Monday, December 7, 2009

NYC 2009: An Exclusive Dining Experience at Momofuku Ko. Genius.

David Chang is a genius. Chef and owner of a quartet of Momofuku restaurants, he has won three James Beard awards, which are, as my friend described, the Oscars of the food world. We were among the few lucky patrons to visit Momofuku Ko on Saturday night for an unforgettable food experience. Getting this reservation was no small feat, although completely accessible to anyone who did a bit of research - you have to register on the website and log on for reservations 6 days in advance for one of the 12 precious seats. There is no menu, there are no pictures, and even the restaurant itself is scarcely marked (we walked right by the door the first time we passed). You have to trust in the food. Arriving at the restaurant exposes no more about what you will eat, how much nor the cost, but we were ready for our adventure. One of the first questions the chef asked was if we had any allergies - I cannot imagine what to do if one showed up with one, because there were 12 courses to come, carefully planned and prepared in advance, I'm not sure what options there would have been. In addition to the amazing tastes and unique preparations, watching the busy chefs at work was an experience in itself. Ko is set up as bar surrounding the narrow kitchen, reminding me of the geisha tea house we visited last year in Japan as a part of our walking tour. The 12 seats around the bar were filled by parties arriving at different times. Cooking was like a round in song - the chefs were organized and calm in their preparation of each appropriate course for the parties around the bar, with never a miss and easily making their way around and with each other. They started with only several dishes at once, but as the bar filled up, every group was having a different course - their ability to manage it all in stride was amazing. We had generous portions of sake to go with our dinner, passing on the wine accompaniment, which in hindsight we are glad as we were able to save room in our bellies for all the glorious and delicious food.

Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, and I also did not want to take away from the exclusive dining experience, but below is a detailed account of our menu. I had to take notes as we ate in an attempt to remember all the chefs were telling us!

1. Sweet shrimp in jalapeno sauce with scallions served on a Chinese spoon.
2. Snail sausage, fried pork skin and biscuit - the snail sausage came in tiny cubes, very unique.
3. Long island fluke in spicy buttermilk with poppy seed with spicy red herb - this was one of our favourite courses. The spicy buttermilk was very tasty and just the right flavour for the fish, topped with sparse tiny leaves of a spicy red Japanese herb that I cannot recall in name, but found it very unique. They looked like little red clovers.
4. Tataki Spanish mackarel with yuzu mustard green - I loved the mustard greens, adding a unique flavour to the mackarel that was prepared with a side of thin crispy skin.
5. Daikon tortellini with carmlized onion puree and oxtail, in oxtail consomme - watching one of the chefs make this dish was fantastic, two pods of daikon filled with onion puree/oxtail then wrapped and flipped into tortellinis. So smart!
6. Soft boiled egg with hackleback caviar and small chips and onions - this was the most beautiful dish of the night in its colour and preparation. The caviar was served flowing out of the bright yolk, seeping out of the half open egg. Was as delicious to taste as it was to look at!
7. Pine mushroom ravioli with buckwheat coriander, served with pine mushroom tea with a ball of french toast on the side - this was fantastic! Although I could not hear what the chef said upon serving the dish, I recognized the unique taste of the pine mushroom immediately (see our latest adventure at Ematei). I felt incredibly smart to recognize the great flavour of the pine mushroom, because for most of the meal, I couldn't keep up with what they were telling us!
8. Monk fish with sea urchin served in spicy shell fish stew - the sweet taste of sea urchin was a nice counter to the spicy shell fish stew the monk fish was set in. When I saw the chef make the stew again I saw the 3, 4 peppers he had put in the small pot and let boil down. No wonder it was so spicy! I personally think it took away from the sweetness of urchin, best enjoyed fresh, but nonetheless, the combined flavours were a unique experience.
9. Shaved foie gras and reisling jelly and lychee and candied pecan - this was probably the most unique plate I have ever had. The foie gras was served in a bowl looking much like a mound of shaved ice, hiding the jelly, lychee and pecans underneath. This was unbelieveable to eat - can you imagine light, fluffy foie gras!? Tony and I simply could not get enough of it! It is surely a memorable plate that we will tell stories about over and over again.
10. Crispy skin duck - we watched the chef start to prepare this from the moment we sat down, multiple and careful preparations made an AMAZING canard. The duck, served medium rare, is probably the best duck I have ever had, simple in taste, yet so incredibly delicious.
11. Spiced white wine sorbet with asian pear and elder flower - this was a nice cleansing of our pallet.
12. Goat milk and ricotta curd cheesecake with squash sorbet, cranberries and pumpkin seed oil - I think the best cheesecake I have ever had, light and so uniquely paired with the pumpkin seed oil and squash sorbet...who would have thought of that!?

Our experience at Momofuku Ko was unbeatable. All the food was fresh, the flavours light yet complex in how they were paired. I liked the slight kick in the dishes by various means, was lively for our taste buds. We couldn't have asked for a better meal - incredibly unique and worth every penny. Our meal in particular was a mere $125 a head, pennies for the unique food and experience we had. And of course, we couldn't help but pick-up the Ko cookbook (there are pictures in there!) for our growing collections of cookbooks we drool over. The spicy buttermilk recipe is included...yum! What is more amazing is that we were done right at 9:30pm, just in time for the second seating of guests to arrive and have their ultimate food experience. The whole operation is truly incredible, very deserving of its two michelin stars! Provided you don't have any allergies, fish in particular, this is a MUST visit for foodies. You will enjoy every dish in flavours and uniqueness.

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