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Restaurants & Bars 5

Momofuku Ko - where does it go from here?

porkchampnc | Oct 7, 200912:40 PM

I was lucky enough to snag a res at Ko yesterday because someone had cancelled - I appreciate the advice from fellow chowheads to check for cancellations. After reading all the laudatory reviews it was heartening not to be disappointed - the smoked egg with american caviar on the bed of onion done souvide style with a mere dash of sweet potato vinegar was sublime - the smokiness of the oozing egg flowing into the salty black fish eggs were the perfect foils. I think the crackling served as a starter was fine but I think the rose colored glasses need to be taken off on that one - it was just ok; as for the sashimi course no fluke but several slices of aji (spanish mackeral) which is in season now , appropriately doused with some kind of meyer lemon reduction and ginger pickled shallots -- a great substitute for gari. The biscuit glazed with mirin and bacon fat was fine - slightly unctous but not so much so -- a real stand out however were matsutake mushroom cream raviolis and a companion broth of matsutake tea - I knew they were really fresh because their faint cinamon scent arrived before they did ---these great shrooms are in season now in Oregon and for those of you lucky enough to try them -run don't walk - the tea made from simmering them ws very tradional japanese style - something japanese mushroom gatherers make for themselves when they are out picking and what you will find in haute joints in Kyoto. The ravioli were very good but the fresh slivers on top were something I would reconsider serving - these shrooms really want a little heat to bring out their flavor ---while on the topic of ravioli one of the first courses had daikon skin ravioli, some filled with braised short ribs and the other some kind of onion confit - the skins were a true artisitic achievement - obviously the daikin was sliced paper thin and then brined to make it supple and then expertly filled - the only problem was that the shortrib was way too salty and that salt didn't do well with the dashi broth that was poured over them; the venison was juicy but the stand out star on the plate was the celery root cream - not a pureee as I have read in some postings - the chef said that it was included as a foil for the very lean vension - brilliant idea - and while he didnt give the recipe it seems clear that it was probably made by steeping celery root in cream and simmering ever so slowly then straining out the celery root - i think they may have even used something like a coffee filter to do this and then the cream is obnviously chilled and whipped and thickened - hats off to whoever made that one up and btw the cream was made even tastier by the shaved brussels sprouts sauteed in butter (in retrospect the venison to me was the side - theother two ingredients the stars of the plate) - just as a footnote to this screed - I was really surprised at the lareg amount of butter and salt used in the meal - it seemed every few minutes one of the chefs was dipping into the cannister and taking out a thick scoop of butter and throwing it in some pot or pan - not very japanese or korean and defintiely not chinese - but then again butter and salt are the key to most western diners' hearts -- the shaved fois gras over litchee and a riesling gele was very interesting but not as terrific as I had hoped. As an aside I had a slightly negative co-dining experience - while I expected hush tones given the reviews and the minimalist decor - it was loud - really loud and not made any better by the boys down at the other end of the bar who were boasting among themselves how many times they had been to Masa and Per Se and then there was the diner down the road from me who asked the chef as he was microplaning the frozen liver - is that a truffle --- which proved to me that not just foodies come to Ko but anyone with money - which is good becasue the place would never survive if it just catered to chowheads) - All in all a very good experience - but when I look really closely at the meal, while it was very good it was not over the top great at every level - there is a bit of the emperor's new clothes going on here and while that is normal for any restaurant that presents a real alternative to mainstream high end dining, i think the folks at Ko could do more - they are relying on a core of the same dishes that they had on the menu when they first opened, e.g., fois gras, egg etc, can't wait to see what the future will hold for them - one great thing is that they are inspiring other chefs to think more expansively - now they should do so as well.

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