Momofuku Ko, NYC 3
September 9, 2010
On August 21, 2010, Blair and I went to lunch at Momofuku Ko. In my two previous meals there, I had very mixed reactions to many aspects of the experience. This time the food was superb. I’ll get to the other things later.
We ordered the beverage pairings and were served a glass of Christian Etienne Champagne. The starter was one Kusshi oyster from British Columbia, it was crisp and good; served with a small glass of oyster stout from Dublin (part of the dish, not a beverage.)
Then three little dishes: A crispy brioche tube with an olive bacon filling; a little soufflé with hackleback caviar and beet purée dots; a spoonful of plum soup with house-made yuba. The beet and caviar taste was excellent, but the fruitness of the plum soup seemed out of place.
Crudo: three different fish and a thinly sliced sea scallop; each had two added elements such as crispy fried fish scales or puffed black rice; the fish was top quality, but these garnishes made the dish excellent and different from a sashimi or crudo course.
Sparkling Spätburgunder rosé (pinot noir.)
A three-item steak and eggs course: Santa Barbara sea urchin with cherry tomato halves, a chopped sirloin round topped with hackleback caviar, a piece of wagyu beef with a salt-cured quail egg with horseradish. Excellent.
Copain Pinot Noir sparkling rosé (Anderson Valley.)
Five mushroom salad: exotic mushrooms, charred pickled jalapeño, pickled red onions; very good with a surprising amount of heat that enhanced the mushrooms without submerging them.
Lustau light fino sherry.
Puffed egg poached in konbu/bacon water, a luscious little English muffin.
A cedar aged sake.
Bento Box: four plates: pork belly with kohlrabi salad; wax bean with XO sauce salad; a grilled rice ball; Chinese greens in a bowl of chilled dashi with cucumber balls. These were all very good, using the formula of an excellent ingredient with just one or two surprising, but well chosen, enhancements to bring out the flavor.
2007 de Montille Rully white Burgundy.
Sweet corn ravioli; sweet corn purée inside, garnished with sweet corn kernels, bits of chorizo, tomato, cojito cheese and lime zest; this was a bit more complicated, but the fresh, seasonal sweet corn flavor was everywhere; excellent.
Atlantic halibut with pepperoncini purée and mustard greens; on top: finely diced radish, chervil, shiso and chives doused with lemon juice. Everything worked to bring out the flavor of the good piece of slow cooked halibut.
A sweet sake.
Frozen and shaved foie gras, litchis, pine nut brittle, riesling jelly. This excellent signature dish is the only one always served on both the lunch and the evening menu.
Le Ginglet, a light red wine from the Jura (trousseau grapes.)
Deep fried short rib, compressed watermelon, eggplant terrine, confit shallots and rose petals. The short rib is slow cooked sous vide for a long time and then crisped up in the deep fryer just before serving. It is tasty and luscious with a nice crust.
Sake aged in the bottle. (brown)
A little breadbox of toasted homemade sunflower rye with Camembert and pickled cherries.
Mandarin granité, dehydrated almond shortbread, black sesame strüssel, Thai basil.
Dark chocolate pudding with tiny puffed rice balls, a glass of house-made almond milk.
We were given little jars of house pickles, and a fresh rice cake in nori to take home.
The food was inventive, well-planned, well-executed and beautifully presented. There were not any dud courses. The three chefs were personable, presenting the dishes with explanations and happily, if briefly, answering questions. The cuisine theater watching them prepare, cook, plate and serve is an excellent part of the Ko experience. The kitchen and counter have been beautifully planned for this. The three hours did not drag at all.
Now for the bad news:
The beverage pairings had been interesting during my last lunch at Ko and they fit in with the idea of discovery so we ordered them. But this time the beverages and their service were disgraceful. Most of them were inexpensive and third rate of their types, which were frequently badly matched. Imagine two sparkling rosés. The wine server was abrupt and disagreeable. Looking back, I wish we had ordered a bottle of good sake and one of pinot noir, instead of the pairings.
Although the chefs patiently described each dish as they served it, and one could listen again when they were presented to the neighbors, the ingredients are too unfamiliar to register even a few minutes later while enjoying and discussing the dish. Some of the servings have three or four different little plates. The lack of a printed menu is a big loss to the diners.
The constant rock music is a problem for hearing the chefs and for normal conversation. Three hours of the same music is boring at best.
The continuing no photo policy is a big disappointment. The dishes are beautifully presented and we are deprived of the memories of them we should have.
I would still recommend Ko at lunch, rather than the evening. It is a more complete experience and I think that the chefs are more into making the event enjoyable.
To see my last lunch at Momofuku Ko click here.
To see my dinner at Momofuku Ko click here.
The restaurant’s website: