– Simon Kim
Within a year of opening his first COTE Korean Steakhouse in the Flatiron District of New York, Korean American restaurateur Simon Kim was awarded a Michelin star, making it the only Michelin-starred Korean barbecue restaurant in the world. In 2021, Kim opened a second COTE location in the Miami Design District, “just as Miami was entering its golden era as a food destination,” says Kim.
Iconic recently caught up with Kim, who got his start in the industry by working as a busboy in his mother’s restaurant, to learn more about COTE Miami.
I fell in love with the Miami Design District years ago and was always intrigued by real estate developer extraordinaire Craig Robins and his vision for the city. The culture and energy in Miami are also incredibly welcoming and diverse, especially within the hospitality industry, so I knew I had to be a part of the scene in some way. COTE Miami brings the same mission as COTE NYC, offering the conviviality of Korean BBQ with the quality meats of a classic American steakhouse.
However, it was also important for us to showcase the local vibe, as Miami and its clientele have their own unique identity. Miamians live a more relaxed lifestyle, going out later and getting more dressed up for dinner and drinks. They also know how to party, so COTE Miami has higher-capacity speakers and clubbier vibes. The rooms often get quite bumping!
We brought down the same menu from COTE NYC but with a few twists that lean into the cuisine of Miami by incorporating seafood, produce, and tropical fruits, along with a few different cuts of beef. Ceviche has become one of our most popular appetizers on the Miami menu. For mains, we recommend our signature Butcher’s Feast, which comes with four different cuts and Korean accompaniments, along with soft serve for dessert, all for $68. On our specialty lunch menu, the crispy “SHICKEN” sandwich has become an instant classic, along with our Sanche Bibimbap with five kinds of mountain vegetables and Korean Crudo “Salad” featuring sea bream, yellowtail, tuna and poached Maine lobster.
For cocktails, I recommend our Proper Martini for the true steakhouse experience. However, our cocktail menu features Miami flavors and tropical ingredients like passion fruit and watermelon, and we just launched our Magic Happy Hour, where we’re offering three new cocktails every month and more.
COTE is such an incredibly fun and unique experience. Our food is fantastic, but our wine list is what surprises and impresses our guests. We take our wine program very seriously and our incredibly passionate team has built a robust list of wines curated from all over the world, ranging from locally sourced to rare vintage. Our list alone features over 1,200 labels.
Outside of my pursuit of finding new ways to bring fun and unique experiences to diners all around, it’s the people, especially my team, that inspire me the most. I work with some of the best people in the business, aka my Dragon Slayers—many of which have been with me since day one of Gracious Hospitality Management. Every day they show me what it means to be innovative and full of passion, so I make sure they are taken care of and have the opportunity to grow and have their voices heard. The success of Gracious Hospitality Management would be nowhere near where it is now if it wasn’t for my incredible team, who inspires me daily.
I love what I do, and I have a team that loves what they do, so while challenges might arise as we work to find ways to do and be better, we have so much fun bringing people together to experience great food and drinks. It’s never a challenge when it comes to doing what we love.
At COTE, we believe that fire, beef, and booze are the secret to a great experience. On top of the great food and drinks, the care and service provided by the team, along with the connections made at the restaurant, are ultimately what will create an unforgettable dining experience—it’s all about how you make people feel.
Local to Miami, chef Thomas Keller’s The Surf Club Restaurant is my go-to, with a fun food menu and luxurious Art Deco design. Internationally, Restaurant Chez Michel in Marseille is one of my new favorites. I am still dreaming of their bouillabaisse.
Thomas Keller is someone I have always admired. I had the opportunity to learn from and work for him firsthand earlier in my career, where I observed his approach to hospitality. He also taught me that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, which is a motto I follow very closely through all my endeavors.
I am constantly on the go, traveling from New York to Miami to Singapore to Europe, so when I get the chance, one of my favorite places to visit when I need to wind down, recharge, and be inspired is Woodstock in upstate New York. It’s only 2.5 hours away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, which is the perfect amount of time for me to start reflecting.
I have spent so much time exploring the restaurants in both Miami and NYC—they are home to some of my favorites. But I would love to eat my way through Busan in South Korea. I used to go all the time as a kid to eat at the street food stands and enjoy the fresh seafood. Busan reminds me a bit of Miami, so I would love to go back and really immerse myself in its culture and food.
Growing up in Seoul, one of my favorite food experiences was when my father would take me to get Korean BBQ. We didn’t play sports together when I was younger, but we did bond over our love for food. My dad was an introvert who would come alive during the fun and fiery interactive-ness of Korean BBQ, which left me with fond memories that I used as inspiration when opening COTE.
I love desserts—Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars covered in chocolate are my favorite. I always say, “If life is not good to you, you can be good to you!”
A cold, dry vodka martini, stirred with olives and made with Chopin Family Reserve.
Every morning I make a smoothie, post-workout—I mix everything from collagen and vitamin B to ginger and protein.It’s my secret sauce to kick-starting the day.
The Butcher’s Feast is the perfect representation of my personality. I love steak, which is the star of this dish, but I am also a creative person who loves variety. That’s what the Butcher’s Feast is: you get four different cuts of steak with a selection of side dishes that elevate the experience, so you get a little bit of everything. It’s dynamic and delicious.
There are so many people I would love to wine and dine with, but the answer will always be my dad and at Sushi Noz. It’s an experience I recently had for his 70th birthday and it’s one I would love to relive every year.
“Chef”—it’s such an emotional and empowering movie.
Besides working closely with organizations like Apex for Youth and City Harvest to support local AAPI youth and New York communities, wellness is my passion. So many of my days are filled with meetings and entertaining, so I have turned to wellness to help balance me out — everything from running to saunas.
Building Gracious Hospitality Management and working with some of the best in the business has become my version of the American dream. From growing up in Seoul going to Korean BBQ with my dad and starting as a busboy in my mother’s restaurant, to working my way up to now owning multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, becoming Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, and having so many exciting projects in the pipeline. This success has also allowed me to give back to and support those who supported me. Getting to work closely with organizations like Apex for Youth to raise money and empower the next generation of AAPI youth is something I could have only dreamed of when I was in their position growing up.