At first glance, you are not sure you are in the right place. Could the barred front and door really lead to gastronomic heaven? Push through. Open the door. Show the email you got allowing you entrance to David Chang's inner sanctum of superior eating. Get ready for Momofuku Ko.
Ok, so maybe it's not that dramatic, but when it takes numerous attempts to crack the code of entry at Ko, you are pretty thrilled to be part of the experience.
I got a reservation for my husband's birthday. It was divinely granted, I am sure, as I had tried unsuccessfully for the past year to get two seats at that damn bar (yes, you eat at a bar)…finally, when this special occasion arrived, the reservation gods smiled at me. We were in.
It seats only 12 at a time. You sit at the bar and watch the food being created – really, assembled as the vast majority of dishes are composed of 3 to 5 components, most of which appear to be made in advance (this gave me hope that I can ratchet up my own cooking with a lot more focus on assembly and combinations of things you would never ever dream up on your own…so we took notes and may attempt recreating some dishes…or just go again).
Here is what we had, all ten (yes TEN) courses:
1. Sliced Long Island Fluke topped with Gochujang; Chicharrone with togarashi and salt; House-made biscuit with black pepper butter and mirin (HOLY butter heaven, batman). Drink: Christian Etienne NV brut champagne
2. Diver scallop with pineapple vinegar, dehydrated ham, mitsuba, and fresh water chestnut. Drink: Kofererhof 2007. Overall very tasty though I don't love pineapple. My husband loved this dish.
3. Santa Barbara uni with sugar snap peas, cucumber (GENIUS – the cucumber had been scooped to resemble peas and placed in the sugar snap shells – delicious), and shiso in a chilled dashi broth. Drink: Masumi "Okuden" junmai sake.
4. Lightly smoked chicken egg with hackleback caviar, onion soubise, fingerling potato chips, and sweet potato vinegar. Drink: Bonard 2005, "Les Chassagnes" Savagnin, Cotes du Jura. The wine was delicious – will be looking for this. The whole dish was a thing of beauty to look at.
5. Saffron jook with Louisiana crawfish, Chinese sausage, and fennel and lime zest. Drink: Masumi "Arabashiri" nama junmai ginjo sake.
Believe it or not, we are not full at this point…the portions are small and really progress well. You feel a little like you are watching a fireworks display, leading to a fabulous finale.
6. Eden brook trout with swiss chard, radish, potato risotto. At this point, I was in LOVE. This was my favorite of everything we had. Drink: 2008 Txomon Etxaniz Getaria Txakolina
7. Shaved foie gras with pine nut brittle, lychees, and Resiling gelee. SHOWSTOPPER. Everyone raves about having this dish at Ko. Everyone is RIGHT. It's actually the pine nut brittle that makes it. But man, SHAVED foie gras??? I may not eat again for days. And that would be just fine. Drink: Schloss Muhlenhof 1999, Beerenauslese Siegerrebe & Ortega, Rheinheggen.
8. Deep-fried short rib with various spring onions. Probably one of the more creative preparations for short ribs I have ever seen. And believe it or not, not too heavy. Drink: 2006 Mouton Noir Thief In Law. The only red of the night. I suspect this is a spendy wine. It would be worth chasing down – really wonderful and not too heavy (and thank god for that, because at this point, we are STARTING to feel full. Perfect timing.)
9. Cantaloupe sorbet over lemon verbena ice: a refreshing palate cleanser with a little sprinkle of sea salt. Drink: Reymos NV Moscatel from Valencia. The only FAIL of the night. It might be that I just don't like cantaloupe. but this was not that great. A palate cleanser to be sure, but taste…skip.
And finally, drum roll please:
10. Six minute poached rhubarb with black pepper ganache, black pepper crumbs, olive oil and creme fraiche ice cream. Drink: Familie Bauer 2005 Sylvaner Auslese. Now, THAT is a dessert. First of all, would you ever imagine black pepper ganache? It was delicious. I don't know how they did it, but they made this taste like an incredibly rich almond ganache with a punch. Fan-freekin-tastic.
At this point, we passed out at the bar.
Almost. We rolled ourselves home. Incredibly, neither of us felt over-stuffed or bloated or terrible, as you might expect. Naturally, there is no way I will be attempting any of this at home. Some things are best left to the experts. But I note it all down because it was about our favorite meal of all time, and worth remembering every single bit.
If you are here and want a unique experience, get online, and try to score yourself a reservation. You will not regret it.