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Apr 6, 2008 07:07 PM

I Found The Love of My Life. It's a Muffin Soaked in Pork Fat

Okay so that isn’t really true. I found the love of my life 10 years ago and then last Monday he scored a last minute dinner reservation where I meet the second love of my life, the Pork Fat English Muffin

A little after 6:00 Mr T came home. Now I am an early eater and usually have dinner made by around 6:30 or so. Since we had eaten lunch so late I wasn’t feeling hungry just yet so we decided to hold off.

Then as I’m taking dishes out of the dishwasher Mr. T suddenly says “What do you think about eating dinner around 8:45?”

I must have looked at him like he was crazy. 8:45? Why would I want to eat that late? Doesn’t he know I have to get up early for work? Was he just being obnoxious?

Then he turned the computer screen around so I could see it and calmly said “I just got us reservations for Ko.”

Holy S**T! I couldn’t believe it! Ko!!!

We had both been trying every ten minutes it seemed over the past 2 weeks with no luck. But Monday night!! Could this be possible.

I was so excited I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory getting the Golden Ticket.

I was practically running down the street on the way there. I had avoided reading reviews since it opened so I would be surprised. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store.

We got to Ko right at 8:45 and had to wait for about 10 minutes until our seats at the bar were available.

While we waited we stood at the front table and were given an excellent glass of Cleto Chirarli Rose and some snacks.

First they brought out a bowl of Nori chips and Ama Ebi heads. The chips were okay but the Ebi heads were a little much for me.

I actually really liked the flavor but I couldn’t get over the texture of the insides. I’ve never been big fan of eating heads :)

Then they brought over a bowl of Shishito Peppers covered in Toasted Almonds.

These were really good. The peppers had a nice bite to them and the almonds were almost a little caramelized from being roasted which balanced the spice of the pepper.

We were just finishing our glass of wine when our seats became available. We walked along the back of the bar all the way until the end. I was happy to see we were seated last. The stools were spaced quite far apart and there was actually a ton of room between myself and the wall. Much more spacious than I would have expected.

Mr T and I had decided to go for the wine pairings with each dish, so we didn’t look through their drink list. They did have some great beers though including two favorites of mine Hennepin and Allagash.

The chef behind the counter greeted us, confirmed our food allergies and we were ready to rock! Within seconds they sent over our first amuse bouche which was basically 2 salty pork rinds.

These were good. Definitely the best pork rinds I have ever had. A nice start to the meal, but what came next blew me away. The English Muffin with Chicharron.

These two muffins came out looking perfectly toasted on the edges and across the nooks. Then I took a bite.

For the second time that day I couldn’t speak.

I can’t even describe the flavor. It wasn’t overpowering just spectacular. The little nooks and crannies were soaked in luscious pork fat that wasn’t oily, just delicious. There are no words in the dictionary to describe the bliss I had when eating this muffin. I would call this transcendent.

All I can say is I love pork fat.

Then came our first dishes.

For Mr. T it was a Fluke Sashimi with chives and poppy seeds. For me it was Ama Ebi with avocado and tonburi and horseradish oil.

This dish was nice. I like the fact that it was a light first course. After eating the fat laden English muffin I was a little scared I wouldn’t be able to handle 11 heavy courses!

This was served with a glass of Cantine del Taburno Campania.

It was a nice start although not a very memorable dish.

Our next two though were both huge winners.

Mine was Spring Pea Soup with lobster, black trumpets and yuba. Paired with a glass of Dewazakura Dewasansan Nama Genshu, Yamagata Prefecture.

Wow! The soup was so rich and velvety and the lobster was like butter. And seriously, this dish was beautiful. The green of the soup and the pink of the lobster reminded me of spring.

But honestly, I liked Mr. T’s even better. He had Oyster on the half shell with pork belly and kimchi consommé.

I have never been a big fan of kimchi but the consommé was very light. It made me want to give kimchi another chance. The oysters were both huge and come on…have you ever had a crispy pork belly that you didn’t like?

After these dishes I really didn’t think it could get any better, but then came the dish of the night.

A Soft Cooked Hen Egg with caviar, onions and potatoes. Oh my…Once again my taste buds were in a different world. A world they only thought as big enough for the muffin but now this.

This dish had every flavor going on in perfect harmony. The onions were cooked down so they were soft and sweet, the creamy yolk oozed out of the egg in a rich cream with the caviar and the fingerling potato chips brought a salty crispy finish to the dish. This is about as perfect as it gets for me. Possibly the best dish I have ever had in my life.

The wine that accompanied this dish was pretty amazing as well. I had a sip and tasted a strong fresh flavor of grapefruit. It was a Scholium Project Sauvignon Blanc.

I liked this wine so much I looked it up once we got home. The winemaker leaves the wine undisturbed in the barrel and allows it to ferment itself rather than using sulphur. This wine is actually one of the most natural wines possible! No wonder it was so fabulous!

The chopsticks at the restaurant actually rested on the cork from this wine. Isn’t that neat!

Both of us also received the same following dish. Sea Scallop with Bacon, almonds and myoga. The scallops were slightly sweet and meaty. They were seared and served with Bacon from Benton Farms. The bacon and scallops were awsome, This was very good, solid dish.

It was served with Allagash White, which happens to be one of my favorite beers. Isn’t that nice!

At this point we were really happy and feeling a little ambitious. We decided to order a beer we had never seen before in addition to the wine tasting.
The Belfast Bay Lobster Ale.

The beer poured a reddish- amber color that was bubbly and fruity. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find this but thought it was good. I’d almost classify it as an extremely drinkable summer beer.

Okay, back to the food.

The next course blew Mr. T away. We had been watching the chef in front of us take a huge chunk of Foie Gras all night and shave it over a dish.

Well here is that dish! The Foie Gras Torchon with pine nuts, lychee and reisling.

Once again, there were so many different flavors going on between the sweet lychee, salty pine nuts and rich foie gras. This dish was a little too rich for me. I enjoy a little foie gras here and there but this was a lot. Mr T thought it was fantastic though.

I really enjoyed the sake this was paired with though the Kamoizumi Komekome. It was crisp and refreshing. An excellent contrast to the rich foie.

One of our final big dishes of the night was the Beef Short Rib with daikon, pickeled mustard seed and carrots.

The short rib was deep fried which really charred the outside of the meat so that it was hard. What this did was compact all that beefy flavor inside the center of the meat. I can’t really explain it, but it was the most powerful meat flavor I have ever had in one bite.

This was served with a glass of Iporus,Crianza Rioja. The smooth Rioja stood up well to the strong beef flavor.

Our savory courses ended in traditional style with a bowl of Miso soup with rice and pickled vegetables.

This was a good way to ease into the last part of our meal but nothing really stood out for me. The rice was grilled with a little pork fat and rolled into a tube. I was honestly so full at this point I kind of used this as a little breather course before the dessert.

As a pre-dessert treat we were given a pineapple sorbet with dried pineapple on the bottom.

This was a great palate refresher. The sorbet was a little tart, making my mouth pucker a little.

I honestly think my mouth was expecting more pork fat and was reacting in shock of something so sweet!

Then our desserts came. I was served a Cereal Milk Panna Cotta with avocado, chocolate and corn flakes.

This really didn’t do it for me. It was kind of boring. The Panna Cotta wasn’t very sweet and the avocado with the dish confused me a little. I took a couple bites and then left the rest. I was much more into Mr T’s dessert.

He got Fried Apple Pie with Sour Cream ice cream and Miso sauce. This was fabulous!

Once again Chang somehow combines all of the elements to utter delight. Sweet fried pie, cool sour cream and salty miso. This was served with Boeri, Ribota Moscato. What a great end to a truly fantastic meal.

Some Final thoughts on our dinner.

I really liked the way the pairings changed from wine to sake to beer. I thought the pours were a little on the small side but I enjoyed the ones they selected.

The service was fantastic. Everyone was incredibly friendly and worked well together in such a small space. When we first arrived, at least three groups of tourists came in the door looking for the noodle bar. Each time, the waiter greeted them warmly and then politely steered them in the correct direction down the street. I marveled at his calm and professional manner, when clearly this had to be frustrating to deal with so often.

One truly great thing about our meal was that David Chang showed up about halfway through and stood in front of us for a while, inspecting each dish and chatting with the chefs. It’s so infrequent that you see the executive chefs anymore! That was really neat.

And by the way he is HUGE!!! His arms were like tree trunks. The man works out!

But seriously you could tell by the way he was talking with each person that he has a true passion for his food. So if you can’t get a reservation here at Ko at least try out the Noodle Bar or Ssam. Both are phenomenal.

But I do urge to try…try for your meal here at Ko. You may have to hit the refresh button a million times and see that damn “page cannot be displayed” a bunch of times, but in the end it will pay off. It is worth every single second.

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  1. Wow. Roze, I don't know what to say. This review was thrilling to read, and I am newly inspired to try for a reservation. I am particularly excited about the wines pairings, they sound phenomenal. Thank you.

    1. Awesome write up, roze! I, too, have a special place in my heart for pork fat. Sigh...sheer bliss.

      You give us all hope that one day we'll get a reservation, too! :)

      Blondie&Brownie: http://www.blondieandbrownie.blogspot...

      1. Hi roze,

        Thanks for the review. I also wrote a review for Ko a few weeks ago, and we had more or less of the same opinions. I didn't get blow away by the pork fat muffins though, as the time that I tried the pork fat flavor was quite mild. Did they just kick it up a notch? Anyway, if you do like pork fat with bread, then you HAVE TO go to Del Posto. The lardo that they serve with the bread is totally addictive, and IMO much more flavorful compared to Ko's.

        From your review, I noticed one thing that Ko had changed since my last visit - they are now serving different dishes for party of 2.
        THIS ...IS ...NOT...FAIR!!!!!
        Now I really want to try some of the dishes that I didn't get last time.

        Not Fair! (j/k)

        4 Replies
        1. re: kobetobiko

          Hi Kobetobiko,

          The pork fat flavor was mild which I thought was perfect. Sometimes I think it can be too overpowering. I enjoy the way it gave extra texture to the muffin without being oily. For me it was a perfect balance of flavor.

          I had the lardo pizza at Otto years ago and enjoyed it. Is the Del Posto bread similar?

          1. re: roze

            Hi roze,

            It isn't the same at Del Posto. In Del Posto, they provided two types of butter for your to smear on the bread (which were lovely bread by the way). One was sweet butter and the other was the smooth, flavorful whipped lardo! I never knew pork fat could look so inviting and "luxuious" on its own until that day! (the white one in the picture was the lardo)

            You could easily fill up with the bread as the lardo was so addictive. If they sell the lardo in jars I will stock them in my house.

          2. re: kobetobiko

            Have you tried the lardo at Ssam Bar? It's also really good. They don't have it on the menu often, though, due to difficulties in getting the bread they want to serve with it, IIRC.

            1. re: kathryn

              Hi kathryn,

              I haven't tried the lardo at Ssam Bar, and now I am really intrigued! I am sure their version will be not less than Del Posto, as I have always been very happy with all the pork dishes at Ssam Bar. "Porkilicious!" :D

          3. roze,

            I thank you profusely for this review. You have a gift for writing about food. I had not given a thought to this restaurant and now you have made me feel that I must must must try it.

            1. What a lovely review! I wish I were in NYC right now! You would have got a lot more replies if you'd put "Ko" in the title, of course, but I'm always willing to read about pork fat. Sietsema wrote a lovely paean to lard a year or so ago, with recs of places that use it. You can satisfy your new craving in humbler places. Here in Tulsa my favorite burger joint brushes the patties with lard, applied with a big paintbrush, just before they go on the grill. And the taste of a chicken-fried steak fried in lard has that hint of seriously smoky goodness that mere oil just doesn't provide.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Brian S

                Hi Brian S.,

                Since I know you love Chinese food, I have a "porkilicious" (my newly created word) Chinese dish to share with you. When I was in Hong Kong last winter, I went to a restaurant that served a dish called "8 Pleasure noodle". On a lacquered tray, a bowl of plain boiled egg noodle dish was served with eight different condiments: chopped scallions, sweet pickled radish, chopped chili, etc etc., and the highlight was a bowl of pork fat (warmed up in liquid state) and a bowl of premium soy sauce. I was told to mix up the "8 pleasures" with the noodle and enjoy. It was such a simple dish, yet so delicious and satisfying. It was indeed a bowl of happiness!

                I guess there is a place for pork fat for any culture!