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Momofuku Ko (Part 2)


Fat Guy
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All of those four reasons are valid, but one must weigh them accordingly.  I would hazard that the most significant reason for Jean Georges' popularity at lunch is due to reason 1 to the extent that the others are rendered effectively insignificant (i.e., no matter how beautiful the room, relaxed the service, or flexible the menu, lunch would not be recommended nearly as often as it is now if it was priced at or near current dinner prices).

The critical point, though, is that Jean Georges is not popular at lunch. That's the reason why the restaurant is essentially "giving the food away." Vongerichten isn't running a charity. If he could sell the lunch menu for anything approaching the price of the dinner menu, he would. The fact that lunch is the most popular option among the eGullet set simply demonstrates that the eGullet set is an insignificant part of the restaurant's clientele. Edited by oakapple (log)
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I don't see it being hard to get into for very long. The number of people willing to pay that price at lunch....and with the time to eat that lunch in the East Village is going to be rather small. if anything, it's probably aimed at foodie tourists and people in the entertainment industry.

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They're only doing it 3 days a week, 1 sitting. That's 12 people a day or 36 for the entire week. And it's Fri-Sat-Sun so work schedules may not be as much of an issue.

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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Even Per Se's offering at lunch is cheaper than at dinner. At least I thought that was the case a while a go. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I can't think of a single restaurant in the city that offers a lunch offering more expensive than dinner. To me, the closer analogy is original the late-night menu at Ssam. More creative food offered at off-hour at a premium price point.

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I believe the lunch and dinner menus at Per Se were originally identical. The option of the shorter (and less expensive) five-course menu was eventually dropped at dinner time, but is still available at lunch. However, that "less expensive" option is still $175. As others have noted, I've never heard of a restaurant charging more at lunch, but Chang is making a career out of doing things no one has heard of. He doesn't have many seats to fill. Given the buzz, I suspect he'll be full for quite a while.

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I thought Per Se charged exactly the same at both lunch and dinner?

They used to. Now you can also opt for the lunch tasting, which, I believe is $175.

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The menu evolves with time and available ingredients. What you'll probably find is 1- some signature dishes unchanged (egg-and-caviar, frozen foie), 2- some changed components of dishes (X raw fish with buttermilk dressing, where X may have changed from scallops to fluke), and 3- some brand-new dishes.

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 randomly saw an opening for lunch on Friday for 1 person and grabbed it... still not 100% sure I'm ready to spend $160 on lunch. I've been once for dinner about two months ago and loved it. Any early reviews in yet for lunch? I am intrigued by this lengthier, mid-day meal... I'd just like to hear about how different of a menu it will be from what I had last time. Anyone?

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I think you may be going on the first day of lunch, so I wouldn't expect there to be much information beyond the Eater post about friends and family:

http://eater.com/archives/2008/08/koboom_t...ch_set_list.php

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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Just out of curiosity has the dinner menu changed at all since June?  I just snagged a reservation for Fri thanks to FG and was wondering if the dishes have changed much.

I was there a couple of weeks ago and fewer than half of the dishes were different from what I had my last time there (in late April) ...

The unchanged courses in no particular order were the fluke, the foie, the churasson and muffin, and the egg/caviar.

Off the top of my head, the stuff we got that I hadn't had before included a bacon dashi, a halibut with radish, a duck dish, a ravioli dish, and the strawberry dessert.

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The unchanged courses in no particular order were the fluke, the foie, the churasson and muffin, and the egg/caviar.

I've had two variants of the buttermilk-poppyseed crudo: one with scallops and one with fluke. I think that sauce is a signature item but the fish used varies with availability.

The amuse typically includes three items: the English muffin and the pork rind have remained the same since opening and the third item rotates with what's at the Greenmarket.

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 unchanged courses in no particular order were the fluke, the foie, the churasson and muffin, and the egg/caviar.

I've had two variants of the buttermilk-poppyseed crudo: one with scallops and one with fluke. I think that sauce is a signature item but the fish used varies with availability.

The amuse typically includes three items: the English muffin and the pork rind have remained the same since opening and the third item rotates with what's at the Greenmarket.

Right, the third amuse we had was a rolled up slice of a tiny eggplant, marinated I think, not terribly memorable. We had some pretty great shrimp heads as an amuse back in April.

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I'm still recovering from and processing today's lunch at Momofuku Ko. A few initial thoughts:

It's extensive. You get a lot of courses over a three-hour marathon eating session. I lost count around a dozen.

It's not overwhelmingly heavy food, though. The restaurant has really embraced the idea of lunch food. For example, the first many courses are cold: various crudo items (which are to be served on beds of crushed ice, but the serving vessels were not in house yet) and a carpaccio. I thought all of those were fantastic.

The leisurely pace and relaxed service vibe are very enjoyable.

Other than the signature frozen-shaved foie gras torchon and a few individual components of dishes, there is no overlap with the dinner menu.

There are positive and negative aspects to rewriting the menu this way.

On the plus side, the tasting menu is more of a wholistic experience, evolving over three hours from crudo and carpaccio to more substantial savory food and culminating in some fabulous Elysian Fields lamb then moving on to cheese and dessert.

On the minus side, despite the number of dishes being greater than at dinner, it has fewer smash hits than dinner. There are some smash hits, to be sure, like the "egg drop soup" in one of the dishes (the egg-drop soup is in a pasta pocket and oozes out when you cut into it, sort of a riff on Shanghainese soup dumplings) and a dish with mini eggplant ravioli and sausage that beautifully summarized the Momofuku aesthetic. One marked contrast is the egg. At dinner, the egg-and-caviar dish is rightfully a signature. The dish we had at lunch -- a fried egg (deep-fried, I believe) -- was markedly inferior and likely to be transient.

There's bread. At one point they bring out a fresh-baked roll with butter rolled into it, and later on with the cheese course (there is a plated cheese course, and it's quite good) they do a lard-infused brioche. Both delicious.

It's expensive. $160 for the food and $95 for the wine pairing, which is the only wine pairing offered. When you add in tax and tip, it works out to well over $300 a head. I think the food was totally worth $160 but maybe next time I'll have water (I imagine this is one potential difficulty with the lunch pricing structure -- the way to get out for under $250 a head is to drink water so I bet people will do that).

I didn't have a camera (they're banned, don't you know) and didn't want to break up the flow of the meal with note-taking, so I can't give a list of every dish. There were other members there, though, so maybe we can collectively reconstruct it if anybody cares.

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'm slowly remembering bits and pieces. Maybe others who were there can annotate, correct and elaborate:

First there was an amuse containing two items. One of those items was essentially pork fat in an edible cup, the other was caviar rolled in an edible wrapper -- this was one of three American caviars we'd see during the meal.

Then there were maybe five small courses of raw seafood, including to the best of my recollection hamachi, an oyster with lime and another American caviar, Long Island fluke, julienne scallops, and tuna tartare with yet another American caviar.

Next three cold courses: a lobster salad with melon gelee, a beef carpaccio (served with butter bread), and a tomato salad with tofu skin (a couple of the tomatoes were frozen for textural contrast)

Then hot food, starting with "bacon dashi," then a small piece of striped bass atop that "egg drop soup" pasta pocket, then the eggplant ravioli with sausage.

The signature frozen shaved foie gras torchon with pine nut brittle and lychees.

Elysian Fields lamb (an un-Frenched chop) served almost naked, just with a little diced watermelon.

Then a cheese plate with two cheeses (Humboldt Fog and a sheep cheese from a place I think they said was in Tennessee and called Blackberry Farm, but in my mind I kept thinking "Knott's Berry Farm"), garnished with among other things a lard-based brioche.

Pre-dessert was sorbet strawberry shortcake sorbet.

The main dessert was composed of several corn-based variants.

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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Blackberry Farm Cheese

a sheep cheese from a place I think they said was in Tennessee and called Blackberry Farm, but in my mind I kept thinking "Knott's Berry Farm"

(edited to make it clear why I posted the link)

Edited by munchymom (log)

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It's expensive. $160 for the food and $95 for the wine pairing, which is the only wine pairing offered. When you add in tax and tip, it works out to well over $300 a head. I think the food was totally worth $160 but maybe next time I'll have water (I imagine this is one potential difficulty with the lunch pricing structure -- the way to get out for under $250 a head is to drink water so I bet people will do that).

What is this "water" you speak of? :wink:

So, this is how I remember it:

Amuse: Lardo in pastry shell, caviar and creme fraiche in potato

Crudi:

-Hamachi with some sort of spice oil

-Maine oyster with hackleback caviar and lime

-Long Island fluke with cherries and Yunno's greens

-Julienne scallops with red pepper oil (that was the primary flavor I got)

-Tuna tartare with California osetra

Lobster claw with melon gelee, tomato water, basil oil

Beef carpaccio with a parmesan foil, shiso, and some other accents

(plus "butter bomb" bread)

Fresh/frozen grape tomato salad with yuba (tofu skin)

Bacon dashi dish (with an odd soy-based caviar-ish thing in it)

Striped bass with egg drop soup ravioli, baby bok choi, and buckwheat groats

Frozen shaved foie torchon (mmm!)

Buckwheat ravioli with eggplant filling and pork-miso sausage (double mmm!)

Elysian fields lamb chop with watermelon-shiso-feta garnish

Cheese: Humboldt Fog and Blackberry Farms 18-month-aged sheep, plus lard brioche (this was actually one of the best cheese courses I've had in forever; simple, manageable, and tasty)

Peach shortcake sorbet (don't think it was strawberry, was it, FG?)

Corn-chocolate pudding with sour cream ice cream

The wine pairings were... decent. For the amuses and crudi, we did champagne, switched to the Scholium sauvignon blanc for the later crudi courses (unimpressed), then to an Argentinean viognier for the lobster (perfect), then to manzanilla sherry for the carpaccio (nigh-disastrous), then to an excellent Valdouro white for the next few courses, over to a chilled Piemontese red for the tomatoes/bacon dashi, to a dessert sake for the foie torchon (perfect), then to a Volnay for the ravioli (simple but perfect), then to a 2002 Brunello for the lamb (REALLY perfect, and obviously the fanciest wine they were pouring), to a sweeter sherry for the cheese, a dessert sake for the sorbet, and finally a Greek moscato (ridiculously sweet and high ABV) for the pudding.

That fill in most of the blanks?

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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wow, impressive memory Mayur. I don't have much to add, I concur with their summaries, they were spot on. The sorbet was peach, with milk crumbs and some other component that made it taste like a peach cobbler to me. The pork-miso sausage in the ravioli dish was an inspiration. And Chang was there hanging out and chatting the whole time, so that was cool too. I've always liked the service I've gotten at ko, but this time was the best, with an even better vibe. Although it probably didn't hurt that I was sitting next to fat guy who knew the chefs.

oh, and I think the amuse was a pork rillette, not pure lard, just mostly.

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Well, they know me but they don't necessarily love me.

As Edsel just noted on the reservations topic, someone has canceled the four-top at noon tomorrow. (Grab it if you like.) And the way I got the reservation yesterday is that someone canceled the four-top the day before. There was also a two-top no-show yesterday.

This indicates to me that lunch in this format may be short lived. My guess is that people are thinking "three hours and $330 a head with wine -- no way!" I think the time may be more of a deterrent than the money. There are a lot of people out there who can afford $330 for a meal, but how many of them want to sit on stools for three hours? I think the Momofuku format appeals to people who want four-star food in a quick-service format. So there may be some sort of internal contradiction in a three-hour Momofuku meal. Either way, I'm doubly glad I got to be the one of 36 people per week who will experience it even once.

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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