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January 25, 2024

KOA to take residency in Counter-’s Archive space

YongWon Hwang will serve a seven-course modern Korean tasting menu

by Kristen Wile

YongWon Hwang will launch his KOA Korean popup at The Archive beginning February 23. TM Petaccia/UP

Next month, Counter- chef de cuisine YongWon Hwang will kick off a residency of his KOA pop-up in the former Biblio space, now home to The Archive at Counter-. A native of Busan, South Korea, Hwang’s modern take on Korean and broader Asian cuisine has earned a loyal following for KOA, which has hosted several sell-out pop-ups at Counter- in the past.

The residency will take over The Archive from February 23 through March 30, with the regular menu being replaced with KOA dishes on a seven-course menu, with service being overseen by Hwang. Reservations are open now at $95. Following its run, the space will revert back to serving former Counter- dishes at a lower price point tasting menu at The Archive.

“Working in this kitchen and creating food for the guests has been an honor,” Hwang says. “I am excited to open my own space and continue making Charlotte happy through my food.”

One of Counter-‘s priorities as a restaurant is to help its staff grow beyond the restaurant, with chef/owner Sam Hart implementing a three-year timeline for employees to either take on a greater role in the restaurant group or to start their own concepts.

“As a line cook, you can learn the majority of what you need to learn from a space within a year,” Hart says. “And then those next two years, I can teach you more precise and polishing things. But then after that, there’s really a bell curve. There’s only so much more that I can give, and the restaurant can give. We have to find the next group of people that we can assist and teach and mentor. So with that being said, we want everyone to be here for at least a year, but no longer than three.”

With the KOA residency, Hwang will gain experience leading the kitchen that Hart says is intended to allow Hwang to transition to his own standalone restaurant more easily. That’s something they are actively working towards, Hart says.

Hwang’s restaurant experience includes holding a sous chef position at two-starred Michelin restaurant Jungsik in Seoul, South Korea. He moved to the United States in 2019, and joined Counter- as chef de partie in 2021. He was named Unpretentious Palate’s “Chef to Watch” in 2022’s UPPY Awards.

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