I hate myself for not writing this earlier so that my review of the dishes could be more detailed, but the memory of my first experience at Ko is still very fresh in my mind…
I happened to score a 6:50 reservation for 2 on Friday 3/30. The gf and I arrived at just about 6:49 and were immediately greeted by the sommelier. She spoke with a Zen like calmness which kinda startled me, considering Momofuku is (was?) known for their lack of customer service. I saw that we were the first ones there and apparently I was the only one frightened enough by the strict regulations posted up on Ko’s website to actually follow it to the tee. Although by the end of the night I was pretty convinced that those rules weren’t created by the kind people at Ko that night. The bar stools that some had claimed to be uncomfortable were not so at all. After spending many nights in dive bars drinking the night away, I actually felt a bit pampered by the cushioned stools. The meal didn’t really start until about 7pm, but it was a pleasure watching the three cooks prepping the food for the night while we waited. Before our first bite, we were given warm moist towels to wipe our hands with-- though I should say that I was given a warm moist towel to wipe my hands with. For some reason the towel that my gf received had not been moistened. I felt that it was a bit of an inconsistent start, albeit a miniscule one. Here’s the low down on the meal (not in exact order):
Chicharrón- Maldon salt
Pork rinds. Need I say more?
Mini Po boy- shigoku oyster, old bay mayo, pickled chili, lettuce
This thumb sized Po Boy was delicious. The flavor of the fried Shigoku oyster stood out very nicely and was not overwhelmed by the spices of the mayo and pickled chili. The bread was perfectly doughy and creamy.
Cauliflower soup- curry
This half shot of soup was pleasantly spicier than I had expected. Although I think the aggressive flavoring might have dulled the next dish.
Raw diver scallop- avocado puree and cucumber snow
This dish was the mildest flavored dish of the night. The cucumber snow and avocado puree with a squeeze of lime definitely made this very light and clean. A grain or two of salt on the scallop itself would have made this dish tops.
Spanish mackerel tataki – beet/apple puree
Yeah, apparently beets and apples make a perfectly tart puree that holds up nicely to the strong Spanish mackerel. I felt this dish to be very unique.
Traditional Dashi- Uni, smoked pork roulade with seaweed
The dashi seemed to be both the auxiliary and main component of this dish. It carried the smokiness of the pork so perfectly. Like a more sophisticated bacon dashi. One note on the uni: I’m not sure if they’re using the best uni they can find. This dish was prepared by the chef directly in front of me and though the top layer of uni seemed ok, the bottom ones were a bit… dark. It seemed like she tried not serving the blackened pieces, but it was kind of unavoidable at one point. Fortunately for me I didn’t receive any of the darker uni. The uni was absolutely perfect with the smoky dashi. A very sophisticated dish for the palette as well as the eyes.
House made Ricotta Pasta- lengua, fried sauerkraut
I can’t recall the name of this pasta, but it was kind of like a tiny cork screw. The crevices picked up just enough sauce for it to be consistently delicious with each bite. The fried sauerkraut cut through the heartiness and beefiness of the lengua just enough to balance the dish.
Soft Boiled Egg- Caviar, fingerling potato chips, onion soubise
Ok, so I have a copy of the Momofuku cookbook and I must say that this dish looks a lot more appealing in the book than it did in person. Don’t get me wrong, this dish didn’t look disgusting, but it just looked very… plain. And I suppose that was the intention but when that dish arrived, I thought about what the wonderful magic of cookbook photography could do for me. I must also note that while my egg was cooked perfectly, the yolk of my gf’s egg was solidified in certain areas. A bit of a disappointment, but nothing to really complain about. What this dish lacked in visual impact, was more than made up in with taste. The smokiness of the egg and cavier, coupled with the salitness of the chips were amazing.
Shaved Foie gras- lychee, pine nut brittle, Riesling gelee
This is another dish that benefitted much from cookbook photog magic. It looks so unassuming and so colorless. The U shaped china that the food had been nestled on was more attractive. But luckily for me I was privy to the glories of this dish to not care. And after tasting the dish, my gf was also in on the secret that the shaved “something” was keeping from the diners.
This had been the least successful dish of the night and is probably why I don’t remember much of it. What I do remember was that it the fish was complimented with a brunoise salad and that the Halibut was a bit overcooked for my taste.
Duck pomegranate glaze- chinese mustard greens, ramp puree, turnip coated with pumpernickel dust
One of the chefs had been cooking this duck shortly after we entered the restaurant. I was told that they cook the duck at a super low temperature and finished in the oven. The place smelled so damn good while the duck was searing. The duck breasts eventually found it’s way to the salamander. Slightly visible. Cooking ever so slowly. Making siren calls to me. The time it took to prepare the duck was so worth it. The slow sear gave a result where there was no fat in between the crispy skin and the meat. The meat… it was perfectly tender like a well rested mid-rare steak. The mustard greens were added a slight bitter/salty dimension to the dish while the pomegranate glaze and pumpernickel dust gave the right amount of sweetness to the duck. The ramp puree was equally as delicious, if not a little under seasoned
Goat cheese ice cream
I apologize for not being able to recollect the other component of this dish, but that’s not because of the 3 day gap between the meal and the review. It’s probably because the goat cheese ice cream was so damn good. Keep the other components, just give me an extra quenelle or two of that ice cream and I’d be perfectly happy.
Honey ice cream- rhubarb, bee pollen, milk crisps? lime foam?
Unlike the previous dessert course, there was no star player here. All the components melded together so well that I was meticulously scooping the rhubarb, bee pollen, milk crisp and lime foam so they could all dance together on my tongue. Sweet and tart. This dessert had it all.
Ok, so there were a few inconsistencies with this meal. It wasn’t perfect, but it surprised and delighted. Although I did expect two towels to both be moistened and a signature egg dish not to be overcooked, I can’t not recommend this place to someone. The staff there were very friendly and it was great to see them interact with one another. The chef who seemed to be in charge that night was being half sarcastic in telling a sous chef “that dish looks FANTASTIC!.” I asked the sous chef if he was the resident ball buster. She informed me that he is the resident “annoying comment maker” and that it didn’t matter since she didn’t listen to 80 percent of the things he says. The camaraderie and cohesion amongst the chefs were definitely a delight to witness. As for the front of the house, the bald bearded man who I believe was part host part bus boy and part everything else was extremely friendly. My gf stacked one of our plates after we were finished was jokingly scolded by Mr.beard (I think his name is Rich?) that it was his job to stack the plates and that it was her job to enjoy the food and enjoy the show.