Restaurant review: Momofuku Ko

On Friday night I had dinner at Momofuku Ko, an amazing restaurant in New York City.

The place is tiny with ~10 seats at a small counter across from the 3 chefs, and that’s it.  No tables, no other areas.  It’s behind a barred-looking door on 1st Avenue in the East Village.  Everyone walks past the door since it looks so closed, but you just need to open it and walk inside.

There is no menu, as the chefs just make up whatever they feel like that day.  It’s one fixed price, and they are not the most friendly towards dietary restrictions, which I think is great.  There are tons of restaurants out there, and most of them are very accommodating, so it’s nice to see a place that makes a point.

The food features many small dishes, comprising a great variety of ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavor combinations.  There is no discernible theme, just excellent, delicious, brilliantly-executed work.

At the beginning of the meal, I started taking pictures of each dish, but they kindly ask that I stop, so I did.  I have a couple of pics of the first entrees, but they were the least interesting visually.

There is a beverage pairing offered, and we (I was with a good friend) took advantage.  It was fascinating and intelligent in and of itself.  Besides some excellent wine, there was a variety of sakes, beers, liquors, and combinations thereof.  Everything matched the food perfectly, pours were generous, and service timely without being intrusive.

Intrusive is not really an applicable concept in this small a place, anyways.  It’s designed for you to converse with the chefs and your (very few) fellow diners.  Everyone is a serious foodie, and people were comparing notes about dishes, restaurants, techniques.  I really enjoyed that.

One of the highlights were a Gruyere cheese soup mixed with burnt onion and bone marrow, matched to a local craft beer, the Albino Python Lager.  Great combination.

Another highlight was home-made, hand-torn pappardelle with chicken and snail sausage, over which the chef shaved frozen foie gras.  Yeah.  Everything’s temperature was perfectly calibrated, and the foie gras melted over the pasta, creating an amazing combination.  At first we all thought he was shaving cheese, but no…

All in all, it was a great meal at a great restaurant.  Getting a reservation there is far from easy, as Frank Bruni noted in the New York Times, but it’s worth it.  Just leave food allergies at home.