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Oct 24, 2009 06:33 AM

Babbo v Momofuku Ko

If you had to chose between the two places for dinner, which would it be and why? They both seem to get similar ratings everywhere (except Michelin). And I find myself in a bind to choose one.
I'll be in NY in a month and I want to go to Jean Georges and either Babbo or Ko.
Which would you recommend?
As another option, should I drop Jean Georges and do both Ko and Babbo?

I don't have a Ko reservation yet. But I feel confident and this is a hypothetical question assuming I have one.


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  1. If it was me, I would absolutely do Ko over Babbo. It's so much more inventive, and I really feel there is such amazing Italian (both Northern and Southern) in the city that you could get as good of a meal as Babbo at somewhere else, if not better (e.g. Scarpetta).

    That being said, I would change Jean Georges for Daniel or Per Se if it's a dinner res, as those both are far, far better, and if you still want to do JG I would do it for lunch (each course is $14) -- though in truth, instead of JG, I would do EMP for lunch ... I had yet another outstanding one there yesterday.

    7 Replies
    1. re: a213b

      Thanks a123b,
      I actually have a reservation at Per Se for while I am there and am very excited since I've been dying to get in there for a few years.
      We will actually be in NY for 4 nights for my wifes birthday and the two places we are certain of is Per Se and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the Paris location is my wifes favorite restaurant in the world.)
      That leaves 2 nights and lots of choices, which I narrowed down to Babbo, Jean Georges, and Ko.
      Would you suggest Babbo and Ko for dinner and JG at lunch?
      Just trying to see what everyone else would recommend.

      1. re: Heeney

        Yes, if those are three places you want are certain you want to get into, then I would definitely say do Babbo & Ko for dinner, and JG for lunch.

        1. re: a213b

          Which other places would you suggest? I had been looking at EMP and Daniel. I had read that Daniel is a bit more "formal" than the others and I don't know as much on EMP than Jean Georges.

          1. re: Heeney

            Daniel is definitely formal; jackets required for men. My wife and I had an absolutely PHENOMENAL meal there earlier this week, and as I said we had yet another outstanding lunch at EMP yesterday.

            It might help if you post your planned itinerary, with what meal spots are still available, so we can help and give you some suggestions to consider to fill those. Also, any cuisines you absolutely will not do, or must do? And it doesn't seem that there are any budgetary restrictions, but definitely let us know if there are.

        2. re: Heeney

          Your slightly revised list is perfect. If you do Babbo and Ko for dinner, and JG for lunch, you will have pretty much the perfect high-end NYC food itinerary (to me, at least). Last time I visited I went to Babbo, L'Atelier, JG, and Momofuku's noodle bar. I loved each one and could I afford it Per Se and Ko would have been added to the list in a heartbeat.

          As it was, I couldn't stomach anything but plain salads and light soups for a week after I got home. But it was totally worth it!

        3. re: a213b

          I would be in agreement with Ko WAY, way over going to Babbo and would pick L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon over Per Se mostly due to the flavors and dinning approach. That is not to fault Per Se though, which is quite wonderful.

          1. re: pmfine

            You DO know this thread is ancient, right?

        4. As requested, here is a rundown on our chow-ing plans in NY:

          Day 1(Wednesday): Get into LGA by about 10 am and check into hotel. Lunch at Katz Deli (I have to have the Pastrami), then dinner that night at L'Atelier. L'Atelier has to be the first night because that's my wife's birthday and she worships Robuchon.

          Day 2 (thursday): Lunch at Sushi Yasuda and I have not yet planned dinner. Maybe Babbo.

          Day 3 (friday): Lunch at Serendipity 3 (I'm not psyched about this but the wife's birthday request is a frozen hot chocolate, and I'm happy to oblige), the dinner is undecided. Maybe Ko.

          Day 4 (Saturday): for our final night we wanted Per Se, and it's an early reservation at 5:45, so I want to go in hungry. So I thought it would be a light lunch (maybe take a guilty pleasure with Gray's Papaya).

          Day 5(Sunday): our flight does not leave till 6 pm. But Jean Georges is closed for lunch Sunday.

          Not so much budget restrictions (I won't be going to Masa though). But I also want to make sure I don't spend the entire trip sat in a restaurant (which is why the 3 hour Ko lunch, which sounds great, may not work for us).
          Also, I worry about having EVERY night be some kind of Michelin 3 star night, (I worry that we might desensitize ourselves for how fantastic Per Se should be in our final night.)

          Any tips are greatly appreciated!

          7 Replies
          1. re: Heeney

            Why not do lunch at Jean Georges on Friday or Saturday, and get frozen hot chocolate after lunch or after dinner one of those days? That way you can have your meal someone and then go to Serendipity for dessert afterwards, and end up trying more places.

            I would also definitely have a backup plan if you don't get into Ko since the demand is so high -- if can take native New Yorkers months to get into Ko. I usually don't recommend Ko for out of town visitors who are only in town for a few days. I have a friend who doesn't live in NY, kept trying and trying and trying, and only when he finally got in, did he book a trip to New York.

            1. re: kathryn

              kathryn, I was thinking the same thing. But from what I hear, the wait to get a dessert at Serendipity can take hours (which we don't want to spend), and the only way to reserve is to go for lunch.

              As for Ko, I will make sure to have a backup res somewhere else. I'm leaning towards not changing any lunches and doing L'Atelier, JG, Babbo, and Per Se. I will try and score Ko the same night as Babbo and then just make the tough decision before I fly in.
              I could always do JG Saturday instead of a quick dog at Papaya for lunch...but then again my Per Se res is early, and the thought of lunch at JG followed soon after by dinner at Per Se almost sounds like overkill (but delightful overkill). :)

              1. re: Heeney

                Note you have much the same problem with Babbo as with Ko - it's very hard indeed to get a reservation, although you might get a 5pm or a 10pm. Your fallback is to go to Babbo before it opens, hang around outside, then grab seats in the bar. If you plan on a reservation at Babbo or Ko, the very strong odds are that you'll get neither.

                1. re: Wilfrid

                  Just want to echo Wilfrid and Kathryn with regards to the difficulties of getting a res at either Ko or Babbo. You should absolutely have backups those nights.

                  I would book Scarpetta as a backup to Babbo, and maybe a place like ... hmmm ... well, there really is nothing like Ko. Maybe Degustation (which I despised, but others love so I tend to think it was just a disastrous night for them when we went)?

                  Personally, I still think Daniel and EMP are phenomenal meals (as well as SHO) ... even at dinners, you can do 3 course prix fixe menus, which while not cheap are certainly more than fair values for the food, service, and experience you will get.

                  For places a bit more casual, I like Little Owl (also a tough res), Spotted Pig, Aldea, Commerce ... I'm sure there are more we can give you if you'd like.

                  I DEFINITELY agree with you about two points with regards to Per Se; 1) do NOT do JG that day for lunch, I can't imagine a worse idea in terms of meal planning; and 2) kind of as a follow up to one, I would definitely plan on eating light that day ... Per Se is a LOT of food. It took my wife and I a couple of days to recover from a recent meal there, and I remember feeling like I was overflowing by the end of it.

                  1. re: a213b

                    Agreed w/ regard to Per Se. We went for lunch a couple of years ago and it was something like 12 courses and 3.5 hrs. Enough food to last you all day (we had a light breakfast beforehand). It was an experience of a lifetime and one I am so glad we took the time and money to have.

                    I am a hug Chang fan and love Noodle bar and Ssam. I've not been to Ko yet but again, I would definitely make the effort to go. I've been to Babbo but only had a glass of prosecco and chickpea. My friend and dining companion fell ill and we had to leave. :-( On a return trip we did dine at Casa Mono and it was mind-blowing! Delicious - everything! Razor clams, sweetbreads, quail egg, lardons, potatoes & truffles - wow. I would highly recommend Casa Mono too. Another option is Bar Boulud where you can go, sit at the bar and have a lovely snack of pates & charcuterie and a lovely pear martini.

                    1. re: a213b

                      I concur. Next time we do Per Se I will eat nothing all day. We tried to keep it light before our visit, but we were still struggling by the end of the meal...and I consider ourselves big eaters.

                      Maybe a few chips to stretch the stomach (Joey from Friends reference) ;)

              2. re: Heeney

                You could substitute Perry St. for JG, as it is open for lunch on Sunday. It's less expensive too, and though the food is not quite like JG, it is very good (it is owned by JG). It's one of the better lunch deals around.

              3. If you can't get a reservation at Babbo or Ko, you should give SHO a try. It is an amazing new restaurant where you can still get reservations. And I have every idea once it finally gets review by the NY Times, reservations will be hard to come by. Ate there a couple weeks ago for the first time, and had a fantastic meal.

                4 Replies
                1. re: edwardspk

                  If Babbo doesn't work out for you, and you're looking for great Italian food, I would try Marea. I went there before it got its 3 stars in the NY Times this week. It was AMAZING. Much better than Babbo which I've been to a multitude of times. The octopus pasta with bone marrow and the uni spaghetti were to DIE for. Read the review and see if it sounds appealing -- reservations are easier to come by than Babbo and the location and ambiance are very nice, whereas at Babbo you could be listening to hard rock while drinking a $300 bottle of wine.

                  As for KO you might want to consider lunch. From what I hear that is the more extravagant offering of the day -- ie lunch costs $175 and is a 3 hr meal vs dinner at $125 and 2 hrs. It may also be slightly easier to get a lunch spot than dinner.

                  1. re: livetoeatnyc

                    I have not yet been to Marea, and it may be a good alternative, but it is very expensive. Convivio, which has the same chef, is more in line with Babbo in terms of price, and you still get Michael White's amazing food.

                    1. re: rrems

                      IMO Marea is by far superior in food quality/prep to Convivio. I've tried many of the dishes at Convivio and only a few apps and 1 pasta (the fusilli) stand out. At Marea everything our table tried was outstanding.

                      1. re: livetoeatnyc

                        I don't doubt that Marea will be superior to Convivio and Babbo. My point was that it will cost much more ($89 for 4 courses vs. $59 at Convivio).

                2. The original comment has been removed
                  1. I'd stick with Momofuku Ko. It's a unique NYC experience and it's arguably a harder reservation to get than Babbo. David Chang has his own style, and I don't think you'll find another restaurant with the same type of food.

                    If you can, I'd keep Jean Georges on your itinerary too. The lunch is a great deal and I'd strongly recommend displacing Serendipity if at all possible. That place is pretty much a joke from a food perspective. Eleven Madison Park is also a great lunch deal if you have better luck getting reservations there. Also consider lunch at SHO Shaun Hergatt.

                  2. In a perfect world, Babbo and Ko for dinner, and JG for lunch is a perfect itinerary. If getting reservations is impossible at Ko, don't overlook the other Momofukus. I had the $30 prix fixe at Noodle bar tonight. (It changes daily, tonight it was steak tataki, pork belly and oyster congee, roast duck breast and soft serve) Although it couldn't be as spectacular as a meal at Ko, it was pretty fantastic by any standard. You can also put together a ko-like meal at the ssam bar. They don't take reservations, but if you arrive at non-peak hours there shouldn't be much of a wait for two. I'd also be flexible about when to go to Katz's, their hours are long so you could fit it in when you have time.