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Bu.ku’s new Cary restaurant will be a little different than we thought. Meet ko.an.

ko.an, from the team behind bu.ku and so.ca, will have a menu focusing on dishes from Vietnam and Thailand.
ko.an, from the team behind bu.ku and so.ca, will have a menu focusing on dishes from Vietnam and Thailand. f8 Photo Studios

Deviating from plans announced last year, bu.ku won’t be opening in Cary after all.

Instead, the team of Sean Degnan and chef Drew Smith will open a restaurant called ko.an in the former An Cuisines space, focusing on dishes from Vietnam and Thailand instead of elevated global street fare.

Last year, Degnan announced bu.ku would close its longtime location in downtown Raleigh and move to Cary, opening in the beloved An Cuisines space. But Degnan and Smith said bu.ku as a concept seemed to end when they left downtown Raleigh.

“We realized it wasn’t going to (be) bu.ku,” Degnan told The News & Observer in an interview. “The space still wanted to be some of what An was. And then we also wanted to bring what we bring. We could never bring ourselves to call it bu.ku, we always called it An.”

ko.an 2.JPG
ko.an, from the team behind bu.ku and so.ca, will have a menu focusing on dishes from Vietnam and Thailand. Cara Grace Powell f8 Photo Studios

An Cuisines closed in 2017 as one of the Triangle’s favorite restaurants, led by executive chef Michael Chuong, and later Herons chef Steven Devereaux Greene. Smith said the space continued to feel like fine dining in a way that didn’t match their plans for bu.ku, which focused on street food from around the world.

“It was telling us what it wanted to be, instead of us forcing it to be something it’s not,” Smith said.

Smith spent more than a year traveling through Thailand and Vietnam, he said, eating pho for breakfast and living on street food. He said he’s looking to do upscale versions of the dishes he loved. On the menu, expect bowls of pho with beef short ribs, gyoza with lobster, duck bao and tea smoked duck, as well as a hot pot filled with lobster, shrimp and seasonal vegetables.

“I’m trying to share that experience with people here, but a little more elevated,” Smith said. “It won’t be street food exactly, it will be upscale but approachable.”

There also will be five- and seven-course omikase tasting menus with wine pairings, according to a news release.

Smith and Degnan said ko.an will open later this summer, potentially by August. Ko.an will be at 2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary.

The team also owns so.ca in Cameron Village, a menu with small plates and larger dishes with a south-of-the-equator influence.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.
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