Ever wondered what it’s like to get the Mr. Big treatment at a hot restaurant? Unless you’re Frank Bruni or Jay-Z, your best bet is the most obvious one—make your cash work for you by becoming a regular customer. Tip well, get to know the staff, and chat up the chef when you get a chance, so he or she will know you’ve got a palate worth cooking for.
Or, just hope you’ll be the lucky two-top pegged for the “super soigné” treatment by iconoclastic chef of the moment David Chang. Today in On the House (the blog-within-a-blog written by industry insiders for NY restaurant site Eater), the chef-owner of Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Noodle Bar details just what a flash kitchen might do for an über-VIP table, and how he likes to game the system with his “money piece.”
“For cooks, soigné=make it perfect. When you have a really important diner—an influential food critic, a chef you admire, anyone the higher ups deem to be important, the soigné level rises to something absurd like ‘super soigné.’ Anything short of culinary perfection means certain death for a cook.”
One night, Chang and his team pulled out all the stops for a VIP table: from an “über-amuse plate of bite-sized portions of raw fish, foie gras, and charcuterie” and a “tour de force of special canapes that looked like airbrushed food porn.” to “gorgeous diver sea scallops the size of hockey pucks” all the way through spring lamb five ways and a take-home bag of macaroons.
The catch? The servers had mixed up the tickets. The truffled salad, those sexy scallops, every dessert on the menu: they all went to a doubtless thrilled but stunned “regular” table. Thus was born Chang’s “money piece,” a golden ticket to VIP-hood dished out at will by Chang just for fun.
Unlike almost everything else in New York City, you can’t buy a shot at Chang’s money piece, although you can up the odds: go late-ish (after 9 p.m. but well before the 11 p.m. kitchen cut-off), be flexible and eat like a chef (no sauce on the side, no well-done meat), and don’t bring more than one lucky person with you. And sending a drink to the cook couldn’t hurt.