioneers of French Asian fusion are now conquering the Hamptons market with their latest venture, Shuko Beach- hosted by Highway Diner at 290 Montauk Highway. We recently sat down with Nick for a chat about what it's like running the show (spoiler alert: he even chooses the bathroom soap!). Of all the places we've reviewed, this eatery still has us drooling (hello, taste bud insanity!).
A lot of chefs that we've interviewed don't want to open a restaurant in the Hamptons. I don't think they want to work where they vacation. So, why did you make this bold move?
[Laughs] Well, this is a little different. This is a bit of a preview of the restaurant we are opening in New York City.
Okay. How did all of this come about?
We were approached by Highway Diner, and they invited us to discover why the Hamptons are the perfect location to do a pop-up restaurant. We saw the vendors, the produce, and we saw the Hamptons. We realized that this is the perfect opportunity to introduce our newest concept to New Yorkers.
But, the menu here must be different from what you are planning in the city-
Yes, about 70% of everything is local to this region. But, there are some things that we are still bringing in from the city.
Fair enough. What's your favorite thing on the menu right now?
Everybody seems to love the chicken. It's a type of French chicken, Cézanne, which is fried whole with local vegetables. It just feels appropriate for the Hamptons.
What inspired the phenomenal scallop dish?
The dish was inspired by Japanese cuisine partnered with my French background. It's one of those things that I imagined, and it just came out right on the plate. It's our signature, which is a whole grilled scallop with foie gras. These ingredients are not supposed to match, but they do. That's what I love about this dish.
Since you typically cook in NYC, is it different planning a menu for a Hamptons crowd?
Yes. The portions are more on the casual side. For example, we break down the whole spicy lobster, so it's easy to eat. We don't want people to have to work for their food.
Point taken. When you open Shuko in Manhattan, will things stay the same? Or, is this more beach fare?
We've definitely adapted things. Right now, the menu reflects a laid-back, beach culture that speaks to the essence of summer. It's more of a casual Hamptons feel. The food is more accessible. Our Manhattan menu is a little more precious to us. Ultimately, the city menu is more delicate, more refined.
So, what has the experience been like? This is a lot to take on!
My partner, Jimmy, and I aren't just chefs anymore. Now, we are businessmen in this new venture, and that's exciting. And, it's in my nature to be involved in everything.
How so exactly?
I want input on everything here- the flowers, the bathroom soap, just everything. I have good managers who I trust, but I still like to know everything that's going on.
Obviously, Shuko Beach is a big hit! Any chance you will do another pop-up next summer? Or, are we losing you to the city forever?
Honestly, that's a big question mark. We are thrilled to be here, and we are into this community. We like being in the Hamptons. Hopefully, it does well enough that we return next summer, but we can't know for sure right now.