Dear Food Diary:
I have these love/hate feelings about David Chang and his Momofukus. There’s been so much hype surrounding all things momofuku (smart marketing on DC’s part), I want to avoid it, but I can’t, because underneath it all, there are some pretty kick ass dishes.
Though very curious, I’ve been putting off Ko because I hate that whole online reservation process, there was no way I would log-on day after day and hope I would be “lucky enough” to have the pleasure of spending $175 of my hard earned dollars for lunch, BUT since fellow blogger R&R
had already made reservations, I was happy to show up.
NO PHOTO POLICY!? #$#$%$ BS I say! I came armed with my sharpie and pad, take that DC! take that! (so the “sketches” were done very loosely, mind you I also needed time to enjoy every course. There’s sure to be spelling errors, bare with me, this was the best I could do in that time frame ok? Plus I had to put up with some looks from the ppl behind the kitchen, so give me some credit!)
On the top there’s two creme fraiche and potato filled potato crisps with caviar, which were my first bites of the afternoon, very crispy and tasty. Taro covered shimp was also very crispy and savory and so was the taro sausage dumpling. It wasn’t wow, but surely a good start.
The following 5 courses were served on top of ice in a wooden box placed in front of each guest. Giving you the visual illusion that portions were bigger then they actually were maybe?
I’m not a big fan of oysters, the only time I truly enjoyed them was at Morimoto, where he dressed them up superbly (will write that one up pronto, I promise). I wanted to like this, with caviar and all, but it was overly salty for my taste.
The madai on the other hand was much more enjoyable. The white soy sauce (less fermented) added a touch of sweetness and a chives lei all around gave it an oniony flair, very fresh and simple.
This was korean food gone wild, in the worst way possible. It felt like they wanted to mask the fish with all that chili paste. Tasted like a bad kimchi, even the pickled shallots couldn’t save this one.
I wished the mackerel tataki were a bit more seared, but other than that, the flavors were wonderful and the tiny rice puffs added a nice playful touch. Loved the freshness of yuzu and the kick from mustard.
Up to this point, aside from the first dish, the odd numbers seem to be hits and even number total misses. If you’re counting, #6 being an even number followed the pattern – “what the heck where you thinking” disaster. A perfectly sweet and fresh scallops, overly dressed with a heavy spicy buttermilk, topped with an insane amount of poppy seeds. Texture and flavors were way off for me. I guess that’s risk and creativity? Thankfully there were 11 more courses to make up for it.
Uni anything is always a hit with me. Silky tofu with creamy sea urchin gets a “bam” from horseradish and a “pow” from crispy rice puffs, I dig it. The toro tartare was very well dressed, without overpowering the fish, deserved an applause.
One of my favorite dishes overall. the octopus was nicely kissed by fire, paired with sweet shishito peppers and tangy pickled watermelon slices. There’s also an earthy burdock root in the background and a yuzu mayo to contrast, very enjoyable.
If was fun to watch them make these floating eggs, squeezing them out of a pressure pump into hot water. The eggs are light and super fluffy, the bacon dashi is a bit salty, but smokey and tasty nonetheless. Chives seem to be a constant throughout the night, whatever happened to scallions? The warm bagel on the side with smokey italian/bacon cream cheese was super soft and creamy, tasted more like bread than bagel itself, but I’m not complaining, it was very very satisfying. I’ll take these over Ess-a-Bagel any day.
Chives again, I guess they’re sexier? I do like chives, don’t get me wrong, so let me stop. The confit tomatoes were a burst of fresh garden flavor in my mouth, and the eel was very smokey and good, but I just didn’t like the bread soup, well… it tasted like bread, and chicken stock, I wasn’t a fan.
The Orecchiette (little ears), pasta in the shape of a small ear, were perfectly al dente. It’s a thicker texture which I liked a lot and the crunchy broccoli stems were a good match (my mom puts broccoli stems in her dishes, so I was delighted to see them). The broccoli foam was thick and creamy, very intense flavors and had a nice dusting of crispy ham. I would order this again and again. If only Van Gogh had a plate of this to offset his frustrations, ok, let me keep the jokes to the professionals, sorry, let’s continue with food.
Skate is one of my favorite fish, I love the tender delicate texture and if done well, there’s always a nice crispy coating on the outside. This version had that and tons of brown butter, plus they upped it a notch with a crunchy coating of shaved almond, one of the best skate dishes I’ve had. I love almonds, the foam and milk were very flavorful. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the cauliflower, not my favorite veggie, until I saw how much butta’ went in the tiny pan, they were makin’ Paula Deen proud ya’ll. Underneath all that yummy cauliflower you find little pieces of water chestnut, very smart way to add crunch and sweetness. Excellent dish.
Now to their signature dish, my friend Lana raved about it, and I can understand why. Shaved frozen Foie Gras, literally melt in your mouth, fluffy and oh so flavorful, savory contrasted by pieces of sweet lychee. The pinenut brittle makes an occasional appearance with a nice crunch and some salt, while the riesling gelee kept all the sweet grape flavors and alcohol content. Genius! I wanted more! more! more!
Through out the meal, the chefs were slowly pouring hot oil onto this beautiful piece of meat. The golden color and crispy exterior made us believe it was pork, but it turned out to be duck. The breast were carefully cut into a long rectangle, and unexpectedly we had a “more than meets the eye” surprise, turns out underneath that lovely skin, there was a hidden layer of savory sausage, no fat, and finally a layer of pink duck meat. Juicy, meaty and tender. Bravo! Bravo! This was really exceptional, and why I decided to join the I *heart* duck and sausage forever club. There was a nice fig and red wine sauce, for sweetness, and an out of this world truffle foie gras fig that was caramelized with a torch. Standing ovation, totally deserved it.
After all that, my palate was flying high, my tastes buds were experiencing euphoria, only to be brought down by this “cheese course”. I didn’t finish it. Why did you do this to me DC? Felt as if I was dragged off a fun roller coaster and put into detention. Overly cheesy and thick, wanted nothing to do with this, ever again. Though the cheese puff pastry could of shined on its own.
Can’t go wrong with dessert, or can you? well, ice cream is always good in my books, brown butter cake was aight, candy ginger fine, but carrot ganache was really blah. I don’t like how the flavor of carrot changes after cooking, much prefer them raw, although in soups and stews I can live with, but this was extra intense, so I ate around it, but wasn’t impressed.
Thankfully they choose to finish our meal with a second dessert. Which made me very happy. Bitter orange sorbet was well, bitter, and not overly sweet, I love earl grey and the aroma infused in the dark chocolate and cake was reminiscent of a sunny afternoon. Best and most interesting component were the tiny celery cubes, so refreshing and crunchy, who knew it would go so well with dessert. Another creative success.
We also got a very cute mini pickle jar to take home. A good reminder of an unforgettable 3 hr lunch that took me through super highs and real lows.
P.S. Chubby’s RATING: (close to 5)
163 1st Ave