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Jan 26, 2009 05:52 AM

My Evening at Momofuko Ko last night

Will try to make this as brief as possible-excuse the typos and some descriptions as I couldn't understand everything server mumbled to me. Btw server acted so uninterested with his job-more like a robot performing his tasks which was one of biggest negatives but I ignored and concentrated on food. Atmosphere-very minamalist and comfortable with lively rock music. Food courses spread out over a two hour interval. You can order from wine, sake, or beer list or have them pair wines for you. We went with 2 choices of sake which worked out well and ended up with a Rose lambrusco for final course of meat. Now the menu we had:
1) Chicarones with togarashi-ie-pork rinds w spicy Japanese pepper powder-nice crackle to start the evening.
2) Black pepper and mirin bisquit-a tiny bisquit wich was extremely buttery and served warm
3) Sliced diver scallops w uni and "shard" apple-at least that's what I heard-could have been "charred"-anyway nice dish, refreshing especially w seet uni.
4)Pork belly slice w bousilei oyster and grilled rice in a kim chee consomee-a smokey flavorful dish with a leaf of nappa cabbage-sort of like a very civilized "bosamm".
5) Hand torn oasta w snail sausage and peccorino cheese topped with crispy fried chen skin-one of my favorite dishes esp. the snail sausage which I found out was made with escargots and chicken.
6)Seared halibut with picked cauliflower , crips ham slice ans asparugus puree-not the best dish probably due to fact i expected fish not to be so dry but decent nonetheless.
7) shaved foie gras over lichee and reisling jelly and pine nut brittle-very delightful dish-sounds wierd but very interesting and taste reminiscent of liverwurst. Its all about enjoying different textures with this dish.
8)14 day old dried sirloin with white trumpet mushroom, pickled oinion and jalapeno puree-very nice entree and perfect sized portion-meat was quite tasty and just the right amount of heat to spice things up.
9)Guava sorbet w cream cheese glaze-nice guava taste.
10) Pretzel ice cream, fried cheddar and granny smith apple-this was a so so dish.

I enjoyed my tasting meal but not blown away as I anticipated. I am glad I tried it. Major complaint on my part is what I percieved as a very disinterested staff/chefs-they really should try and act like the care a little especially for the price which came out to $460 for 2 including tip. For my money-I will head straight to Momofuko noodle bar next time which I always love!!

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  1. went last night and had a fantastic time with fantastic food. it was basically the same menu as above, except instead of the diver scallop they were serving spanish mackarel tataki with rice crisps and hot mustard oil and instead of the pretzel ice cream, we had sesame ice cream with funnel cake. they also served us a veal tongue terrine with onion jam and ricotta as an amuse after the biscuit and they substituted risotto with black truffle for my wife's shaved foie gras over lichee and reisling jelly.

    absolutely delicious and the service was very good. i had the $50 pairings which I thought was just the right amount of liquor and my wife had a beer.

    if you can get a reservation, i woud certainly go, just know it's pretty pricey and you can eat similar tasting or just as interesting dishes at ssam bar for about a quarter of the price.

    1. Thanks for the report.

      I have not been to Ko, but your comment on the disnterested staff/chefs is definitely a downer and is also a personal complaint against Ssam Bar. In spite of the dry waitstaff, I will continue to patronize both the Ssam and Noodle places because of the truly good food. However, for the cost of the meal at Ko, I wouldn't go unless somebody else pays for my meal or until I read/hear reports that they changed their waitstaff attitude for the better.

      6 Replies
      1. re: RCC

        i actually thought the waitstaff was excellent last night (friendly when we walked in and took our coats, sat us, cleared dishes, replaced silverware, and described the alcohol pairings) and the chef's too were pretty good, not disinterested just not super talkative probably because they were working.

        1. re: jon

          I agree, the girls who do the waitstaff stuff are lovely, but the chefs always seem indifferent. I would expect a little more enthusiasm since it is 'their' food theyre serving.

          1. re: ConOrama

            Well, yes... but don't forget they do two seatings a night. The chefs who work there are more interested in making the food perfect than they are about chatting with the customers. In the end, they're still BoH.

            1. re: egit

              I was just reading about the chef at dell'amina who said that he is forced to try to ignore people while cooking in front of diners because he has to focus on the food. This definitely makes sense, especially given how few chefs work in that kitchen and how many diners they have to serve (comparitevely).

              Part of what made my recent meal at Degustation so excellent was the interaction with the chef. The room was half full (only about 8 total diners on a weekday) so it makes sense that he had more time to discuss the food. If you are interested in that, definitely try Degustation- it is what makes it such a unique experience.

              I would expect that Ko would fall somewhere in the middle (and it seems that it does), due to the number of diners and high complexity/number of dishes. It probably also has a lot to do with the chefs themselves- also, does David Chang ever cook at Ko?

              1. re: ian9139

                The chef has to ignore the people and concentrate on the food. If he gets involved too much in conversation he will screw up.. He should however, smile, and can answer a quick questions,, At Degustation the chef always answers but says , getting used to people watching happens rather quickly.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  I echo original poster's comments. Went sometime last year. Enjoyed the experience but was not blown away probably due to a combination of really high expectations from all the reviews, and the blah service of the chefs (but mostly the latter) I completely agree that the chefs need to concentrate while cooking but we had asked a a few curious questions about the food as one of the chefs (tall lanky guy) was serving us. He was completely disinterested and could care less that we were interested in what we were eating (we are semi-foodies). Him and the other two chefs spent most of the evening chatting with a solo diner who seemed like he was a regular so they seemed to be cooking just fine while chatting with him, just not with any of the other guests.

                  For the price and the hype, I just would not recommend it to anyone solely based on my experience with the chefs, unfortunately. Maybe they were having a bad day or we looked at them funny, I don't know. But there are way too many overhyped restaurants in NYC to try that I don't feel the need to ever go back to Ko again.

      2. I had almost the same menu with the exception of fluke with butter milk, poppy seeds and chives instead of scallops and funnel cake instead of the pretzel ice cream. I was very underwhelmed with the entire menu at Ko, except for the shaved foie gras dish. Service was adequate.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ricky

          I had a similar menu and experience as the UES Mayor. We did have the funnel cake with ice cream, which was frankly incredible. I loved the food, even when I didn't love it, as it was all very inventive and interesting.
          My major problem was the service, which I frankly think is a design flaw of the restaurant. Neither the chefs nor the hostesses who do the beverage service were interested in telling us more about the food or the drink. I personally feel that with food that creative, I'd like to hear more it. When I asked either the chef or the hostess to repeat themselves, or tell me more, I pretty much got one word answers. It could just be me, but when I pay that much for a meal, I'd like better service.
          As I said though, I loved the food.

          1. re: chompchomp

            i wouldnt say it's a design flaw of the restaurant. Many great restaurants have similar dining experiences to Ko, like Hearth, Beacon, sushi counters, and they dont have Ko's problem. Its more of the attitude of the restaurant. Now that you mentioned this, I've had a really amazing meal last month at Nihonryori Ryugin in Tokyo , another Michelin 2 star recipient, and the head chef would could come out to present the course and he would explain how to enjoy each course, explain the technique used, what texture he wanted out of the ingredients with a warm smile. Maybe this is why I'm so disappointed with Ko.

            1. re: Ricky

              When I first dined at Ko which was the first week they opened, the staff seemed to be quite enthusiastic about their food. While they didn't proactively explain all the dishes, they were happy to talk about it when you asked them questions or engaged them in conversation. The chefs also chatted with the customers and asked for their opinions. Perhaps time has gone by and when you repeat doing the same thing every day, it's hard to keep the enthusiasm high and obvious. I might be wrong but I am guessing at some point the preparation of the food by the chefs became more of a robotic move. Of course that's not an excuse because as someone mentioned, Degustation happened to provide a similar experience with the chefs being much more engaging with the customers.

              As for the service, I always feel that staff there was ok. They provide what you need adequately, not making any mistakes but definitely didn't go above and beyond, so to speak.

              1. re: Ricky

                Good point. It would have been a totally different evening for us if we had engaged, interested servers.

          2. I'm wondering how the price got to $460? On their website they say their tasting menu is $100 a person (although it varies -- what is the most expensive tasting menu?) -- is that inaccurate?

            4 Replies
            1. re: sfkristi

              Price ENDED up at $460 which I will break down:
              Dinner 2 at $100 each
              Oka Btl-smaller bottle of sake $30
              Kikusakari-large bottle of sake $75
              Wine $14 each (very small pour) $28
              tax $28
              total $460.89

                1. re: Ricky

                  We went last night -- likewise, almost identical menu to the one posted above except with long island fluke instead of scallop, a smoked egg with caviar somewhere in the middle, and the funnel cake to finish.

                  If you want a full bottle of wine I don't think you'll be able to pay less than $300 including tip here, but it's a one-off fancy meal kind of place. We were lucky enough for it coincide with happy news to celebrate that day. (For repeat visits, I think Blue Hill would be more rewarding.) they did not have wines by the glass, by the way (unless you went for the wine pairing).

                  Most of the food was very impressive. The exceptions for me were the slightly pedestrian steak (I would never choose to have steak on a tasting menu, however aged it is), and the egg dish, whose elements didn't meld together that well.

                  The restaurant is cosy, in a really pleasant way, and they played great music. Charming service from the two waitresses.

                  The wine list is a little too pricey-- full white bottles started at $55, which is expensive even for this level of restaurant, and reds were $70 or more. They were out of their cheapest half-bottle ($40) in one red category. The waitress told me they only ever carried one bottle, which is silly. Ko's mark-up itself can't be horrendous, though, as these were unusual, decent wines.

                  Personally, I dislike intrusive service and wasn't bothered by the same, definite lack of people skills from the chefs that others have mentioned. (I find the excessive use of descriptions when being served food at Ssam bar annoying.) But I did have a slightly bizarre experience with a heavily tattooed chef: he was using a very beautiful Japanese knife, that I asked him about roughly mid-way through the menu. He just looked at me as if he didn't care what I was saying and went back to work. I then realised he and another chef must have been having a quiet row, that erupted shortly afterwards. Later on, when we were on to desserts and the kitchen was less hectic, he asked me what I had asked him and was friendly enough.

                  1. re: johannabanana

                    Finally went last night and had similar menu to johannabanana. While the two and a half hours went by really quickly, I wanted to like Ko more than I actually did. Given the choice at any David Chang restaurant, I'd much rather go to Ssam bar.

                    Favorite dishes were the biscuit at the beginning, the foie and lychee (of course). The double fried short ribs just barely missed as the meat was incredibly tender, but the sauce lacked punch. It was served with grilled ramps which I found too bitter, and pureed chive which wasn't salty enough.

                    Service was as expected. The chefs were focused on plating and cooking and the waitstaff was on top of it with wine pourings. Nothing over the top, but I prefer quiet service.

            2. I do think it's possible and better to have the chefs both cook your food and engage you in lively conversation. That was what made my meal at minibar in DC so unique and worthwhile.