It's hard to say no to a friend throwing a Ko reservation at you on GChat, even if it's a couple hours before the arrival time. Such was the case last Friday when my friend, and his nimble typing fingers, lucked into a four-person slot. After scrambling to find other friends/people willing to pay $100-plus a pop, the dinner party included: me, him, another college friend, and the college friend's cousin.
I didn't know the cousin, but she seemed pleasant, and upon further investigation, shellfish intolerant. She was the kosher cousin friend. Though it was a somewhat last-minute arrangement, she didn't share this with our servers until the first dish arrived.
"I don't really eat shellfish."
Uhhh. That was the general response from the hostess and chefs behind the counter. They looked so offended, I was scared for us—and for kosher people everywhere. Would the Ko team soon begin an initiative to school the shellfish intolerant people of the world? It sure looked that way.
"You really need to tell your servers something like that ahead of time. How are we supposed to know?" the cook Peter Serpico said. He then whispered something to another chef, who obediently turned around and power-walked downstairs to the basement, as if to tell a superior emergency kosher diner situation-fixer.
I agree with Ko's reaction. This isn't where you eat if you're kosher, or have any dietary restrictions really. And if you do—if you're actually willing to pay upwards of $100 for an abridged menu—at least tell them first. For their sake and your tummy's.
KCF (kosher cousin friend) nodded, apologized, promised to do so in the future, and eventually looked less flushed. The waitstaff accepted her apology, still seemed moderately pissed, then continued garnishing fluke sashimi with spicy buttermilk sauce and poppy seeds.
Once the dust settled, or at least seemed to, our soup course showed up. A bacon-based broth with diced apples and mini root vegetables. It occured to me that KCF hadn't mentioned anything about being kosher, just that she didn't eat shellfish.
"Oh, yeah. I don't eat bacon either," she pipsqueaked next.
Uhhh. Naturally they looked even more pissed this time. At that point, I was wiggling in my chair, politely pissed myself. Who does this? Who pays this much and does this, I kept thinking. Why isn't she at a bacon broth-less salad bar right now? She could pay for 15 servings at that salad bar for this price!
They silently took the bowl, returning with the same soup, subbed in with fish broth.
I could tell she wasn't feeling the shaved foie gras flakes with lychee, pine nut brittle, and grape wine gelee either, but she ate it. We were all staring at here. She was going to eat it.
Overall, the Ko staff was very civil about the issue, and basically just kept up their too-cool, informal-but-still-$100-seating attitude. When I phoned today, they said the chef will do his best to accommodate, just note it on the web reservation. They can't tell you too far in advance what to expect. (The menu changes too often.) But then again, you never know too far in advance if you're eating at Ko.
To anyone dining at Ko with a KCF, or KCF type: be glad for the open kitchen. It facilitates your high-alert monitoring of a possible spit-into-annoying-people's-dish threat. They never did.