Momofuku Ko

April 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

My favorite restaurant, without a doubt, is Momofuku Ko in the East Village, and lately, I’ve been lucky enough to visit multiple times. Everyone there is so warm and friendly (they remember your name and your favorite dishes by your second visit), the food that chef Sean Alex Gray and his hard-working team are putting forth is as creative as any I’ve ever had (and absolutely gorgeous on the plate, without being too fussy) and the interiors and details at the new location on Extra Place are as particular and unique as the food that’s coming out. All of the accolades and praise they’ve received since their relocation and revamp are well deserved (though the only downside is that it’s now harder to get those already super-coveted counter seats). Below are the dishes (note some are older and might no longer be on the ever-changing menu) that I’ve had recently, some in their final form and some in development. One cool thing about multiple visits is seeing how specific dishes are conceived, initially executed and then refined over and over again until they’ve reached their final iteration, which still sometimes undergo changes depending on ingredients and season. That being said, I’ve never had a dish, work in progress or otherwise, that’s disappointed. Below are some standout dishes…but because I’m lazy and it already took me forever to get this post up in the first place, all you get are minimal notes from what I remember:

Bites of potato waffle, pommes soufflees, lobster paloise and millefeuille. Super high end finger food. The lobster paloise, which I’ve had multiple times now, is my favorite of any of their amuse-bouches offered so far.

Madai – consomme, shiso and finger lime…a relatively newer dish that’s now one of my favorites for its pure flavors. Lately, they’ve been serving it with sea bass instead of madai, which is a bit firmer and stands up really well.

Raw scallop with tonburi (a Japanese herb known as “caviar of the fields”) and citron. Here, paired with Kaika “Tobindori Shizuku Daiginjo” from Togichi, Japan.

An old favorite and Ko staple: uni with chickpea and hozon. I love everything about this dish – the colors, the slightly different textures and the olive oil and sea salt that make everything pop.

Razor clams with apple and basil seeds, paired with two 2014 wines from Peter Lauer. Stunning.

Oh my god…this. Caviar with potatoes that would make Joel de Robuchon cry they’re so buttery and addictive and hidden fermented radish on the bottom to cut through all that richness, served with sourdough bread and cultured butter and Tarlant champagne. Just look at those velvety potatoes and the way they’re draped in the bowl. Ugh.

Monkfish with a sauce of its liver and a sauce of poblano. Love the heavily white presentation accented by the green (also I need to figure out where the dishware came from). I was never really interested in monkfish prior but damn if this didn’t change my mind. So tender and ingenious to serve it with its own liver. Now I try to see if anywhere else has a better version. So far…no.

Crack pasta. Actually, pyramidi with broccoli and aged cheddar with just a little black truffle shaved on top. Who knew broccoli pasta could be so exciting? If they figured out a way to freeze and package this, I’d eat nothing else, carbs be damned. Paired with Andre et Mireille Tissot Cremant du Jura “Indigene” NV rinsed with Tissot “Chateau-Chalon,” Vin Jaune, both from Jura, France.

Venison with kale and olive berry, paired with 2011 Chateau Moulin de Tricot from Margaux, Bordeaux.

Another Ko favorite: foie gras with lychee, pine nut brittle and riesling jelly. Don’t really have anything to say about this other than it’s always wonderful.

Ko’s version of a creamsicle – carrot cardamom and meringue, paired with a 2013 pear cider from Cidrerie de Vulcain from Switzerland.

Chocolate cake with mint and fernet branca, paired with Zucca and root beer (?). Not typically one for desserts but the above creamsicle and this were just sweet enough without being cloying. Also, any dessert with fernet is OK by me.

And on visits that followed, some new dishes included:

Happy Valley beef with accoutrements I can’t recall that was perfectly cooked and beautiful to look at. I think the green is some kind of parsley puree. Ko also started my obsession with MUD Australia ceramics that has by now cost me a pretty penny.

New amuse-bouches: fried chicken oysters with dried honey mustard (take that, Wendy’s!), potato waffles, Ko Cheez-its and a shot of kimchi granita to offset all that fried goodness. On a following visit, we ordered another 6 pieces because we are crazy and the people there are awesome.

Lobster “bouillabaisse” with new potatoes and aioli. Just look at those colors. That sauce is one of the most shellfish-y (in a good way) sauces I’ve ever had and each time, I use their new flatbread to mop it all up.

Duck pie and greens. Can’t imagine the technique and time that goes into making this dish come out as great as it did but it was gone within 30 seconds.

An early version of the chocolate mousse and olive oil ice cream dish that’s now on the counter menu. Again, slightly bitter and barely sweet, with a nice contrast from the bergamot sauce drizzled on top.

Happy Valley beef again with a fried potato churro. That’s right. Potato. Churro. Think on this visit we had way too much wine (including a 1997 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino…life was not bad that day) so when I was hungover the next morning, 50 more of those churros delivered to my bed would’ve been really nice.

So if those above photos don’t make you go straight to the Momofuku Ko website and try to make a reservation (by the way, they’re actually open for lunch now as well), then I don’t know what will…Just do it and I can guarantee you’ll have a meal of a lifetime.

The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

In early July, I was lucky enough to take part in an event called the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle, a one-time only dinner where 37 of the world’s top chefs switched restaurants (and lives) for a single night. We wouldn’t even find out which chef drew Momofuku Ko (the venue we chose – other NYC restaurants included Mission Chinese Food and Blanca) from the lottery until the night of the dinner itself but I had chosen Ko out of the three New York locations due to its awesome interior and at-the-counter dining format. However, on the day of, some early sleuthing – Gelinaz had provided a posting wall for each restaurant and there were some hints (rainbow cookies from Carbone, red-white-green lasagna components) posted the morning of the event – as well as a too-conveniently timed Instagram post at Union Square Greenmarket had Chris, my co-diner, and me freaking out that it might just be Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescano in Modena, #2 restaurant on this year’s San Pellegrino’s best restaurants list.

Lo and behold, when we finally arrived at Ko, we were greeted with an enormous wheel of 27 month old Parmigiano Reggiano, a bottle of Massimo’s proprietary Villa Manadori Balsamico 2014 and refreshing spice-infused pink grapefruit and campari cocktails. And because I am lazy, below are photos of each course with just whatever notes I can recall months later but needless to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a meal chock full of intriguing, beautiful and above all, seriously delicious, food and Massimo was as charming, funny and warm as he seems on Chef’s Table (which I highly recommend you go and watch, available on Netflix):

Signed menu and personalized place settings

Massimo explaining his approach to the menu for the night and showing a component of his lasagna course

Corn off the Cob in Textures and Temperatures,
paired with Shimaoka Shuzo ‘Izumi’ from Yamahai, Junmai, Gunma, Japan
the essence of summer and so rich and flavorful

Wylie Dufresne of the dearly departed WD-50 joining us to explain his course, “Shrimp & Grits a la Wylie”

His “shrimp and grits”,
paired with Dom Perignon 2004

One of my favorite courses of the night: Naples to New York passing through Hokkaido,
paired with Villa Bucci Riserva 2010 from Marche, Italy,
pasta tossed in the richest uni sauce with smoked clams to evoke spaghetti alla carbonara and black-out good

The famous lasagna dish: Spaghetto wants to be the Crunchy Part of Lasagna with Bone Marrow and Bolognese
paired with Punta Crena 2013 from Liguria, Italy,
evoked the highly coveted corner piece of the lasagna which Massimo said was prized among children in Italy but ramped up with fatty, fatty marrow

Plating the lasagna with his trusty lieutenant, Taka

Beautiful Sonic Disco of Love and Hate at the Gate of Hell Painting with Wicked Pools of Glorious Color and Psychedelic Spin-Painted Lamb, Not Flame Grilled
paired with J.F. Mugnier 2006 from Burgundy, France
Yes, that is the name of the dish (the inspiration was art by Damien Hirst) and yes, it was as amazing to eat as it was to look at.

Massimo plating the Salad in Bloom course

Salad in Bloom
paired with Acqua Panna (a.k.a., fancy water) from Tuscany, Italy
Perfect palate cleanser and possibly the first dessert salad ever. Loved sommelier Jordan Salcito’s explanation for choosing water as the pairing and it made perfect sense.

Shaved Foie Gras, Three Cherries…Three Acidities
paired with Vollenweider 2008 from Mosel, Germany
Massimo’s take on Ko’s famous foie gras dish with pine nut brittle and Riesling gelee
(I actually liked his version more than the original thanks to the candied almonds and tartness of the cherries =X)

Oops I Broke the Cannolo as an Apple Pie
paired with Marco de Bartoli from Sicily, Italy
a mash-up of cannoli and apple pie, bringing together the best of American and Italian desserts

The super talented and hard working brigade who put up such an amazing meal

North wants to be South
A super refined version of pizza that we couldn’t get enough of!

All of the beverage pairings from the night along with Massimo’s book, “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef”

Momofuku Ko

March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

About a month ago, yours truly got lucky enough to experience the tasting menu and beverage pairing at the newly relocated Momofuku Ko on Extra Place right off the Bowery in the East Village. It’s a much bigger place than the original location, and along with roomier counter space for the diners (Ko is pretty unique in that all seats are at the counter so you can see the cooks preparing the food and even interact with them), there are beautiful glass cases full of hanging meats and all other kinds of ingredients that catch your eye. The restaurant is probably also home to one of the largest works by the artist David Choe, whose gorgeous and frenetic handiwork is sprawled all over the walls.

Right from entering, everyone was super friendly and inviting (shoutout to Su Wong Ruiz who was especially great!), and my dining companion Chris and I even got to make small talk with David Chang himself for a little bit (FYI, he recommends the carbonated cocktails at Booker and Dax if your goal for the night is to get very drunk, very quickly). The menu changes pretty regularly based on the season, so if you get to go, you’ll probably have dishes and pairings totally different from what we did.

Honestly, at this point, I have a hard time remembering the components of each individual dish (many of which were served on beautifully crafted MUD Australia ceramics) but I will say that the major highlights were the madai (super clean and refreshing); the sunchoke (which was very meaty and unctuous despite being all vegetable); the gorgeous, gorgeous uni with chickpea and hozon (as soon as Momofuku starts selling bottles of this stuff, I will be hoarding it) covered in olive oil (when I tasted this dish, I almost cried it was so delicious); the kabocha agnolotti with smoked duck – katsuobushi-style – and parmesan (just loads and loads of umami and deliciousness paired with a pear cider from Switzerland that I need to get my hands on somehow); the famous frozen foie gras over pine nut brittle, riesling gelee and lychee and the venison with pommes puree and epoisses (literally a layer of warm epoisses covered in fancy mashed potatoes that I’m pretty sure were composed of at least half butter). Hell, every single dish was standout. Even looking at these photos again, I’m salivating and checking out their availability for the coming week. Just know that this meal was probably one of the most memorable and enjoyable dinners of my life and I cannot wait to go back again. See below for each course and dish/pairing descriptions.

lobster paloise; tartlet w peter lauer, saar riesling sket, brut from mosel, germany nv 2011

vegetable roll

millefeuille

madai – green chilli, shiso, consomme

bay scallop – pineapple, basil with peter lauer, saar riesling sekt, brut reserve from mosel, germany 1991

sunchoke – blood orange, tarragon with goose island ‘lolita’ from chicago, illinois

uni – chickpea, hozon w shimaoka shuzu yamahai junmai izumi from gunma, japan

mackerel sabazushi – wasabi, dashi ponzu w savart ‘bulles de rose’ ecueil from champagne, france

mackerel dashi – oyster mushrooms, asian pear

soft scramble – potato, osetra, herbs w matthiasson “linda vista” chardonnay from napa, california 2013

bread and butter

kabocha – smoked duck, parmesan w ciderie du vulcain “poire doux” from fribourg, switzerland 2013

halibut – watercress, artichoke, truffle w j.f. ganevat, cremant ‘oh’ blanc de blancs from jura, france 2010 rinsed with j.f. ganevat ‘vin jaune’ from jura, france 2003

apple soda

foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly w karthauserhof, eitelsbacher ‘karthauserofberg’ riesling auslese from ruwer, germany 1998 (magnum)

venison – pomme puree, epoisses w domaine monier perreol saint joseph from chatelet rhone, france 2011

huckleberry – laurel bay, bee pollen

chocolate – mint w dr pepper, rhubarb, scotch and amaro

mignardises

And of course, because we don’t know how to stop being gluttonous once we’ve started, I introduced Chris to Lelabar, which in retrospect was probably a terrible idea for both our livers and wallets. A bottle of 1985 Chateau Leoville-Barton and 2000 Vietti Barolo to cap off an epic night of eating and drinking!

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