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Momo Ko vs. Eleven Madison Park for B-day Dinner

I have reservations this Friday at both Ko and EMP to treat my girlfriend for her birthday. Much as I'd like to use both, my wallet and stomach can tackle only one. Whichever restaurant we choose, we'll be ordering the tasting menu (gourmand at EMP), not that this is an option at Ko.
I know EMP is the more "special" place with superior service, but we've already eaten the gourmand menu once there (a while back, though still after Humm took over the kitchen) and a Ko reservation is much harder to come by (at least it sure was for me), so I'd hate to miss my opportunity here.

We're leaning towards Ko, simply to try something new (we like Ssam a lot; split verdict on Milk Bar), but I'd be interested in hearing the opinions of other members who have eaten at both. My girlfriend and I both appreciate good service, but weight the food itself higher when choosing a restaurant - do the innovative flavors and techniques at Ko make it a worthy alternative to EMP's all-around excellence or will we leave Ko wishing we had stuck with the tried and true?

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  1. Tough call; they are both absolutely spectacular, with the nod for innovation going to Ko, and the nod for ambiance and service going to EMP.

    Had you never been to EMP I would recommend it; but since you have, it's a tough call. I always encourage people to try the new -- just know that Ko is ALL about the food. There really is no ambiance or service to speak of (not a negative, just saying), and while it's certainly not uncomfortable you ARE sitting on a stool getting served by chefs.

    Having been to both, for me EMP is the special occasion place (especially right now with Alba Truffles and their Fall menu) and Ko is the great meal for two people to relax and chat while eating outstanding food.

    Not sure how clear any of this is, but hopefully it helps.

    1. From a pure food standpoint, Ko hands down. Especially if you've already been to EMP. Twelve course tasting. I was there back in March and can still taste a few of the dishes.

      1. Love EMP and have never been to Ko. One thing holding me back from Ko is the backless seats. I'm sure the food is fabulous, but I can't sit for long periods of time in an uncomfortable seat. Not a problem for most people, but it might be a consideration in your plans for a special meal.

        1. even if you've been to EMP, the menu changes from season to season so you'll have a different experience from the last time that you've been there. with many great choices besides EMP, is there a reason why it's only between Momo and EMP? is it too late to choose another option since you've already been to EMP? how about something like JG or Daniel that's comparable but where you haven't been?

          1 Reply
          1. re: highsocietyeater

            I like the way you think!

            My two favorite chefs in the city as well, although Humm is actually in his kitchen. I say you can't go wrong with either choice.

            But, they will fuss over you more at EMP and, if that sort of thing helps to make your evening more special, then EMP is the way to go.

          2. I went to KO for my bday, EMP for a post-bday prix fixe lunch. I realize the prix fixe lunch at EMP is not a fair comparison, but KO won hands down. The service at EMP actually started to make me a little nervous: we were fussed over, and it started to feel fussy. I loved the service at KO, no BS, no angling for a bigger tip, no sucking up. The chefs weren't always super friendly, but that's fine, I had much more fun watching them do their job than I would have being fussed over. The food at EMP was delicious, but less innovative, and much less exciting for me. I've eaten with someone with chronic back problems, another with a bum knee, and they both prefer the backless stools to a regular banquette or chair. Me, I could eat that food sitting on a cardboard box and be happy.

            1. I ate at both last week, so the menus this week will probably be more or less the same. Given the current menus, I'd go with EMP. I say this as someone who routinely daydreams about dishes I've had at M. Noodle and M. Ssam. I even preordered the Momofuku cookbook.

              I've drooled over other people's reports of Ko, and I know that a number of Manhattan posters with very similar tastes to mine love it, so I was fully expecting to be blown away. Maybe a different menu would have done it - I love the weird and obscure umami-sources that pepper Momofuku dishes, and the inventive balancing of disparate flavors. This menu, as a whole, just didn't do it for me. If I can pick out one major flaw, it was that there were too many dishes with an extraneous fruit component. I'll post more details if you want, but I didn't want to inadvertently spoil you, in case you decided you wanted to go ahead with Ko, but wanted the menu to be something of a surprise.

              I'd have to say, though, that my standout upscale meal was at Corton. The food was unusual and inventive, but still comforting and delicious. I was able to get a prime reservation (during the week, admittedly) on a few days notice, so that might be a possibility. I was also really impressed with SHO, which I think has to be an easy reservation, given the location, and the gigantic space.

              1. I agree with the fact that you cannot go wrong with either place. You wont be disappointed with the food in either venue, but obviously the style and genre and atmosphere are totally different so you will have to make your choice based on that. EMP would be more formal fancy pants… ko a more “down-town” dare I say “younger” atmosphere.

                1. Forget Ko. Go to EMP. Case closed.

                  1. Thanks everyone for the helpful comments. We ended up at Ko and had a fantastic meal paired with interesting wines. The food was innovative and flawlessly executed and the service, though more relaxed than EMP, was friendly and attentive. Dining at Ko is a very different experience than dining at EMP - as one poster noted, the vibe is much younger - but the meal was equally enjoyable. Consider yourself very fortunate if you are able to swing a reservation at Ko.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: ericd74

                      I have a reservation for dinner this week at Ko. What was on your menu?

                      1. re: ellenost

                        going there for the first time tonight - anyone know what the most recent menu is like?

                        1. re: kewlly

                          Had another great dinner on Friday. Here's what I remember:

                          1) tofu on spoon amuse;
                          2) another amuse with potato leek soup on spoon, fried pork rind, and the butter biscuit with mirin (very yummy);
                          3) spanish mackerel sashimi;
                          4) soft cooked egg with hackleback caviar, onion subise and tiny potato chips--one of my favorites;
                          5) oxtail soup with onion ravioli and oxtail ravioli;
                          6) mushroom tortoloni with sliced mushroom followed by a wonderful tea made with mushroom and a cube of french toast (very yummy);
                          7) monkfish and sea urchin in a spicy broth;
                          8) shaved foie gras with lychee, riesling gelee and pinenut brittle (another long time favorite);
                          9) venison (excellent and soft);
                          10) spicy wine sorbet over diced pears and elderflower syrup;
                          11) "cheesecake" with ricotta curds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a savory icecream (pumpkin or squash--can't remember--least favorite part of the dessert).

                          Have a great time!

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Wow, that sounds great - I guess it's too bad they don't have the muffins or the fried spare ribs (from what I've read, those are amazing too), but I'm glad you found a lot of the newer dishes very yummy as well. I can't wait!

                            1. re: kewlly

                              I think you mean the fried short rib (that was my favorite--I had it 4 times this spring/summer; it was so incredible!). I hope you post a review (would love to compare notes).

                              1. re: ellenost

                                You're right, I meant the fried short ribs. I've seen photos and descriptions (the 48 hour cooking process) on different food blogs, and it looks absolutely amazing.

                                I'll def post a review after the meal. Hopefully I'll like it and be lucky enough to get a seat there more times in the future!