Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Momofuku Ko

            Momofuku Ko. For anyone interested in serious food, the name commands an immediate sense of interest and respect. David Chang has grown the Momofuku name into a small culinary empire. But Ko is the hard hitter, it’s his masterpiece. I walk in the door for my 9:30 reservation and I’m relieved. The place is comfortable. I’m not in the mood for a snooty, stuffy French dining room tonight. The place is elegant and simple. The focus here is on the food. The lack of a dress code is a breath of fresh air. It may be this lack of pretention, possibly mistaken for laziness, that keeps Momofuku Ko away from three Michelin stars. It certainly isn’t the food. Nor is it any lack of a fantastic beverage program, sporting over a hundred pages in its menu.  It turns out to be one of the most daring and delicious meals of my life. And as I love, I’m seated right at the counter, watching intently every move the chefs make, wondering what it’s like to be standing on the other side of the counter.

             The menu starts with some tasty small bites and progresses through a perfectly balanced ballet of culinary delights. The beverage pairings were off the cuff and obscure, but they all worked harmoniously with the food. The Mezcal and tomato cocktail paired with the chilled razor clam, pineapple and basil soup sticks around as my favorite course of the evening. And that’s a hard feat competing with the 13 or so other courses that all held their weight.

Aged grilled duck breast, two month aged seared rib eye, sea urchin with fermented chickpea and hozon; the big punches keep coming and coming. One dish comes out, a fried skate with vin jaune sauce, prepared right in front of you. It’s sad at first; they remove all the fantastic, beautifully fried skin. I almost asked for a piece. But they tricked me here. It comes back later wrapped in a mint sauce as a katsu roll, and it’s better than I ever thought it would be.  Each dish comes paired with a fantastic wine, cocktail or sake that completes the experience and brings everything full circle.

And possibly most importantly, even though Chang isn’t in the kitchen, it’s blatantly obvious that his influence abounds. He no longer needs to be there. He has built a well-oiled machine. Nobody looks miserable. Every chef looks like they love their job and have a strong passion for what they do. You can see it in their energy as they explain the dishes and as they talk about their work. Momofuku Ko is an evening to be remembered. I had high expectations and this excellent restaurant surpassed them all.

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