Cary, NC – The former owner and chef at bu•ku will open his new restaurant called kō•än in Cary this August, sharing food from Southeast Asia in the former An location.
New Flavors and Dishes
Kō•än is set to open in the Arboretum Shopping Center of Cary in late August. In addition to popular Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes, Executive Chef Drew Smith said he wants to put a spotlight on food from countries such as Laos, Cambodia and the Phillipines that are not as common to local restaurants. Smith was also a chef at bu•ku as well as so•ca.
“I spent a lot of time in that part of the world and I wanted to share my experiences,” Smith said. “Our guests are going to experience a part of me, my story and the reason I will always be humbled and inspired by Asian cuisine. I will never master this food. It’s not meant to be mastered. It’s meant to tell a thousand stories to anyone who will listen.”
Some examples are a popular dish in Laos called larb, with minced meat mixed with vegetables, herbs and citrus. Smith also said they will do their own twists and takes on some of these dishes, such as Vietnamese pho soup.
“We’ve had pho on the menu for a long time but this is going to be reimagined,” Smith said.
Kō•än will also offer an omakase dinner, where diners leave it up to the chefs to select several dishes for them, which Smith said he and his team will develop over time.
“It’s a difficult program to create but it gives us a shot at giving a customer a great experience,” Smith said.
kō•än owner, and former bu•ku owner Sean Degnan, said this is part of what he calls “radical hospitality,” to try and give the customer a special experience.
“I want to offer the customers what we offer our best friends and family,” Degnan said.
Finding New Identity
Back when Degnan announced bu•ku was moving from its Downtown Raleigh location, the idea was that this restaurant in the former An building would be bu•ku. But after their final night on New Year’s Eve 2018, Degnan said he realized bu•ku ended.
“We can’t move all those regulars, all that ambiance. It ended on a great night but it’s time to move onto the next chapter,” Degnan said. “It’s not bu•ku anymore.”
Instead, Degnan said they had to “ask the space what it wanted to be” when they moved into this new location in the Arboretum, and kō•än is the result. To add to the new building, Courtney Evans of Tactile Design has been creating new metal and woodworking, as well as a number of new design features.
“There are plant walls, water elements, light elements. As we fill in the frame, we start to tell our own story,” Degnan said. “But An is not lost in the new design. It’s a beautiful building.”
kō•än is located at 2800 Renaissance Park Pl.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of Cara Grace Powell, f8 Photo Studios.