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Momofuku Ko for lunch, or Kyo-Ya for dinner?

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I'll be in NYC in a couple of weekends.
I've secured a Momofuku reservation for lunch.
I had been planning on going to Kyo-Ya for their kaiseki dinner until this.
So now I get to pick between the two.

Which should it be, and why?

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Momofuku Ko
163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Although I've never been to Kyo-Ya, I've had lunch and dinner at Momofuku Ko many times. I find the food at Ko to be among the most creative and delicious anywhere. I love the casual atmosphere. It's a spectacular way to spend 3 hours (yes, the lunch is 3 hours, and no, it cannot be shortened since the chefs are serving groups of 4 at the same time. No one wants to be rushed!)

    1. Although I've not had their kaiseki, Kyo Ya is one of my favorite places in the city. I've written about it quite a bit on my blog. Their uni and yoshibo is one of my favorite dishes of all time.

      That being said, the fact that you scored reservations to Momofuku Ko's lunch is very lucky. I have not been myself, but it seems like it's a meal that may not be repeated. I'd vote for that. With maybe a light dinner at Kyo Ya later that night.

      -eatthisny.com

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      Kyo Ya
      94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

      Momofuku Ko
      163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

      1 Reply
      1. re: eatthisny

        Momo. Ko.....no question. You'd be nuts to forego your res.

      2. I've had the pleasure of experiencing both meals and think they both have their own merits. I think it all depends on what kind of experience the OP wants. Although Ko incorporates Japanese elements into their menus, it's far from being "traditional," whereas, Kyo Ya offers the closest experience to a traditional kaiseki meal I've experienced outside my time in Kyoto.

        Ko's lunch is currently listed at $175 that features around 17-courses. Its inventive and I found the food to be very good. That said, I've never been impressed with the service there and found the backless bar stools a bit uncomfortable towards the end of our 3-hour lunch.

        Kyo Ya is somewhat hidden in gem in the East Village. Compared to Ko, its a very tranquil environment. There are a few kaiseki options that are required to be ordered two days in advance and I ordered the 12-course $150/person option. The food was more akin to a traditional kaiseki meal in Japan, emphasizing seasonal products. There was a waygu beef course, as well as a sashimi course that I don't believe are included in either of the cheaper options.

        Here is a post re my meal at Kyo Ya:
        http://lawandfood.blogspot.com/2010/0...

        Here are my pictures from the meal:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

        Sadly, I don't have any pictures from my meal at Ko since they don't allow them. Ironically, I during my meal at Kyo Ya, David Chang walked in and ate at the bar.

        -----
        Kyo Ya
        94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

        21 Replies
        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

          kyo ya is such a hidden gem, the name of the restaurant is not noticeable outside, all you see is a sign that says OPEN. There is no comparison between Kyo Ya and Momofuku Kyo ya is amazing , none of the Momofuku restaurants are even close to amazing. ( i have some pictures of the food at Kyo Ya but do not know how to attach)

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          Kyo Ya
          94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

            Well look at that.
            I checked out your link, and I have actually BEEN to KyoYa.
            I stumbled onto it about 2years ago in the village, walking by at lunchtime. Somehow, it virtually screamed to me on the sidewalk "cozy japanese down here!"
            I had a very small modest lunch, but it was sublime and I've not forgotten it. I would certainly trust them with a full Kaiseki dinner.

            We seem to have similar taste, TDA. Ryugin is my favorite restaurant in Tokyo, and I am a big fan of nama sake. I actually know and love the particular one you had at KyoYa.

            Your pictures are lovely; I think I would go just for that uni in jelly dish.

            I've still not decided. Ko seems to generate a lot of controversy. And there seem to be a lot of issues with the service at Ko, whereas the woman on the phone at KyoYa was lovely.

            Fact is, the two reservations are on different days and so I *could* do both, it's just a pocketbook issue. I'll also be going to Sugiyama a few days earlier, but you'd have to saw off my arms to get me to skip that meal.

            1. re: pauliface

              Go to both, reservations are difficult in both and they are totally different. Is your reservation at Kyo Ya at a table or chef's counter? Either is good, but different vibe. They have a private room also, which would be more true to " real Kaiseki" but you may need more than two for that.

              -----
              Kyo Ya
              94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                foodwhisperer I like the way you think.
                We'll see....

                I did not specify table or counter or room at Kyo Ya.
                For kaiseki, my preference is generally a table; it somehow puts you in a peaceful bubble where you can enjoy the food, the company, the conversation, and the moment..(This feeling is of course magnified in a tatami room)
                For sushi, I prefer counter,. I think of that as a more lively and interactive experiences, especially if it's a place where they just slap it down on the wood.
                Do you have a particular preference there?

                1. re: pauliface

                  Definitely sit at the chef's counter! The chef at Kyo Ya is great, very friendly.

                  -----
                  Kyo Ya
                  94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                  1. re: pauliface

                    I like the table there if I am with 3 or 4 people. I do not like to eat at the sake bar. However, the food bar is great. Interaction with the chef/owner is terrific. you get to see him make the dishes, the care, and creativity. At times you get a few extra "special" dishes when you eat there and interact. I find it a good variation, mixes it up. I never ate in the tatami room there but have seen the excellent service in that room. As an aside, I did eat in one of the private rooms upstairs at En, that experience certainly gets them alot of points with me. In Kyoto, I've eat kaiseki in a totally private room with the most amazing service I've ever experienced. In any case, Kyo Ya chef counter or table , it's all good

                    -----
                    Kyo Ya
                    94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      Thanks! I think this is worth a followup call (chef counter or table it is!)
                      Besides, I wanted to call anyway to see if they were ever open for lunch (see other comments in this thread).

                2. re: pauliface

                  "I have actually BEEN to KyoYa...I stumbled onto it about 2years ago in the village, walking by at lunchtime. Somehow, it virtually screamed to me on the sidewalk "cozy japanese down here!"
                  I had a very small modest lunch, but it was sublime and I've not forgotten."

                  Which is strange for me. I never knew they were open at lunch time

                  1. re: wew

                    Hmmm. Yelp, at least, does not list lunch hours.
                    But: It was a weekend. It was a couple of years ago.
                    Hmm, well I was just forming the conclusion from the pictures I see of the place on line.

                    I think I recognize the little stairway down, and the interior looks right, and the location sounds right. And there was no real sign to speak of until you went downstairs for a closer look.
                    I remember the lunch specials had rather poetic names, like a 'summer garden' or something like that....

                  2. re: pauliface

                    Thank you for your kind words. I actually have all the pictures from my meal at Ryugin a few years ago but have not gotten around to posting them...yet.

                    Honestly, as I said before, both are very good restaurants. It usually is a case of what you prefer. Since you are already eating a kaiseki meal at Sugiyama then perhaps Ko is the way to go since it will give you a broader experience.

                    Or, you could take foodwhisperer's advice and keep both, and compare, Kyo Ya to Sugiyama. Also, how was your experience at Sugiyama? I've heard mostly positive things about their kaiseki but since there are about four choices am always unsure what I'd order. I was just at Yakitori Totto last Friday and was tempted just looking at their menu.

                    -----
                    Yakitori Totto
                    251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                    Sugiyama
                    251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                    Kyo Ya
                    94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                    1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                      Sugiyama is at present my favorite place for Kaiseki in the states.
                      What I've usually ordered is listed on their menu as the "Chef Nao's Choices 8 Course Modern Kaiseki".
                      It is wonderful, long, and follows traditional kaiseki courses (meaning the courses are classified by how they are cooked (appetizers, fried, vinegared grilled, etc) and ends with rice/pickles/soup. It is also a lot of food. I did the wagyu variation once, but did not enjoy it as much as the other, which substitutes a lovely seafood course (hot stone!!!).

                      The one down side that there is not a lot of variation over time.
                      So I do not go every time I'm in NYC, I go once every couple 2 years or so.
                      But once the appropriate amount of time has passed, nothing can keep me away.

                      I may well do all of it and chalk it up as a japanese blowout weekend.
                      :-)

                    2. re: pauliface

                      Despite what you may have heard, there are absolutely no service issues at Ko. I've dined there about 30 times in the past 2 1/2 years, and if there was a service issue, I would never have gone back for a second visit.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        I politely disagree - as I've said on here before, I can tolerate average service if the food is mindblowing. While some dishes at Ko were "wow," the majority were not - they were simply "good" and no better than the food at Ssam, in my honest opinion.

                        I think "Ko's lunch is currently listed at $175 that features around 17-courses. Its inventive and I found the food to be very good. That said, I've never been impressed with the service there and found the backless bar stools a bit uncomfortable towards the end of our 3-hour lunch." sums it up really well.

                        Obviously different strokes for different folks, but the only way I'd return to Ko would be on someone else's tab - there are FAR too many impressive experiences in Manhattan to return to disinterested service, blarring music, interesting food (but largely lacking haute-ingredients,) and uncomfortable seats. For the price you could do two lunches at EMP, Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, etc.

                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                        1. re: uhockey

                          I agree 100 percent. I'll also return to Ko only on someone else's tab.

                          1. re: uhockey

                            I have read some other threads, and these two comments reflect something I've seen several times. Yet spotty service alone won't keep me a way, I'm aware it's subjective and I tend to be lucky anyway.
                            Uhockey, you make a good point about the other lunch deals in NYC (La Grenouille anyone?), but attaching a price and worth can be tricky and intangible. If it's a glorious experience and I've got the money, I'll do it..

                        2. re: pauliface

                          Kyo Ya's servers are adorable and charming, some of the nicest I've ever had, period. Absolutely wonderful service there.

                          Hard to compare Ko's servers because the majority of the interaction is with the chefs.

                          -----
                          Kyo Ya
                          94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                          1. re: pauliface

                            If you've been to Ryugin you wont be impressed by Ko at all. I went to Ryugin(when it was more molecular) 2 weeks before I went to Ko, and was not impressed at all. The only thing that impressed me was the ramen cookbooks in the restroom at Ko, which were probably never read by anyone at Ko. I would rank Kyo Ya higher than Sugiyama, but its not in the same league as Ryugin now.

                            -----
                            Sugiyama
                            251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                            Kyo Ya
                            94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                            1. re: Ricky

                              Thatnks Ricky!

                              More molecular? Did you have that crazy crackable apple dessert? Ryugin is great for so many reason (including one of the best wine/sake pairings I've ever had)
                              I'm not expecting Ryugin, or Kitcho Arashiyama, or anything up to the Ryokans I've stayed at. That's cool, this is not Japan after all.

                              But if you've been to all four, then you provide a pretty good perspective point for me. And if you rank Kyo Ya higher than Sugiyama, that's pretty high praise in my book.

                              1. re: pauliface

                                Yes I did have the apple shell dessert, and I loved the tea course. Wasnt too impressed with the silked screen fish plate course though.

                                I've never been to Kitcho, but head chef at Kajitsu used to work at Kitcho Arashiyama for 10 years, and I've enjoyed every visit at Kajitsu.

                                One disclaimer, I've only ate a la cart at kyo ya and did their new years osecchi kaiseki. Sugiyama, I went years ago so it could have improved since then.

                                -----
                                Sugiyama
                                251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                                Kajitsu
                                414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

                                1. re: Ricky

                                  The chef at Kyo Ya, was at the restaurant at Hakubai in the Kitano hotel for years, a great place to eat. Kajitsu I love this "temple style" kaiseki. The food is excellent there as well as the service.

                                  -----
                                  Kyo Ya
                                  94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                                  Hakubai
                                  66 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                  Kajitsu
                                  414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    If you've never been to Ko then it's worth experiencing once. But I thoroughly agree with uhockey and Nancy S. about the poor value of a meal there. It's not that the menu at Ko is expensive in simple $ (though it is) but that, for what you pay, Ko is not very generous in terms of ingredients or level of cooking, and the service is almost non-existent.

                        3. Update!

                          So...
                          My compatriot for Ko is totally into it. So we are going.
                          And I've been reading up a bit more and now think I have a better understanding of what's it's about, and am very psyched myself.
                          So it's tiny with wooden stools and you're three inches from the chefs so maybe it's a little hot and they've got music blaring and to some the service is inattentive. I get it. I'm now expecting something on the order of the old Chez Brigitte put in a blender with L'Astrance in Paris and sitting at the counter of Kaikaya in Tokyo. And I can't wait.

                          I'd do Kyo Ya too, but it will need to wait until next visit. That evening's companion is not so into it.

                          But don't worry about me. Looks like I'm also hitting Eleven Madison Park and Sugiyama.
                          Plus (and really I chalk this up to research for a Dr. Zhivago themed dinner party I'm throwing later in the month) it looks like I'm hitting Russian Tea Room for High Tea.

                          I love New York.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: pauliface

                            I hope you post on your lunch at Ko; I haven't been to Ko for lunch since November, so I'm interested to know what's on the current lunch menu. I'm going to Ko for dinner on Monday. I think you have the perfect mindset for Ko.

                            Glad to hear you're also going to EMP; I was supposed to go to EMP tonight for dinner, but cancelled since trudging through the snow wasn't my idea of an elegant dinner.

                            1. re: pauliface

                              I liked the service at KO. No nonsense, professional chefs. If you're looking for chit chat or want to be fawned over (especially when the check comes) you're in the wrong place. They will answer your questions, but they're working and don't elaborate. Dinner at KO was one of the most memorable meals in my life, and I'm sure the chefs attention to detail was part of what made it great. And those stools are fine - my 80 year old mom was even comfortable.

                              1. re: hungrycomposer

                                I thought service was fine as well. These guys are pretty busy cooking. They really don't have time to schmooze. They'll answer questions you have (provided it's not a billion of them). Some customers just don't get it. It's really difficult to cook and interact with the customers at the same time. They do need to concentrate on their job. One guy was totally obnoxious and disruptive (and drunk), and you could see the frustration on the chef's face.

                                However, I can sometimes see how some people think the chefs can be rude. I had one guy for a couple of courses during one instance who seemed like he could care less to be there. Wouldn't make any sort of acknowledgment when he handed over the courses and acted like he was doing us a favor. Luckily I didn't have him for the entire meal.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I don't expect, in fact don't want to be fawned over. But I do like a little interaction. When eating at a high-end establishment that should pride itself in its food, I expect a certain pride in the person serving you, a pride in discussing a given dish, albeit briefly. (Within the Momofuku family, at Ssam bar, this can definitely be the case.)

                                  At Ko, we had a very mixed experience with the often surly/rude chef serving us for the entirety of our dinner. He may well have been over-occupied with the job at hand but maybe he shouldn't have been hired for so public a job. Clearly a certain type of person is better suited to both cooking and serving and he wasn't that type. I had no problem with the room itself, stools etc.

                                  1. re: johannabanana

                                    This is the flaw in your complaint about the service by the chefs at Ko: they're cooks, they are not "front of house people" that are supposed to have the charm and grace that one expects to see (and does see) at restaurants like EMP and Per Se. I've probably been served by all of the chefs at Ko, and none of them are "surly". Some, however, are quite shy, which you've mistaken for "surly". If one wants elegant service, one should be choosing to dine at a different restaurant. Ko is all about the food.

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      I'm actually looking forward to this. While I totally love it, I'm slightly uncomfortable with ballet service (the conversation stops -- should the servers know the details of the rather personal story I'm telling?) and somehow a bright-eyed explanation can make me feel like a phony as well -- I find myself adopting an equally fawning demeanor myself as I appreciate the information being given. I can deal with shy/surly/gruff, so long as it's honest -- that's what NY is about.

                                      1. re: pauliface

                                        I'm so glad you haven't been put-off by some of the negative comments. I look forward to your review. Have a great time!

                                        1. re: ellenost

                                          After all this, it's my duty to post a review! Will surely do so.

                                      2. re: ellenost

                                        Sorry, but when you choose to take that job you need to realize that human interaction is required - chef's who open their kitchen have this obligaion to diners. I did not anticipate "elegant" service, but I would have taken eye contact, a proper answer to "where is that sourced from," or even a smile.

                                        I've eaten in a fair number of "chefs kitchens" or "counter" experiences and none were like Ko - I never once felt like they gave a damn about anything other than my $200. They were essentially grill robots.

                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Yes, I can how having a service like that can put a downer on your experience there. Sounds like the same guy that I had for 2 courses. If he was my chef/server for the entire meal, I may have said the same thing. But the other people I've dealt with at Ko have been lovely. If you ever do give it another chance one day, hopefully you'll have better luck.

                                          1. re: uhockey

                                            David Chang has been open about his contempt of food bloggers photographing their meals; I'm not surprised you didn't have a great experience there.

                                            1. re: hcbk0702

                                              .....I followed their rules, as such I've no idea what that has to do with anything. They didn't mind me taking photos at Spiaggia in Chicago and their snooty service did nothing for me, as well.

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                              1. re: hcbk0702

                                                In addition, I'll note that I have nothing against David Chang - I had excellent meals (that were a damned good bang for the buck) at Noodle and Ssam. He is certainly a rags to riches sort of story that I admire greatly, as well. I simply don't think Ko warrants $200 when the food, service, price, and comfort level were all better at Ssam and Noodle.

                                                I will admit that I went to lunch on New Years Day, so perhaps the chefs were a bit off their game, but that doesn't make it okay. Additionally, as I'm not the only one who sites the issues I've mentioned I get the idea it's not just "food bloggers" who are turned off.

                                                Different strokes for different folks is the way of the world - I didn't really love Jean-Georges and there I did feel fawned over. On the other hand, I loved Casa Mono and there I was sat on a cold bar stool near the door in January, but the chefs were friendly, the kitchen action packed, and the music loud but not deafening.

                                                A question I'd put forth - if David Chang were not involved do you feel people would deal with the reservation system, the attitude, the price, etc?

                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                -----
                                                Casa Mono
                                                52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  I would (especially since I've never met Chef Chang); Peter Serpico, Sean, Mitch and the rest of the chefs (IMHO) do an exquisite job with the food. The men and women who serve the wine/clear the plates have always been very nice and professional to me (and to the others around me). I have never witnessed any patron having a problem with either the chefs or the service (it's a small restaurant, and if there were a problem, all of us would know about it). The reservation system is pretty easy to work, and there have been a number of reports that people can get a resy for 2 on their first try. From a price point, Ko is a bargain compared to some of the 3 and 4 star restaurants--$125 for 10 courses of extraordinarily creative and delicious food. I know I'm looking forward to my dinner tomorrow night.

                                          2. re: johannabanana

                                            Echo Johanna.

                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                            1. re: johannabanana

                                              Agree -- one won't receive stupendous service there because those chefs aren't front of the house guys. But some common courtesy should be expected.

                                              I do feel for the chefs because I think many of them are out of their element with the serving part. The drunken customer I described earlier was screaming that his "chicken sucked," to his dining partner right in front of the chef. If you're going to criticize the chef's food right in front of the chef, at least do it directly to him than this bizarre passive-aggressive behavior. Luckily the guy remained calm. I'm not so sure I would have been able to maintain my cool in his situation.

                                              1. re: johannabanana

                                                Forewarned is forearmed! If you don't need to be fawned over, you'll be in the right place. And it's the East Village - in spite of rampant gentrification, I'm glad it can still be a haven for cranky artist types. All of the Momo's are a great addition to the neighborhood, even if I can hardly afford them.

                                                1. re: johannabanana

                                                  And to add, I was a bit horrified that our surly/rude chef snacked on some extra bits while serving us our portions. (I too had no problem with the room or the seating, and don't expect fawning.)