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Mar 17, 2011 09:21 AM

Momofuku Ko dinner

Hello everyone, this is my first post on these boards, though I've been a reader for some time. My husband and I ate at Momofuku Ko last night for our anniversary and I thought some of you might be interested in what the menu was. As you probably know, they don't allow photos, so I took notes on my phone about the courses. Please forgive any slip ups.

1 dashi with king oyster and matsutake mushrooms and culantro (not a typo)
2 chicharone with togarashi salt
3 crab ravioli with honey vinegar
4 long island fluke with spicy whipped buttermilk and poppy seeds
5 spanish mackerel tataki with beet apple puree, cabbage and puffed black rice
6 potato daikon soup with lamb, roasted brussel sprout leaves, artichokes and wood sorrel
7 soft boiled hillcrest farm egg with hasselback caviar, onion soubise and fingerling potato chips
8 ricotta cavatelli with fried beef tongue, crispy sauerkraut and fresh horseradish
9 marcona almond crusted skate wing with almond foam, seragnola olive, charred cauliflower and water chestnut
10 hudson valley foie gras with riesling jelly, lychees and pine nut brittle
11 muscovy duck breast with chinese mustard greens, tokyo turnip with pumpernickel dust
12 sancho apple cider sorbet with apple compote, burnt rosemary and apple soda
13 donuts, one with parsnip glaze, one with crushed hazelnuts, parsnip and caramel ice cream, caramelized white chocolate and brown butter solids with parsley

My favorite dish was the potato soup, believe it or not. The cauliflower and artichokes had such a lovely, nutty flavor. My husband's favorite was the mackerel, but he also loved the fluke. We both loved the egg and caviar dish.

The meal was great, though not "life changing" as I've seen on these boards. In general, I was impressed by many of the vegetables, they had so much flavor, and were great accents to the dish they were a part of (in addition to what I've mentioned, I loved the tiny pieces of potato chips, olive, cauiflower, and water chestnut). And I'm not even a big vegetable person. I was less taken with many of the proteins, but then I've never really liked skate. I love duck, and also beef tongue, and these were good, but not amazing. My husband remarked how the dish washer must have a pretty easy job of it, because the plates that were taken away were eaten so clean.

The famous grated foie gras dish was a lot of fun, it was fruity and relatively light. It was really like a sundae, complete with crispy bits.

I was disappointed that the donuts were cold. I think serving them warm would have made an enormous difference, too heavy, otherwise. The parsnip ice cream with salty chocolate and butter bits was good. (In general, I don't like making savory dishes sweet and vice versa, just for the trendiness of it, but I thought the foie gras and salty chocolate parsley dessert were great examples of that kind of twist.)

Portions were just right. We were full after the meal but not too much so.

I didn't even notice the music for most of the dinner, so they must have toned the volume down. I heard Jay-Z at one point, but very quietly.

Seats - yep, uncomfortable, but bearable.

Staff - yep, standoffish, especially the one waitress who sets all of the silverware. She only smiled once, when were were leaving, and she smiled so big then it looked really uncomfortable. The chefs were pretty quiet, but at the end of the evening, we were talking to one and he just seemed like a shy guy.

While were were eating our last course, the chefs started cleaning up of the kitchen area. This didn't bother us, because I love watching backstage stuff like that. They did a really fast clean up job. We noticed that one chef didn't do any cleaning and my husband said, I see what the hierarchy here is.

Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves and I feel so grateful we got to eat there. I love food (sigh).

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

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  1. Great report. Really appreciate your detail since I'm going to Ko for dinner tomorrow night.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ellenost

      Let me know if there is a young, female "trainee" there when you go. It was her first night there. I don't know what kind of a trainee she was. Even though she said she had graduated from culinary school, she looked so insecure, I couldn't imagine her becoming a cook there any time soon. Anyway, she was the one person who talked to us the most. When I wanted clarification on some of the dishes, she would answer (or more likely get the answer for us). The only work she did was wiping a few plates before the food was put on them. Once in a while, one of the chefs would explain a few things to her and I would eavesdrop. Once he quietly passed her an extra donut plate and she went into the back kitchen to eat it. It was very cute. When she came back out, I asked her if she had liked the donuts she said "yes" very seriously. Donuts are very serious business at Ko, everyone.

      Anyway, as we were leaving, I asked her if she was coming back the next night, and she kind of looked around, and said, "I hope so".

    2. Thank you for this review. I have a reservation this Sunday for lunch with my wife who is gluten intolerant but she can normally tolerate soy sauce. From what I can tell there are at least 3 dishes that have wheat in them. Can you tell me if there were actually more than that? We are so concerned about this and I actually had a long email conversation with a member of their office. They say that they can't modify their menu to accommodate her but that the chef would identify which dishes contain gluten. Does any other CH'er think I should just cancel my reservation?

      29 Replies
      1. re: nextguy

        The lunch menu (with the exeption of the shaved foie gras dish) is completely different from the dinner menu.

        1. re: nextguy

          Sorry, but I don't know enough to say for sure, but maybe the ravioli, cavatelli, pumpernickel and donuts? It's so hard to say, because they could have added flour to the almond crust, for example. They did ask us about allergies before we started eating, and we have none, but I was wondering what they could do to accommodate us if we had had any. I suppose for nut allergies there's only the pine nut brittle.

          If, let's say, it's only the above 4 elements that have gluten, the ravioli is only an amuse (and not amazing anyway), the pumpernickel turnip could easily be left off the plate, and as I've said, the donuts aren't great and your wife could enjoy the ice cream and chocolate. The cavatelli she may have to skip. I don't know which courses had soy sauce, if any, but maybe the dashi and the mustard greens? However, the lunch menu is longer than dinner, and I don't know how many more courses would be affected. Sorry can't be more helpful.

          1. re: puddingcup

            No that's fine you have been a big help. This decision is really tormenting us as it is our first meal of the trip and we've got Lincoln, DB Bistro, Bouley, and EMP also on the itinerary. If she got sick on the first meal I'd really hate myself. I know that the chefs are surly but I am clinging to the hope that they will make an effort to accommodate her.

            1. re: nextguy

              The chefs at Ko are actually not surly at all. If you identified your wife's allergy when you made your reservation, they will (to the extent possible) accomodate your wife's needs.

              Please note that the menu identified by puddingcup above will not (with the exception of the foie gras) be the menu you will have at lunch. There will be a pasta dish. There will be a number of raw fish dishes too. There will also be a cheese course. I haven't had lunch at Ko in a long time, so I cannot give you more specifics.

              1. re: ellenost

                I agree with this. They are not surly. I can't imagine that they wouldn't take an allergy seriously. I thought the issue was whether gluten affects so many dishes that your wife would have to give up too many courses, not that she was at risk for getting sick.

              2. re: nextguy

                I would skip it... Chang doesn't believe in accommodations for allergies because he believes a lot of people now fake allergies and intolerances to avoid ingredients they don't like. (Which I believe is true, in some cases.)

                It wouldn't be worth ruining your trip if your wife gets sick.

                1. re: loratliff

                  I know he has a low tolerance for vegetarians, but is he really against those with allergies and intolerances???

                  1. re: nextguy

                    I've taken my sister to Ko for both lunch and dinner, and I've noted on the reservation form that she doesn't eat any pork. The chefs have never had any problem accomodating my sister's dietary restrictions. In fact, not only did they reconfirm the dietary restriction when we arrived, they remade a dish for her that accidentally had pork. BTW, the chef was very apologetic when he realized his mistake.

                    1. re: ellenost

                      No pork at a David Chang restaurant is a challenge! Though now that I think of it, there wasn't any pork on the menu last night.

                    2. re: nextguy

                      But why would someone fake a gluten intolerance? It's not like disliking onions or skate, for example (that would be me).

                      1. re: puddingcup

                        I read a book called Service Included by a former server from Per Se, she describes some of the truly bizarre allergies that her guests sometimes declared. But gluten intolerance is real although pretty rare. My poor wife though, she is french and she can't have a baguette or a croissant. So if she is turning down bread then I know that her case is real! In any case, ellenost and puddingcup you have reassured me.

                      2. re: nextguy

                        I think there is a huge difference between asking a kitchen to eliminate something because of an allergy as opposed to religious observances, choosing to be a vegetarian, or just not liking a particular food.

                        Our son-inlaw is gluten-intolerant, and he would never go to a restaurant if it will not *happily* accommodate his dietary restrictions. Since Chang makes it abundantly clear that he is against any kind of accommodation for whatever reason, including something as serious as allergies, why would you want to enhance his bottom line? The man is way too full of himself.

                        I just read a really excellent post by a blogger who talks about chefs whose attitude is "my way or the highway." He says chefs do this not because changes would diminish the uniqueness of their cuisine, which is what they like to make people think. Rather, it's easier for the chefs not to have to worry about changes, it costs a lot less, and it boosts their egos. He then relates that he recently went to el bulli, and one of his dining companions was a vegetarian and also couldn't eat raw fish. The world-famous Adria had no issues whatsover accommodating all of her needs, either by eliminating offending items from some dishes or giving her entirely different dishes. This in a tasting dinner that consisted of 45 dishes!

                        If the dining public refused to put up with Chang's attitude, he'd quickly get over himself and do what the best restaurants in the world do -- serve the needs of all their patrons and not the ego of the owner.


                        1. re: RGR


                          In the numerous times that I've dined at Ko, I have seen the chefs make adjustments in the menu for people who have identified in advance their food allergies; this enables the chefs to plan in advance the needed changes to the individual's menu. I have never seen any of the chefs have any problems with accomodating identified allergies/dietary restrictions.

                          EDIT: on the Ko reservation form, there is a box that asks the person making the reservation whether they have any allergies. To me this seems to indicate that David Chang, Peter Serpico and the Ko team take allergies very seriously.

                          1. re: ellenost


                            As you know, I've no desire to go to Ko so have never looked at the reservation form. But if it's true that they will modify dishes for people with allergies, why didn't the person with whom nextguy had his email exchange tell him that.? He says all he was told is that they would point out dishes with gluten. That says to me that they aren't willing to make accommodations, i.e., either eliminate the gluten in a dish or substitute something else. If they won't do that, then there could be who knows how many dishes his wife wouldn't be able to eat. So, in addition to paying the same for her meal as his, she could go away hungry.

                            The problem here is the lack of clarity so that nextguy can make an informed decision as to whether to go to Ko or not. Frankly, when it comes to allergies, filling out details on a form when one is going to a restaurant where the owner has the reputation of not making accommodations is, imo, way too risky.

                            The only time I've ever made a reservation on-line was for per se. Our daughter and son-in-law went with us, and when I put the information about his dietary restrictions on the form, I had not the slightest doubt that per se would adhere to them. And they did. Big time!


                        2. re: nextguy

                          Here's the story I'm referring to:

                          "My personal opinion is that a lot of people say they have a special allergy or they don’t like something so they can get better service," directly from Chang.

                          Earlier, he says: “People just assume that every restaurant should be for everyone — I could understand that if we were in a town with, like, 20 restaurants,” said David Chang, whose small empire of Momofuku restaurants is known for refusing to make substitutions or provide vegetarian options. “Instead of trying to make a menu that’s for everyone, let’s make a menu that works best for what we want to do.”

                          1. re: loratliff

                            RGR you make some very good points and I hate to hijack puddingcup's thread like this. David Chang is certainly divisive for all the wrong reasons. I think I would like to keep this reservation to understand what the fuss is all about. With our ambitious eating agenda this is certainly a big risk but I have to believe that if the reservationist noted her allergy and if other diners said they were asked prior to eating if there were any allgergies then those things cannot be just for show. At least I will have a good story to tell. And thanks loratliff for that link.

                            1. re: nextguy

                              I'll look forward to your reports (especially since you're dining at 3 of my favorite restaurants (Ko, Bouley and EMP).

                              1. re: ellenost

                                Wow, I didn't expect my post to take this turn. In any case, I hope you and your wife enjoy yourselves, nextguy, and please do post about your experience.

                              2. re: nextguy


                                I do hope Ko works out well for you and your wife. I look forward to reading about your experience there, as well as at the other four restaurants on your dining itinerary, all of which I have been to.


                                Apologies for having taken your thread in an unintended direction. Even though I won't be going to Ko, your review was well-written and I enjoyed reading it.


                                1. re: RGR

                                  No problem, RGR. Since the activity on this thread, I've taken a look around and it looks like the Momo restaurants definitely inspire strong reactions, good and bad. Interesting to read. It looks like you have a food-related blog. I'm looking forward to reading it too.

                                  1. re: puddingcup


                                    True, opinions about Chang's restaurants can differ radically. I should mention that while I'm not interested in going to Ko, I have been to his other three restaurants once each and will be going to Ma Peche again at the end of this month.

                                    It's very nice of you to consider reading my blog. I'm always flattered when people take the time to do so.


                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Why are you willing to try his other restaurants, but not Ko? The food is the best and most interesting at Ko, of all of his places.

                                      You said above:

                                      "Since Chang makes it abundantly clear that he is against any kind of accommodation for whatever reason, including something as serious as allergies, why would you want to enhance his bottom line? The man is way too full of himself."

                                      So why are you willing to enhance his bottom line at any of his places? Why just not Ko? I think atually that of all his places, it's Ko that would please you the most in terms of food and service.

                                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                                        With regard to Ko, (a) I don't go to restaurants where I can't easily pick up the phone and reserve and (b) I refuse to sit on a hard, backless bench for an upscale meal.

                                        As far as my comment about not enhancing Chang's bottom line, the "you" was specifically aimed at nextguy re: the situation regarding the question of accommodation for his wife's allergies.

                                        I've been to Ssam Bar once for the Chowhound Bo Ssam and to Noodle Bar once for the special chicken dinner. In both instances, someone else made the reservation (I would never do it.). I have no intention of ever going back to either.

                                        Our one time at Ma Peche was for lunch soon after it opened and we happened to be in the area. It was, of course, a walk-in, but we were seated immediately at a regular table; otherwise, we would not have stayed. I'm going back for dinner because the increased French influence on the menu interests me, they have regular chairs, and someone else made the reservation.


                                        1. re: RGR

                                          I do understand that you might find the seats at Ko uncomfortable, although I do not. Hard to know in advance. But certainly you could go to Ko with someone who would make the reservation so you wouldn't have to. I think you would appreciate the food, as well as the interaction with the chefs. Don't cut off your nose to spite your are missing out on some fine cooking indeed.

                                          I happen to agree with you wholeheartedly about the reservation system, and Chang's attitude. But my desire for good food won the argument I had with myself. :-)

                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                            Since I wouldn't enjoy the meal seated on uncomfortable backless benches for hours, I hardly feel that's "cutting off my nose to spite my face." I don't want to have to rely on someone else to make a reservation at a time that would be convenient for us, especially since we are not in the city all the time. And whether I would enjoy the food is a whole other question. But I'm glad that you did.

                                            As far as Chang's full-of-himself attitude goes, it obviously hasn't stopped me from trying his places. But as I said, once was enough at Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar (the insane noise levels being reason enough for me never to set foot in them again!). As for Ma Peche, that remains to be seen.


                                            1. re: RGR

                                              But you relief on someone else to make the Ssam Bar that's not an issue. I'm sure you could go with someone who could make a reservation at a time you could give a list of dates, and one of them works out.

                                              So the only thing stopping you from trying this is the stools....I wonder if people could chime in about their comfort level on the stools at Ko?

                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                what exactly is the dress code (if any) at Ko? It says no dress code on the website, so can I plan on showing up in jeans and a t-shirt?

                                                1. re: wreckers00

                                                  Jeans and t-shirts are fine at Ko.

                    3. re: nextguy

                      Ko, in my experience, is EXCELLENT about accommodating allergies. They will happily make your wife's dishes without wheat.

                      I ate there in August 2010, so the menu will be different, now. But at that meal, wheat was not a major component. Dduk (rice cake) was subbed in for ravioli, in a ravioli with sweetbreads dish, to good effect. And sponge cake was simply omitted from one dessert, where it wasn't a major component to begin with.


                    4. I agree with you about the soup-it's fantastic! The new woman sous chef/intern is here too. She's mostly watching. Everything else is excellent too. Seems that Ko is changing the menu on a seasonal basis. Look forward to spring. New FOH staff.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: ellenost

                        I'm glad you enjoyed your dinner, ellenost, and that the intern was there too. Did you have the exact same menu I did? I'm curious as to how much they tweak the menu on the day to day, beyond seasonal changes. It looks like you've eaten at Ko a number of times. Do you know how often they switch out the entire menu (or almost all, I understand they keep some favorites, like the foie gras).

                        1. re: puddingcup

                          Same menu with the exception of the amuses (I had the chicharron, a crab cake with saffron aioli; and braised octupus with Chinese sausage). Ko used to change the menu gradually every month; now it seems that they're going to change the menu on a seasonal basis (not sure whether the entire menu will change or only a few courses). The egg dish and the foie gras will always remain (great, since they're my favorites). I liked both desserts more this visit than in January. Ko will switch out the duck for the delicious deep fried shortrib. The FOH staff was all new. I'll look forward to my return in 6 - 8 weeks to try the new spring menu.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Ellenost: After my memorable dinner at Ma Peche, I would very much like to try Ko next. I know that you go there often. How can you be sure of being able to book a table in 6-8 weeks? Any tips for doing so that you care to share? Is it easier to score a single place? What is the difference between lunch and dinner menus?

                            Ma Peche
                            15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

                            1. re: erica


                              No special tips or secrets for a Ko reservation. Dinner reservations are available only 7 days in advance; lunch reservations are available 14 days in advance. Lunch reservations (I find) are somewhat easier. Reservations for 2 are easier than for a solo. The lunch is a more extensive menu (16 courses) versus dinner (10 courses). Lunch is $175, and takes about 3 hours; dinner is $125, and takes about 2 hours.

                              The menus at lunch and dinner have been completely different with the exception of the shaved foie gras that is served at both lunch and dinner. Should anyone in your party have a food allergy/intolerance, you should indicate it on the reservation form. The chefs are very accomodating (last night I was chatting with someone who has a food allergy, and who has previously dined at Ko, and said that the chefs have not had any problem making adjustments for him.

                              My advice for a reservation is, if possible, be flexible on your date.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                Thanks, Ellen. I will try to get a reservation, preferably for pretty hope for something soon..

                              2. re: erica

                                Kind of funny actually with my reservation. I had been trying on and off for several months to get a good reservation at either dinner or lunch. So I would log in at 10AM and click as quick as I could but with no luck at getting a weekend meal. Then last week I was in a boring meeting and while everyone was talking I browsed to Momo's website and lo and behold, an opening for lunch on March 20. This date worked perfectly for me since my wife and I are both celebrating our birthdays this week so I booked the lunch (not even thinking about how much gluten could be in this meal). Out of curiosity I have been checking in on Momo's site since I made that reservation and see tables open fairly late into the morning. I wonder if their shine is wearing off and their bookings have gone down. In any case, my lunch is tomorrow so I will report back on how they handle my wife's gluten issue.

                                1. re: nextguy

                                  My husband and had our first visit to Ko last night. Wow, it was spectacular. Our menu was identical to Puddingcup's (save for a few tweaks to the amuses). Each course was spot on with my favorites being their two signature dishes, the hillcrest farm egg and the shaved foie gras. I can't stop thinking about what we ate and would gladly have the whole meal again right now at 9:24am!

                                  Regarding the service, we found the chefs and FOH (who I note, ellenost mentioned to be new) to be very warm and friendly, in a casual way. Obviously the chefs are focused on cooking and thus don't have a ton of time for chit chat but we experienced a good amount of customer interaction, and also laughed at some of the back-and-forth banter they had with each other. The set up reminded me of Degustation. Also, as Ellenost mentioned, the chef asks as soon as you sit down whether you have any allergies.

                                  Regarding the atomsphere - we loved it! The pomp and circumstance is removed and the focus is on the food. The diner sits back (albeit on a stool) and lets the chefs do their magic. It is not a restaurant for picky eaters nor traditional diners wanting white glove treatment, but rather for people looking to try an "out of the box" dining experience. Granted my husband and I are in our early 30s and recognize that Ko perhaps caters moreso to a downtown, more youthful vibe, but for us, the experience was a breath of fresh air.

                                  Nextguy, looking forward to your report! Have fun!

                                  1. re: mla19

                                    Did you get uncomfortable on the stools after a while?

                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                      I didn't. They were nice, wide stools so the only real difference is that you're sitting on something backless. It wasn't a problem for us. (esp drinking through the meal!) We tend to like bar dining at restaurants.

                                  2. re: nextguy

                          'll find that at 10am people jump on and just grab the res...then when they look at the calendars later they realize the date is not good and must cancel. I've been there 6 or 7 times last year and once this year.