A restaurant space is about as close to a living, breathing thing as walls and a floor can be.
Next week, the space formerly known and loved as An Cuisines in Cary will get its second life, coming back as ko.an, a restaurant created as a love letter to the food of Southeast Asia.
ko.an comes from the owner of the former bu.ku in downtown Raleigh, Sean Degnan, with Drew Smith serving as executive chef. After months of renovations to the space at 2800 Renaissance Parkway in Cary, ko.an is holding its soft opening Monday evening. It looks to open for good later next week.
“We’re anxious and ready,” Smith said in a phone interview. “We’ve really brought life back into the building. ... It just needs the people.”
At the end of last year, bu.ku closed in the Red Hat building in downtown Raleigh, and Degnan announced a plan to move the concept to Cary. This summer he announced the new restaurant would be called ko.an instead of bu.ku and focus specifically on Southeast Asia instead of global cuisine. Recently, An Cuisines pastry chef Francisco Almaguer joined the ko.an team.
“The space still wanted to be some of what An was,” Degnan said in the summer. “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.”
The new ko.an will operate almost like two restaurants. Most of the dining room will be served ko.an’s regular menu, but there will also be a 40-person omakase room, dining on a set menu of five to seven dishes.
“It’s kind of a restaurant within a restaurant,” Smith said. “(The omakase) room is a small space, the food will be elevated.”
An Cuisines was opened by Ann Goodnight 12 years ago as a fine-dining Asian concept, with Michael Chuong serving as opening chef. The restaurant was later led by current Herons chef Steven Devereaux Greene before it closed in 2017.
In preparing to open ko.an, Degnan and Smith held a trial run at sister restaurant so.ca in Cameron Village, featuring a number of expected dishes. Smith said the pho was the most popular, as well as a Thai red curry and a hot pot formerly served at bu.ku.
“The pop-up was great because we got instant feedback on these dishes we had never tried before,” Smith said.
The restaurant will open with dinner service Monday through Saturday and lunch Monday through Friday, with brunch to come later, Smith said.
For more information visit koancary.com/.