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Momofuku Ko (Part 2)


Fat Guy
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I've been to Momofuku Ko more than 40 times since it opened in 2008, and for the most part, I believe the quality and the creativity behind the dishes have remained more or less high, although in my honest opinion, the very first tasting menu in March 2008 remains the best. The wine pours for the wine pairing have become stingier, unfortunately. The chefs engage the diners more willingly these days, making the dining experience a little more accessible than it was in the past.

The really impressive part is your being able to go there 40 times! Do you have a special secret to the res system, or are you just persistent? :) Shame about the wine pours. Have you mentioned anything to them? I've noticed that in many restaurants, if that's the case, saying something gets you fairly generous pours going forward. I wonder if it was something calculated on their part to reduce them as a matter of procedure, and whether they're aware of the bad will it can create (which often isn't worth the savings).

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I've been to Momofuku Ko more than 40 times since it opened in 2008, and for the most part, I believe the quality and the creativity behind the dishes have remained more or less high, although in my honest opinion, the very first tasting menu in March 2008 remains the best. The wine pours for the wine pairing have become stingier, unfortunately. The chefs engage the diners more willingly these days, making the dining experience a little more accessible than it was in the past.

The really impressive part is your being able to go there 40 times! Do you have a special secret to the res system, or are you just persistent? :) Shame about the wine pours. Have you mentioned anything to them? I've noticed that in many restaurants, if that's the case, saying something gets you fairly generous pours going forward. I wonder if it was something calculated on their part to reduce them as a matter of procedure, and whether they're aware of the bad will it can create (which often isn't worth the savings).

If the wine pours are less generous than before it's probably due to so many people reporting that they were getting too drunk/tipsy on the wine pairings. I know that the first time I had dinner at Ko about three years ago, I felt too tipsy to remember much about the dinner (other than it was fantastic). Ever since then I order a half bottle of Riesling for dinner and sometimes a whole bottle of Riesling for lunch (with about 1/3 left over). I like the Rieslings due to their low alcohol content and beautiful flavor with the Ko food.

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  • 1 month later...

What exactly is a "puffed egg"?

The egg has almost a foam/cream like consistency. It's quite good, but not as delicious as the soft cooked egg with onion soubise, hackleback caviar and fingerling potato chips that is served only at dinner.

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KO: 15 tiny courses for $175

Again, it goes back to what Sethd has pointed out, why is KO so expensive? Here is the price of our other meals:

SHO: 11-course dinner for $120 (69% of KO)

Eleven Madison: 8-course lunch $78 (45% of KO)

Both SHO and Eleven Madison had superb service, proper linens, high-end cutleries, comfortable chairs, nice dining room, and great location, but much cheaper than KO. Again, I am not saying all $$$ restaurant must have all those fancy aspects in placed, but where did my money go?

Don’t tell me the food I had at KO (or the thinking-process of creating those courses at KO) cost multiple times of other top restaurants in NYC. If it is, they must be inefficiently spending their revenue from customers.

My conclusion is that David (or the owner) is making a deep profit from KO. Which is great, he created a product that people are willing to pay the extra premium for. Many of you are willing to pay that extra thick premium just for the food AND even to reduce other aspects of a dining experience, but many others like me, don’t think the food is that special to a level that worth the extra thick premium AND a reduction in other aspects of a dining experience! That’s it.

I think it's pretty hard to draw that conclusion seeing as they only seat very few people a night. I've never been there, that comment just sticks out at me. I'm definately keen to head to Ssam or Noodle Bar next week while I'm in NY though.

James.

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KO: 15 tiny courses for $175

Again, it goes back to what Sethd has pointed out, why is KO so expensive? Here is the price of our other meals:

SHO: 11-course dinner for $120 (69% of KO)

Eleven Madison: 8-course lunch $78 (45% of KO)

Both SHO and Eleven Madison had superb service, proper linens, high-end cutleries, comfortable chairs, nice dining room, and great location, but much cheaper than KO. Again, I am not saying all $$$ restaurant must have all those fancy aspects in placed, but where did my money go?

Don’t tell me the food I had at KO (or the thinking-process of creating those courses at KO) cost multiple times of other top restaurants in NYC. If it is, they must be inefficiently spending their revenue from customers.

My conclusion is that David (or the owner) is making a deep profit from KO. Which is great, he created a product that people are willing to pay the extra premium for. Many of you are willing to pay that extra thick premium just for the food AND even to reduce other aspects of a dining experience, but many others like me, don’t think the food is that special to a level that worth the extra thick premium AND a reduction in other aspects of a dining experience! That’s it.

I think it's pretty hard to draw that conclusion seeing as they only seat very few people a night. I've never been there, that comment just sticks out at me. I'm definately keen to head to Ssam or Noodle Bar next week while I'm in NY though.

I agree with you. And I highly encourage you to check out Ssam or Noodle when you're in NY (or Ko if you can get in).

Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old, it was also an intentionally poor comparison, presumably constructed to prove a point. By cherry-picking meals (and prices) that served to make Ko look as expensive as possible and its competition much cheaper, the OP was trying to prove that Ko was a bad deal. Of course, if you take Ko's dinner price ($125), it's pretty similar to the one quoted for SHO. And If you take EMP's dinner price, which is $125 for the basic 4 courses, then Ko seems like a much better "deal". No point in arguing with the OP if an apples to apples comparison isn't really being made properly.

There were a number of other points made that (either intentionally or unintentionally) didn't reflect an understanding of how a restaurant's costs are determined. So without looking at actual ingredient costs, it's impossible to say that Ko was making a ton of money compared to the others. In addition to basics such as the small number of covers they clear each day, Ko does quite a few raw seafood preparations that often bear a high food cost. Further, final costs of a dish to the restaurant aren't based only on the total physical weight of ingredients, so it's naive to say that Ko's "tiny courses" should only equal what the other places' larger items do in terms of cost. Prep labor, serving expenses and so on are the same for a plated dish regardless of the physical size/weight, so 15 tiny courses will cost a restaurant much more to prepare than the same amount of food presented as four large courses.

Hope you enjoy whichever Momo experience you decide to try!

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KO: 15 tiny courses for $175

Again, it goes back to what Sethd has pointed out, why is KO so expensive? Here is the price of our other meals:

SHO: 11-course dinner for $120 (69% of KO)

Eleven Madison: 8-course lunch $78 (45% of KO)

Both SHO and Eleven Madison had superb service, proper linens, high-end cutleries, comfortable chairs, nice dining room, and great location, but much cheaper than KO. Again, I am not saying all $$$ restaurant must have all those fancy aspects in placed, but where did my money go?

Don’t tell me the food I had at KO (or the thinking-process of creating those courses at KO) cost multiple times of other top restaurants in NYC. If it is, they must be inefficiently spending their revenue from customers.

My conclusion is that David (or the owner) is making a deep profit from KO. Which is great, he created a product that people are willing to pay the extra premium for. Many of you are willing to pay that extra thick premium just for the food AND even to reduce other aspects of a dining experience, but many others like me, don’t think the food is that special to a level that worth the extra thick premium AND a reduction in other aspects of a dining experience! That’s it.

I think it's pretty hard to draw that conclusion seeing as they only seat very few people a night. I've never been there, that comment just sticks out at me. I'm definately keen to head to Ssam or Noodle Bar next week while I'm in NY though.

I agree with you. And I highly encourage you to check out Ssam or Noodle when you're in NY (or Ko if you can get in).

Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old, it was also an intentionally poor comparison, presumably constructed to prove a point. By cherry-picking meals (and prices) that served to make Ko look as expensive as possible and its competition much cheaper, the OP was trying to prove that Ko was a bad deal. Of course, if you take Ko's dinner price ($125), it's pretty similar to the one quoted for SHO. And If you take EMP's dinner price, which is $125 for the basic 4 courses, then Ko seems like a much better "deal". No point in arguing with the OP if an apples to apples comparison isn't really being made properly.

There were a number of other points made that (either intentionally or unintentionally) didn't reflect an understanding of how a restaurant's costs are determined. So without looking at actual ingredient costs, it's impossible to say that Ko was making a ton of money compared to the others. In addition to basics such as the small number of covers they clear each day, Ko does quite a few raw seafood preparations that often bear a high food cost. Further, final costs of a dish to the restaurant aren't based only on the total physical weight of ingredients, so it's naive to say that Ko's "tiny courses" should only equal what the other places' larger items do in terms of cost. Prep labor, serving expenses and so on are the same for a plated dish regardless of the physical size/weight, so 15 tiny courses will cost a restaurant much more to prepare than the same amount of food presented as four large courses.

Hope you enjoy whichever Momo experience you decide to try!

Haha, I didn't even notice how old that post was. I'm used to forums where three pages is all one days worth.

I'm sure there's lots of other holes in the comparison, but as I said, I'm not familiar with Ko.

I'd really love to visit Ko actually, what's the best way to get a reservation? I'll definately hit up one of the other places failing Ko though.

James.

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KO: 15 tiny courses for $175

Again, it goes back to what Sethd has pointed out, why is KO so expensive? Here is the price of our other meals:

SHO: 11-course dinner for $120 (69% of KO)

Eleven Madison: 8-course lunch $78 (45% of KO)

Both SHO and Eleven Madison had superb service, proper linens, high-end cutleries, comfortable chairs, nice dining room, and great location, but much cheaper than KO. Again, I am not saying all $$$ restaurant must have all those fancy aspects in placed, but where did my money go?

Don’t tell me the food I had at KO (or the thinking-process of creating those courses at KO) cost multiple times of other top restaurants in NYC. If it is, they must be inefficiently spending their revenue from customers.

My conclusion is that David (or the owner) is making a deep profit from KO. Which is great, he created a product that people are willing to pay the extra premium for. Many of you are willing to pay that extra thick premium just for the food AND even to reduce other aspects of a dining experience, but many others like me, don’t think the food is that special to a level that worth the extra thick premium AND a reduction in other aspects of a dining experience! That’s it.

I think it's pretty hard to draw that conclusion seeing as they only seat very few people a night. I've never been there, that comment just sticks out at me. I'm definately keen to head to Ssam or Noodle Bar next week while I'm in NY though.

I agree with you. And I highly encourage you to check out Ssam or Noodle when you're in NY (or Ko if you can get in).

Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old, it was also an intentionally poor comparison, presumably constructed to prove a point. By cherry-picking meals (and prices) that served to make Ko look as expensive as possible and its competition much cheaper, the OP was trying to prove that Ko was a bad deal. Of course, if you take Ko's dinner price ($125), it's pretty similar to the one quoted for SHO. And If you take EMP's dinner price, which is $125 for the basic 4 courses, then Ko seems like a much better "deal". No point in arguing with the OP if an apples to apples comparison isn't really being made properly.

There were a number of other points made that (either intentionally or unintentionally) didn't reflect an understanding of how a restaurant's costs are determined. So without looking at actual ingredient costs, it's impossible to say that Ko was making a ton of money compared to the others. In addition to basics such as the small number of covers they clear each day, Ko does quite a few raw seafood preparations that often bear a high food cost. Further, final costs of a dish to the restaurant aren't based only on the total physical weight of ingredients, so it's naive to say that Ko's "tiny courses" should only equal what the other places' larger items do in terms of cost. Prep labor, serving expenses and so on are the same for a plated dish regardless of the physical size/weight, so 15 tiny courses will cost a restaurant much more to prepare than the same amount of food presented as four large courses.

Hope you enjoy whichever Momo experience you decide to try!

Haha, I didn't even notice how old that post was. I'm used to forums where three pages is all one days worth.

I'm sure there's lots of other holes in the comparison, but as I said, I'm not familiar with Ko.

I'd really love to visit Ko actually, what's the best way to get a reservation? I'll definately hit up one of the other places failing Ko though.

On these boards, I think you'll generally find more love for Ko than hate. I personally really liked it both times I went (once for dinner, and once for lunch), which was a few months after they opened. I thought it was totally worth it. The only way to get a reservation is through the website. It's very democratic and very frustrating. The best strategy seems to be to repeatedly try the site, especially at off hours (i.e. late at night, etc.), and hope to get a cancellation. Most have had better luck with that than trying to get in ahead of the pack at 10am each morning when new slots are released. Put a bookmark in your browser and just keep trying. If not, you'll find a lot of disagreement about which of the other Momofukus is the best, but I'm partial to Ssam Bar personally.

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Haha, yes, that's a very old post... brings back my memories. There are many other more recent comments/reviews that you can read.

Yes, most people enjoyed their experience at Ko. You should try it too.

Yes, it is not fair conclusion on the profitability of a restaurant based on those simple facts. I don't know the exact cost of the ingredients, rent, staff, and the initial capital invested. I guess my point was that I didn't feel I got what I paid for in comparison with other meals that I had during that same NYC trip. And the service was....

As I mentioned in my other posts, Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar were great. You will like it.

For Ko's reservation, I just followed the online booking system and it worked out no problem.

Enjoy!

Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old...

There were a number of other points made that (either intentionally or unintentionally) didn't reflect an understanding of how a restaurant's costs are determined. So without looking at actual ingredient costs, it's impossible to say that Ko was making a ton of money compared to the others.

Hope you enjoy whichever Momo experience you decide to try!

Haha, I didn't even notice how old that post was. I'm used to forums where three pages is all one days worth.

I'm sure there's lots of other holes in the comparison, but as I said, I'm not familiar with Ko.

I'd really love to visit Ko actually, what's the best way to get a reservation? I'll definately hit up one of the other places failing Ko though.

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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Apart from the fact that the post you quoted was over a year old, it was also an intentionally poor comparison, presumably constructed to prove a point. By cherry-picking meals (and prices) that served to make Ko look as expensive as possible and its competition much cheaper, the OP was trying to prove that Ko was a bad deal.

Oh, I don't think it was an intentionally poor comparison based on "cherry-picked" meals. He was an out-of-town visitor, and those just happened to be the meals he had. I don't think it was such a bad comparison, either, as all three meals were long tasting menus. One could, of course, cherry-pick to make Ko seem better or worse, but that is precisely what he didn't do.

I don't pretend to know Chang's rate of return on Ko, but it lacks many amenities that comparably priced restaurants have, and no one yet has suggested that Chang is using markedly better ingredients than his competitors. But it's worth noting that Michelin multi-star restaurants are often loss leaders, or they have sweetheart deals with attached hotels, and so forth. And many benefit from private dining, which Ko can't accommodate.

Rather than beeing "deeply profitable" for Chang, Ko may be merely adequately profitable. Of the others mentioned, I suspect SHO Shaun Hergatt is a money-loser, and EMP may just be break-even.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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EMP may just be break-even.

Can I ask what you're basing this on, other than pure uninformed speculation?

This recent piece on Danny Meyer is full of interesting tidbits.

Eleven Madison owned Shake Shack from 2004 to 2009, when it became its own company — but the mobbed burger stand provided the capital required to hire the Swiss chef Daniel Humm away from a restaurant in San Francisco, reduce the seats in his new dining room, double his staff and establish a venue so elevated in its pursuits that it’s less a restaurant than a graduate program in taste.

I wouldn't call it iron-clad evidence of the unprofitability of EMP, but it certainly doesn't sound like it is/was self-sustaining.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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EMP may just be break-even.

Can I ask what you're basing this on, other than pure uninformed speculation?

Well, I am not sure what Oakapple's thought was, but if customers felt they didn’t get what they paid for, it makes sense for them to believe the company (e.g. restaurant in this case) is making good profit right? Or when they felt the price is about right or even slightly better value, then the company is slight profitable or just break-even. Wouldn’t you feel the same?

Of course, this assumes restaurants have similar expense ratio and not ineffectively using customer’s money, e.g. Hiring 3 people to do the job of one. If this is the case, then I understand how a restaurant can fail to deliver what customers paid for and being unprofitable at the same time. With Chang's success and the number of restaurants he has, I am sure he's running them cost effectively and that's why few of us here believe Ko is quite profitable relative to other restaurants in discussion.

Edited by FDE (log)

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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Well, I am not sure what Oakapple's thought was, but if customers felt they didn’t get what they paid for, it makes sense for them to believe the company (e.g. restaurant in this case) is making good profit right? Or when they felt the price is about right or even slightly better value, then the company is slight profitable or just break-even. Wouldn’t you feel the same?

No. It's sloppy, uninformed thinking. Today, you may read a review praising Ko to the skies; tomorrow, you may read a very negative review. Yet, both diners paid the same price. Ko doesn't adjust its tariff depending upon how much the customer liked it. You may think that, because the restaurant "felt like" a bad deal to you, it must be making a huge profit. But one has nothing necessarily to do with the other.

Most of a restaurant's expenses go to things that you cannot observe: rent, salaries, legal, HR, insurance, marketing, etc. Even for the food, it is the rare diner who has enough experience and knowledge to know what the ingredients cost, and what it took to prepare them. In any event, good ingredients prepared badly cost the same as good ingredients prepared well, even though the customer experience could be radically different.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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EMP may just be break-even.

Can I ask what you're basing this on, other than pure uninformed speculation?

As I said again, regardless of profitable or not, my point was I felt that I didn't get what I paid for relative to those few other restaurants in discussion. That’s all.

Say if you were extremely disappointed about a product after you paid a high price for it, you will make a statement like “it’s probably overpriced or the company probably makes a higher profit” rather than thinking “well, maybe I couldn't see most of the expenses being use, e.g. rent, salaries, legal, HR, insurance, marketing, etc. so I understand why it is such a high price.” Keep in mind that say you then got a much satisfying product across the street and at a significantly lower price.

So Oakapple, back BKYLN's question to why you think EMP is just about break-even? It sounds like you have more info to justify your statement.

Fine Dining Explorer

www.finediningexplorer.com

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Say if you were extremely disappointed about a product after you paid a high price for it, you will make a statement like “it’s probably overpriced or the company probably makes a higher profit” rather than thinking “well, maybe I couldn't see most of the expenses being use, e.g. rent, salaries, legal, HR, insurance, marketing, etc. so I understand why it is such a high price.” Keep in mind that say you then got a much satisfying product across the street and at a significantly lower price.

I perfectly understand that this is one's likely emotional reaction. But analytically it makes no sense. Ko probably serves around 9,000 dinners a year. One diner's disappointment doesn't inform the question of how much profit Ko is making.

So Oakapple, back BKYLN's question to why you think EMP is just about break-even? It sounds like you have more info to justify your statement.

KD1191 answered it well upthread. I don't have any better information than that, but I have heard similar statements before. I said that I "suspect . . . EMP may just be break-even." The article KD1191 quoted is certainly enough to justify my suspicion.

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Right, and to be fair, Ko is a very small restaurant serving only 10-12 diners. It doesn't have the "economies of scale" as other big restaurants do. But still, since none of us has any better info, Ko could have a higher profit margin than EMP and SHO, yes, purely based on whatever I can observe during my meals at those places.

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  • 5 weeks later...

So I (finally) scored a dinner reservation for next weekend at Ko, and I was wondering about the situation with the wine pairings. I've heard that there are 3 price points, but I've also heard that they only do one for dinner at $95. Which is true? And, if its just the one, is it justified for $95 bucks?

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Ko has definitely pared back (no pun intended) since a few years ago on the size of the pours in the pairing. Some people prefer it and some are annoyed. You could even split a pairing with your date if you're worried about having too much to drink but still want to try multiple wines. The bottle list isn't huge, but it's thoughtful and there are always a few interesting (non-obvious) things on it. It is also well matched to the food.

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  • 2 months later...

In between Christmas shopping and partying, I had lunch at Momofuku Ko yesterday. Lovely meal, as always, and for a change, I decided to forego the usual wine pairing, and instead opted for a bottle of white wine from the Roussillon region of France (lovely acidity, with some interesting notes and heft). So, here goes the meal:

1) The meal started with a Kusshi oyster served with a jalapeno vinaigrette. Briny yet with some kick. Nice way to warm up the stomach and the taste buds for the meal to come.

2) Amuses bouche:

Pommes soufflé filled with sour cream and hackleback caviar

Aged beef tartare with radish and spicy vinaigrette

Fish chowder with white chives

3) Quartet of crudo:

Madai with XVOO and topped with crispy fish scales and chives

Long Island fluke topped with pickled red peppers and fermented bean paste

Raw scallop topped with poppy seeds and sriracha sauce dressing

Spanish mackerel topped with pickled onions and Japanese cereal

4) Vegetable trio:

Roasted sunchoke with pinenut pesto

Fried cauliflower floret with fish sauce vinaigrette (a bit similar to the one Tien Ho made for Momofuku Ma Peche)

Braised turnip dusted with espresso

5) Wild mushroom salad served with pickled red onions, micro-cilantro and a charred pickled jalapeno puree. Mushrooms included chanterelles, hen of the woods, lobster and royal trumpet.

6) Puffed chicken’s egg topped with chives and kombu, served in a bacon dashi broth

7) Matsutake mushroom ravioli topped with puffed buckwheat, in a butter sauce. This is served with a side of matsutake mushroom broth topped with spruce oil, and a maple brown butter French toast

8) Bento box:

Fish consomme topped with garlic oil and raw bean sprouts

Pork rib cooked sous vide, then slathered with house made barbecue sauce before going under broiler. This is served with grilled shishito pepper.

Grilled rice roll

Grilled and julienned brussel sprout salad

9) Pan roasted monkfish served with vegetables in a rich lobster broth

10) Shaved torchon of foie gras with Riesling gelee, lychees and pinenut brittle

11) House made charcuterie, served with black onion puree and cranberries:

Chicken liver pate

Smoked duck breast

Pig's head cheese

12) Lamb rack from Elysian Fields served with salsify and burnt onion puree, with a side of cassoulet served in a miniature Le Creuset dutch oven

13) Goat cheese and honey sorbet, served with a four-layer gelee of milk, tea, pomegranate and honey

14) Dessert: Sugar cone filled with sticky rice and house made ice cream (cannot remember the actual flavor)

There were new faces behind the oven: Sous chef Sean, and line cooks Heather and Josh. Nice people, and quite talented. All in all, the perfect way to enjoy a December afternoon.

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