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weinoo

má pêche

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Found myself meeting a friend in midtown yesterday, and decided to kill two birds by having my first meal at má pêche.

Certainly, walking downstairs isn't the first thing I'm hoping for in a restaurant; maybe it's the slightly claustrophobic feel I get, or the fact that I like windows, but it is where it is, so...

My dining companion and I tried four dishes, starting with the ba te de pintade. Two nice size slices of the guinea hen pâté along with pickled vegetables and violet mustard. Not new or revelatory, just well prepared pâté, as expected from this kitchen.

Along with the pate, we ordered xà lách frisée. Now this salad really punched it up a bit...a bit of perfectly fresh endive along with some of the tenderest tripe and a mess of pork jowl croutons. Mix it all up with the poached egg and it's the kind of salad I could eat every day.

The chou-fleur chiên, or fried cauliflower with curry, mint and fish sauce achieves a texture as if the vegetable had been dried and then rehydrated slightly. That's a good thing and might be a good way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. We big kids ate all of ours.

To finish, we ordered another Ssam classic, or at least a variation on a classic, bun du riz, rice noodles with spicy pork and sawleaf herb - a vegetable I see often in Chinatown, and one which I have occasionally used in my attempts at pho. I've always loved the rice noodles at Ssam and Noodle Bars, and this one was no different. Lots of succulent bits of pork making nice with bun and quite tasty.

With only trying a small portion of the menu, and practically sticking to old favorites from the chef, nothing really blew me away like the first 10 times I went to Ssam Bar. But that doesn't mean má pêche won't be high on my list when looking for midtown dining options.

The service was also a little incongruous for a Momo establishment. Too much hovering and too many questions; at times I longed for East Village service - like, just leave us alone, dude.

Oh, we did grab two ice-creams at Milk Bar on the way out - I had a salty pistachio and caramel swirl - and it was a classic ending to our meal.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The service was also a little incongruous for a Momo establishment. Too much hovering and too many questions; at times I longed for East Village service - like, just leave us alone, dude.

I wouldn't think of it as a Momo establishment. A copy of the staff training guide was linked recently. I can't find it on the moment, but it was quoted on Eater or Grub Street. They are trying to open a full-service restaurant this time. Even if you liked Momo in the East Village, some changes are necessary when you move to a midtown hotel.

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The service was also a little incongruous for a Momo establishment. Too much hovering and too many questions; at times I longed for East Village service - like, just leave us alone, dude.

I wouldn't think of it as a Momo establishment. A copy of the staff training guide was linked recently. I can't find it on the moment, but it was quoted on Eater or Grub Street. They are trying to open a full-service restaurant this time. Even if you liked Momo in the East Village, some changes are necessary when you move to a midtown hotel.

Agree with your first statement, and did see the staff training guide when it was posted, oak.

But how much more of a "full-service" restaurant than Noodle or Ssam is it really? I mean, silverware and chair backs are about the only differences I noticed. And in order to get dessert, you literally leave the restaurant, so...


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Certain things stand out from my visit to má pêche:

1) Philippe Patrick Starck is not dead-flowing fabric covers the walls;

2) The frisee dish-if you are expecting a take on the classic salad, this is not it. Although the dish consists of delicate tripe bits, tiny jowl croutons, and (over)poached egg, this was not a 'salad'. The frisee wilted and could not hold up to the other ingredients-okay and tasty just the same;

3) Cheapo wine pour-4 oz., tops;

4) Service was a bit overbearing but not obnoxious-of course, now that I've read the hours of operation, I guess it WAS getting late;

5) I also had the pate which was, as weinoo posted, perfectly serviceable but nothing extraordinary-the 'pickled' stuff was so slight as to be negligible;

6) The soft-serve, the salty pistachio/caramel swirl, was the best part of the experience. Next time, I will start with it. And maybe some pie.

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I had an extraordinarily positive experience on the mezzanine the other night. I had been hoping to go to the actual restaurant, but it's only open for lunch at present. The mezzanine/bar menu is shorter than the dining-room menu but has plenty of choices for a first (and second, and third) visit.

While there are perhaps some differences between the service approaches in Midtown and Downtown, I thought Ma Peche was unmistakeably a Momofuku establishment. Cory Lane was on the floor, and I recognized a couple of other faces. Sam Gelman, who was behind the counter at all my best visits to Momofuku Ko, is the chef de cuisine. Tien Ho, who was instrumental in defining Ssam Bar's cuisine, is executive chef. The service attitude is a little less Downtown than at the Downtown places, but that worked fine for me. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.

The food I tried was very much Momofuku food. It's hard to define the Momofuku style exactly, because it's almost an anti-style, but the flavors were assertive, there was good use of acid, salt right up to the maximum legal limit, maximum umami, and absolutely first-rate products. There's a nominally Vietnamese theme to the menu, or at least a lot of Vietnamese vocabulary on it, but based on what we tried it didn't really change the feel of the cuisine, which transcends any particular regional style.

We started with a selection of Hood Canal, East Dennis and St. Simone oysters. The Thai basil mignonette had Momofuku written all over it, but the oysters themselves were so good it was a shame to use any sauce. Also poached shrimp with kaffir ketchup, king crab with calamansi mayo, and squid salad with scallions and peanuts. The shrimp and crab (and oysters), being raw-bar items, were mostly noteworthy for being great product, but their sauces were all terrific. The squid salad was a real dish, and the first dish that gave me a full-on Momofuku flashback. It's just described as "Squid salad, scallions, peanuts" but of course has about million other ingredients -- citrus, herbs, something piquant -- giving it that four-star-food-on-stools taste. But we were on comfortable couches in a nice hotel lounge. We also had "fluke, pineapple, herbs," which was kind of lost on me especially once I'd had a few bites of the squid salad.

The second wave of food consisted of "mussels, crab paste, beer," the wild Burgundy snails with pork sausage, garlic and tarragon -- let me just pause to say, yes, both of those dishes were as crazy-Momofuku-good as they sound -- the fried cauliflower with curry, mint and fish sauce, and the 12-ounce "Juliet" steak with rice fries. These last two dishes didn't live up to the rest of the meal. The fried cauliflower at Ssam Bar is one of the best vegetable dishes I've had anywhere, ever. The Ma Peche permutation is a big step down -- it simply lacks the revelation quality of its ancestors. And whatever a Juliet steak is, it's not going to make my top-100 favorite cuts of beef list. Although, the rice fries are a neat trick and quite delicious.

The cocktail menu wasn't disposable so I didn't grab one. My group went through a half dozen cocktails and I thought they were up to boutique-cocktailian-bar standards: Kold-Draft (probably) ice cubes, a lot of labor involved in each drink, excellent products being used. The Dark and Stormy, the only cocktail we tried where I had a good basis for comparison to other versions, was particularly well-made.

We spent just under $200. In addition, a few of the above-mentioned dishes were sent out gratis.

After we ate, Sam Gelman showed us around the kitchen and main dining room. The wood tables, poured-concrete floors and exposed-concrete columns evoke the Downtown establishments. They're doing no-reservations, which is a risky move in Midtown but maybe they'll be able to pull it off. The kitchen facility is impressive: they should be able to accomplish a lot there.

I was bummed that Milk Bar was closed when we left. I think they plan to open it later into the night once dinner service starts in the dining room.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Cocktail list is here:

http://www.momofuku.com/ma-peche/beverage/cocktails/

7 spice sour is amazing. Dark & stormys were also good. Husband tried the Ampersand; from the small taste I had, it was great. Not too heavy on the honey. Really refreshing and interestingly layered with the two rums . Unfortunately, I didn't even realize there was a house soda list until later:

http://www.momofuku.com/ma-peche/beverage/other/

That Arnold Palmer sounds pretty delicious!

Had lunch here today, service seemed fine to me. Oysters were fantastic: fresh, meaty, creamy. Fluke with pineapple was fantastic, and reminiscent of an old Ssam Bar dish with raw diver scallops and pineapples. Beef tartare, scallions, mint, with shrimp chips was great. The light and crispy shrimp chips worked quite well with taste of the beef. In fact, putting too much beef on a chip actually detracted a little from the experience.

Also had the snails & sausage (great sauce, be sure to dip the bread in!) as well as the skate with pea shoots, steak frites (the rice "fries" are a little mind-bending), frisee & tripe with jowl croutons (can't go wrong with crunchy jowl cubes), but pork ribs with lemongrass caramel and fried cauliflower stole the show IMO. Tien also sent out a great dish of asparagus and shreds of sweet, fragrant crab. I didn't catch the rest of the details but this was also excellent!

Also found their coffee to be quite good. One French press pot (16 oz.) was more than enough for three of us. Dallis Brothers Brazilian estate, Sumatra. Too bad their baked to order chocolate chip cookies are no longer on the mezzanine menu.


Edited by kathryn (log)

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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The pork ribs were one of the dishes we wanted to try...unfortunately, they were 86ed when we went for lunch.

While it's understood that all Momos use excellently sourced ingredients (I think there was a restaurant somewhere in California that started that trend), the bigger issue was that nothing, at least in our lunch tasting, was any more revelatory than Ssam Bar was a few years ago. So while it may be a great concept for midtown, I doubt that you'll be seeing many downtown denizens heading up to W. 56th St. on a regular basis. Of course, if the restaurant is successful as is, that really doesn't matter one bit.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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He wasn't committing to a date but thought within a couple of weeks. There's nothing physically that remains to be done, but they still need to get to a certain level of confidence before throwing open the doors at nighttime.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I now, though, have a hotel recommendation for out of town foodie friends: the combination of a branch of Milk Bar, Ma Peche room service, and excellently made drinks (cocktails and non-alcoholic), while being steps away from tourist attractions is quite compelling.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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I now, though, have a hotel recommendation for out of town foodie friends: the combination of a branch of Milk Bar, Ma Peche room service, and excellently made drinks (cocktails and non-alcoholic), while being steps away from tourist attractions is quite compelling.

If they stay at the hotel, they'll have no money left for Milk Bar or ma peche...but the food carts on 6th Avenue are just a block away.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Two words: expense account.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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We went this past weekend for a fairly early lunch, wasn't too busy. Cory came in while we were eating, and Sam stuck his head out of the kitchen at one point as well. A lot of great dishes - definitely felt like a Momo, not quite the same staff/vibe as downtown, but extremely accessible. The music isn't as loud, which made us a bit sad, but seems like a concession to the neighborhood. We tried a couple of the nonalcoholic drinks, the tai boi was particularly great, and incredibly refreshing. The kitchen sent out a couple of extras during the meal, the fluke with pineapple was very reminiscent of the old Ssam dish (in a good way). The tartare was great, really good texture and a subtly asian flavor but still clearly tartare, and the shrimp chips were a great, fun accompaniment. There was a crab and asparagus special that was definitely one of those Momo Wow! reinvented dishes, the king crab was good, great calamansi mayo.

The snails and sausage were good, but the mop-up on the sauce was easily the best part (only because it was so, so good...) Bun du riz were good, but needed a little Maggi seasoning to really get the balance right. Short ribs were great, very similar to a brisket at Ssam bar from a while back. The best dish was definitely the pork ribs, amazing in every way. We were there with our three year old, and this was his reaction - "This is sooo good." "You have to try this!" "Can I have them all?" He was totally right...

Milk bar upstairs is kind of a half milk bar. No shakes, only 2 soft serve flavors, and instead of strawberry milk, they have fruity milk, which is fruity pebbles cereal milk (and cookies, cake, and pie). They also have the hot pocket sandwiches.


I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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The pork ribs were one of the dishes we wanted to try...unfortunately, they were 86ed when we went for lunch.

While it's understood that all Momos use excellently sourced ingredients (I think there was a restaurant somewhere in California that started that trend), the bigger issue was that nothing, at least in our lunch tasting, was any more revelatory than Ssam Bar was a few years ago. So while it may be a great concept for midtown, I doubt that you'll be seeing many downtown denizens heading up to W. 56th St. on a regular basis. Of course, if the restaurant is successful as is, that really doesn't matter one bit.

I wouldn't run uptown to eat there if I was downtown, but I also wouldn't go downtown to go to Noodle or Ssam if I was uptown, which is pretty significant. If the menu develops more of a Vietnamese bent over time, I could see traveling quite far for it, though, since there's so little decent (forget about good) vietnamese in the city. I think we'd go just about anywhere for top-notch pho.


I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Actually I think the fruity milk is a change at both Milk Bars. No more strawberry milk at either.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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Although my fancy friend with the expense account will probably be disappointed at lack of pork buns at Ma Peche/Chambers. I think he's been dreaming of room service pork buns for a year now.

Last time he was in town, he ate a pork bun at Milk Bar EV, and then ALSO took one back in his laptop bag from Milk Bar in the East Village to his room in Midtown East. And ate it for breakfast.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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He wasn't committing to a date but thought within a couple of weeks. There's nothing physically that remains to be done, but they still need to get to a certain level of confidence before throwing open the doors at nighttime.

Isn't this the most brilliant opening strategy ever? I can't remember a more heavily scrutinized opening that had such a long, leisurely play-in. By studiously avoiding dinner service, they keep the critics out while they polish their game. I've got to think that there are many other places that wished they had the capital cushion that would allow them to do this.

Of course, that means that when they finally do start serving dinner, there will be no excuses for it being anything less than top-notch.


Edited by oakapple (log)

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We visited just for a quick drink last night and had the Seven Spice Sour and the Short Island. Both were excellent, and as noted upthread, fairly worthy of other cocktail destinations. I'm not so sure about the mezzanine as an environment, though. We were comfortable but found it a little sterile for our tastes. Also, we found the service (such as it was for just a couple of drinks) to be a little clunky, and I noticed several servers furtively asking each other what I take to be elementary questions ("Which one is position 2 again?). Those are obviously kinks to be worked out.

Next time we'll try some food. It looked good to us. As for the dining room, which I spied on my way to the slightly disorienting bathroom (a urinal full of ice - huh) I like the layout but like others was a little put off that it was completely underground. If Chang is able to turn a storage area into a viable restaurant, though, more power to him.

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I'm not so sure about the mezzanine as an environment, though. We were comfortable but found it a little sterile for our tastes.

Ditto. Leaving aside the Momofuku connection, the space is totally charmless.

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The space seems in line with most high-end hotel spaces. The mezzanine is a generic lobby-type area, and the restaurant itself (which was formerly another restaurant, Town) has soaring ceilings and is hardly the first hotel-restaurant space in New York City to have no windows.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The space seems in line with most high-end hotel spaces. The mezzanine is a generic lobby-type area, and the restaurant itself (which was formerly another restaurant, Town) has soaring ceilings and is hardly the first hotel-restaurant space in New York City to have no windows.

That's it exactly: you think to yourself, "I've seen a million others like this." It has no intrinsic charm whatsoever.

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Right - I certainly didn't think it was worse than most other high end mid-town hotel lobbies - just not distinctive. But, just as an example, I would prefer to have had the exact same drink at the Ace hotel's lobby, where what I can get now is a stumptown macchiato.

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WK2 appears to have forgotten that this "storage area" has housed a restaurant -- indeed, a NYT three-star restaurant -- since the day the Hotel Chambers opened.

Having said that, it's true that David Rockwell's design for Town ameliorated the dining room's placement in a basement in a way the design for Ma Peche just doesn't. Rockwell's design swept you up, so that you felt like you were in this soaring space. The Ma Peche design makes it feel like you're eating in, well, a basement.

On another note, criticizing the Hotel Chambers for not being the Ace Hotel is like criticizing Cafe Boulud for not being Minetta Tavern. There's room for all kinds of places in this City. It would be a pity if the Chang organization, now trying something different from what they've done before, were to get roundly criticized for not doing the same thing as ever.

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It would be a pity if the Chang organization, now trying something different from what they've done before, were to get roundly criticized for not doing the same thing as ever.

But that's EXACTLY what my criticism is - that it is the same thing as ever(well, except for the fact that it is the basement in a hotel).


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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