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A Tale of Two Sittings: Ma Peche v. Oda House

howdini | Apr 8, 201508:14 PM

It was the best of times, it was the worst…actually, both times were pretty good, but one was far better than the other. Last Thursday I ate at Ma Peche for the first time, joined by my son [a chef in training], and a friend who was visiting from SF. The next night I had dinner with my gf at Oda House, the third dinner l’ve eaten there.

I’ve heard so much about Ma Peche, it’s on so many hound’s “Best of the Month” lists, that I figured it was a pretty safe bet that I’d get an excellent meal there. Well, it was pretty good, but I’d hesitate to call it excellent. We had:
-Spicy cod fritters
-Pork bun
-Fried shrimp
-Smoked trout with English pea puree
-cabbage pancake with short rib, shrimp, bonito
-Habanero fried chicken

The pork bun I’m well familiar with, having had it on numerous occasions at the Noodle Bar and Ssam; it was delicious, as always. The cod fritters were good, with decent heat, but lacked the crispy outside that I was expecting. Smoked trout was a bit of a disappointment, as the flavor was ok, but it didn’t taste smoky in the least, and the skin, while it looked nice and crispy, was pretty soft. If I hadn’t been told, I would have sworn that it was salmon that I was eating, as the trout meat and skin looked exactly like salmon in the place’s lighting [and I’m still not entirely convinced that it wasn’t salmon]. The puree of English peas was very good, though. Fried shrimp were also very good, fried in their shells with no breading, rendering them edible in their entirety, their heads infused with wasabi, but again, they would definitely have benefited from another minute in the fryer, as the shells and legs weren’t crispy enough. The cabbage pancake was the standout of the meal: nice textures, and full of big, wonderful umami. Habanero fried chicken was good, but it, too, lacked crispy skin, and I got the short end of the stick in terms of the pieces I got: both turned out to be breast meat, and were kinda dry. I thought that the heat level was good, but my son had a complaint: in his opinion, if something is advertised as “habanero [xxx],” it should be tear-your-head-off fiery; I can see where he’s coming from on this. Overall assessment: there seemed to be a tragic lack of crispiness that evening.

The next night, Friday, my gf and l went back to Oda House, where we’d eaten dinner with her two teenage daughters the week before. That was my second dinner there, my gf’s first, and it impressed the hell out of her (that night we had the pikhali trio, imeruli [the flat yogurt dough bread with cheese baked into it] and chicken skewers). At this meal we ordered:

Georgian salad with walnuts [basic green salad with fresh basil, ground walnuts and Georgian spices]
Mtsvani lobio [green beans cooked with white onions, fresh tomatoes and herbs]
Chakapuli [grass-fed lamb stew cooked with tarragon, mint, scallions, parsley, cilantro and white wine]
Mukuzani [a dry Kakhetian red wine]
Pelamushi [traditional Georgian dessert of grape juice cooked with wheat and corn flour, covered in chocolate sauce]
Ideali [honey-walnut cake, iced with cooked condensed milk]

l won’t go into too much detail, except to say that every single dish we had was absolutely wonderful, including the wine, which had a very interesting flavor l’ve not tasted before [don’t ask me to describe it, as l’m not good with wine descriptors]. The standout for me was the salad: I likes me a good salad, but I’m rarely blown away by one. This one blew me away: the ground walnuts and light vinaigrette were so good, I just didn’t want to stop eating it. I was terribly sad when we finished it.

The chef, Maia Acquaviva, was seated next to us, fooling around on an iPad, and we got into a nice conversation with her about Georgia and other Georgian restaurants in town [she used to work with the chef/owner of We Are Georgian on King’s Hwy in Bkln]. She comped two desserts for us, the pelamushi and ideali: the former has the consistency of firm jello, and tastes like the grape juice that I had when I was growing up, just fantastically grape-y. That it was covered in chocolate sauce definitely didn’t detract from it. The latter was a honey cake with three walnut halves sticking up out of it: a light, moist, delicious cake. Neither dessert was overly sweet, which made them perfect for my taste.

The contrast between the two restaurants was pretty marked: l thought that the flavors, overall, of Oda House were far superior to those of Ma Peche. I don’t why it took me so long to get to Oda House, as it’s only a couple blocks from me, but l’m glad l did, as I’ll be a regular there now.

Oda House,
Momofuku Noodle Bar
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