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Momofuku Ko (Part 2)


Fat Guy
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As I've been noting on the reservations topic there are, again, lunch reservations available for this weekend -- both a Saturday two-top and a Sunday four-top -- presumably due to cancellations. And there was an interesting note on Eater, citing Kottke, about an open four-top on Friday that went unclaimed all night -- even after the lunch hour on Friday there was still a green check showing for a one-top. So I'm thinking the demand for lunch has come close to equalizing with the supply. They must be seeing empty seats at lunch seatings. I don't know how much of that the business model accommodates, but I imagine if they consistently see empty seats they'll revise the lunch strategy.

My guess is that they exaggerated the demand for lunch at that price which doesn't involve Thomas Keller.

Having now been to both myself, I would have to say that I think many foodies (presuming they could afford it) might be more likely to return for lunch than dinner, if they were to try both. Everyone in my group uniformly preferred lunch, both for the menu structure and the amount of food. While it's more expensive, the value is comparable or better than dinner. Now, if they were to offer both menus at dinner, or even switch the two, they might have something:) I think Americans are much more used to eating the big meal late in the day.

When I left the dinner, I had enjoyed everything, but was honestly still hungry, and wished there had been more food or the option to add courses. At lunch, I found myself much more satisfied, and really enjoyed starting the meal with the flights of raw items.

Either way, this many free lunch reservations suggests that they may need to rethink the approach.

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In terms of quantity at dinner, when they were ending dinner with the deep-fried short rib it felt like a big meal even for an abnormally big eater like me. When they switched to duck it became possible for normal people to remain comfortable through to the end of the meal.

For lunch it's not the $160 in isolation that deters me. It's the check-builders and multipliers. I mean, if I had to choose between the Ko dinner for $100 and the Ko lunch for $160 I'd take the lunch. But let's say there are two of you and you want wine. The cheapest wine option at lunch is $95 per person. At dinner it's $50. So, building the check here's what you get:

Dinner

Food $100

Wine $50

Tax on $150 = $12.94

Total for one person $162.94

Total for two people $325.88 (before tip)

Total for two people with 20% tip on the $300 base ($60) = $385.88

(Although, a lot of people ordering the meal and cheap wine pairing are just rounding to $200 per person)

Lunch

Food $160

Wine $95

Tax on $255 = $22.06

Total for one person $277.06

Total for two people $554.12 (before tip)

Total for two people with 20% tip on the $510 base ($102) = $656.12

So anyway, to me the difference between $385.88 and $656.12 (aka $270.24) is far more substantial than the difference between $100 and $160 (aka $60). Someone check my arithmetic, please, but if my numbers are correct I think I'm sticking with dinner even though I enjoyed my lunch very much.

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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Well, in it's defense, I would question how many people would want a full flight of wines at 1pm on a Saturday/Sunday. Most people around me were enjoying a selection of beers, the half reisling in one case, and a 300ml sake in mine. Was plenty, and well under the $50 dinner option (which granted, is much better value).

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Went for lunch @ Ko today. Just phenomenal. Same menu as stated before, place was full. We found the pace of the meal nice, and a refreshing change from other places (1 turn will do that...) - we could have probably been out of there in 1 1/2 or 2 hours, but the pacing of the meal is set up to have it take the full 3+.

No pickled veggies to take home, though... Anyone know what the deal is with those? We were so looking forward to them.

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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Went for lunch @ Ko today.  Just phenomenal.  Same menu as stated before, place was full.  We found the pace of the meal nice, and a refreshing change from other places (1 turn will do that...) - we could have probably been out of there in 1 1/2 or 2 hours, but the pacing of the meal is set up to have it take the full 3+.

No pickled veggies to take home, though...  Anyone know what the deal is with those?  We were so looking forward to them.

I was there the same day. but I did get the veggies. Who knows?

Where were you seated?

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In terms of quantity at dinner, when they were ending dinner with the deep-fried short rib it felt like a big meal even for an abnormally big eater like me. When they switched to duck it became possible for normal people to remain comfortable through to the end of the meal.

For lunch it's not the $160 in isolation that deters me. It's the check-builders and multipliers. I mean, if I had to choose between the Ko dinner for $100 and the Ko lunch for $160 I'd take the lunch. But let's say there are two of you and you want wine. The cheapest wine option at lunch is $95 per person. At dinner it's $50. So, building the check here's what you get:

Dinner

Food $100

Wine $50

Tax on $150 = $12.94

Total for one person $162.94

Total for two people $325.88 (before tip)

Total for two people with 20% tip on the $300 base ($60) = $385.88

(Although, a lot of people ordering the meal and cheap wine pairing are just rounding to $200 per person)

Lunch

Food $160

Wine $95

Tax on $255 = $22.06

Total for one person $277.06

Total for two people $554.12 (before tip)

Total for two people with 20% tip on the $510 base ($102) = $656.12

So anyway, to me the difference between $385.88 and $656.12 (aka $270.24) is far more substantial than the difference between $100 and $160 (aka $60). Someone check my arithmetic, please, but if my numbers are correct I think I'm sticking with dinner even though I enjoyed my lunch very much.

That is a very fair point, and I suspect they'd probably be in great shape in they simply switched the lunch and dinner setups. However, if you wanted to change things at lunch in terms of booze, you don't have to get a pairing. You could definitely order a bottle or other form of booze. In a sense, it's unfair to compare the lunch pairing with the lowest level of dinner pairing, as the wines are much more similar to the $85 pairing. Still, I see your point that they only offer one level of pairing at lunch, which doesn't seem to make much sense on any level.

N.B.: On an only slightly related note, I tried the top flight paring at dinner ($150), and found that while it was very good, it was relatively poor value compared to the other two when you consider the incremental increase in quality versus price.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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N.B.:  On an only slightly related note, I tried the top flight paring at dinner ($150), and found that while it was very good, it was relatively poor value compared to the other two when you consider the incremental increase in quality versus price.

Strongly agree.

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Went for lunch @ Ko today.  Just phenomenal.  Same menu as stated before, place was full.  We found the pace of the meal nice, and a refreshing change from other places (1 turn will do that...) - we could have probably been out of there in 1 1/2 or 2 hours, but the pacing of the meal is set up to have it take the full 3+.

No pickled veggies to take home, though...  Anyone know what the deal is with those?  We were so looking forward to them.

I was there the same day. but I did get the veggies. Who knows?

Where were you seated?

We were the second group of two from the back, so the 3rd and 4th people from the end. Wonder what the deal was, certainly no one tried to stop us or mention it or anything. Seemed tacky to inquire, but now I think we should have.

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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  • 3 weeks later...
N.B.:  On an only slightly related note, I tried the top flight paring at dinner ($150), and found that while it was very good, it was relatively poor value compared to the other two when you consider the incremental increase in quality versus price.

Strongly agree.

I think that point can nearly always be made about wine, though, or really about any luxury item. Diminishing returns: that's just what you expect. Once you reach a certain point in the pricing progression, the curve of improvement flattens a lot. A $20 bottle of wine can be dramatically better than a $10 bottle of wine, but a $200 bottle of wine isn't likely to be radically better than a $100 bottle -- it's probably going to be a little bit better. The Ko $50 pairing establishes a very solid baseline. You get good, interesting, well-matched wines. You don't need to spend any more. The $85 pairing (which I've had once) is a little bit better -- I think if you're a serious wine aficionado it's worth the extra $35 (if you're me, it's an unnecessary indulgence). It's hard to quantify these things but let's say you get a 35% improvement in quality when you go from the $50 to the $85 pairing -- that's a 35% improvement for a 70% price increase. Not a bad deal if you care deeply about wine. The 200% price increase when you go from $50 to $150 (which I've done twice on occasions when someone else was paying), if I had to quantify the improvement for purposes of argument, I'd say is something on the order of a 50% quality improvement. To me, I'd have to be both wealthy and more serious about wine than I am in order for that to be a sensible investment. But I feel the same way about wine in general, which is why in a given year I might buy between zero and one bottles that cost more than $40 retail or $100 in a restaurant. Then again, for some people the $50 pairing isn't worth the money versus tap water. It all depends.

So anyway, I went to Ko last night with some people who had never been and who are extremely serious, knowledgeable judges of cuisine. It was interesting to drop that sort of group into Ko at this stage of the restaurant's evolution because it made clear that Ko has been upping its game steadily since opening and is now a far more impressive restaurant than when it opened. More than half the dishes were new or heavily revised since my last visit and I felt that every new dish contributed to elevating the meal. I'm sorry I didn't take better notes (or photographs, ahem) but one example of a dish that I thought was more refined than anything I'd had before at Ko was the new iteration of the dashi course. This was a dashi with hand-torn pasta and thinly sliced matsutake mushrooms, and then it contained a number of enhancements to amplify the characteristics of said mushrooms including pine-needle oil (no, I never knew there was such a thing -- they extract it themselves in house) and Lagavulin 16-year Scotch. The restrained use of those two ingredients gives the most earthy, woodsy, peaty dimension to the soup -- I really got the sense that the key ingredients in the dish had been waiting since the dawn of time (or however long they've been making Scotch) to be brought together into this soup. The main course is now Millbrook venison, which I think is an improvement over the duck. The egg, the frozen foie, and the fluke-buttermilk courses are still there because those are true signatures and deserve to be there, but just about everything else has evolved or is entirely new (I'll try to fill in the blanks if I go again soon). Even the amuses were impressive. They've replaced the pork-fat English muffin with something even better: a butter biscuit with mirin. And there's now a foie-gras truffle as an amuse. Plus the symbolic pork rind, which isn't really symbolic of the food at Ko anymore but is still cute.

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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Thanks for the update. When I had lunch last month, the chefs said that there was a contest among the chefs to come up with a new foie gras course (I personally love the shavd foie gras dish), so it's interesting to hear that they haven't yet made the change. I liked the $85 wine pairing better since the $50 pairing has beer (which I don't like). Unfortunately, Ko is very generous with the wine, so I find that by the end of the meal, I'm somewhat sloshed. I found that I was better off with a half bottle instead. Also since the lunch has more courses, there is more food to absorb the wine.

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Went for lunch @ Ko today.  Just phenomenal.  Same menu as stated before, place was full.  We found the pace of the meal nice, and a refreshing change from other places (1 turn will do that...) - we could have probably been out of there in 1 1/2 or 2 hours, but the pacing of the meal is set up to have it take the full 3+.

No pickled veggies to take home, though...  Anyone know what the deal is with those?  We were so looking forward to them.

I was there the same day. but I did get the veggies. Who knows?

Where were you seated?

We were the second group of two from the back, so the 3rd and 4th people from the end. Wonder what the deal was, certainly no one tried to stop us or mention it or anything. Seemed tacky to inquire, but now I think we should have.

We were in seats 5 & 6, right next to the four who were trying to take pictures.

Fab meal!

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one example of a dish that I thought was more refined than anything I'd had before at Ko was the new iteration of the dashi course. This was a dashi with hand-torn pasta and thinly sliced matsutake mushrooms, and then it contained a number of enhancements to amplify the characteristics of said mushrooms including pine-needle oil (no, I never knew there was such a thing -- they extract it themselves in house) and Lagavulin 16-year Scotch. The restrained use of those two ingredients gives the most earthy, woodsy, peaty dimension to the soup -- I really got the sense that the key ingredients in the dish had been waiting since the dawn of time (or however long they've been making Scotch) to be brought together into this soup.

Anyone with more details on how the scotch was incorporated into this dish? Is it added after cooking? Or do they cook off the alcohol, as you might do with wine? Or something more esoteric- strikes me as a good use for one of those rotary evaporators that are showing up in "molecular" kitchens (actually, it wouldn't surprise me this were the truth, if they're extracting their own pine oil at Ko)

Would love it if anyone having dinner there in the near future can sneak a couple of questions in to the chefs.

---

al wang

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It's poured in to the hot soup at the moment of service. Just a tiny bit. When it's first served there's the distinct (though not huge) flavor of alcohol and as you eat the soup and the alcohol mostly evaporates the flavors change.

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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Would love it if anyone having dinner there in the near future can sneak a couple of questions in to the chefs.

I actually asked when I was there, but unfortunately I don't remember the specifics. I can say that it was just one of your simple alternatives like a little splash as it finishes cooking, I think. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered if it was something more notable.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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Finally got into Ko after what felt like a million attempts on the web site (I'd probably say getting my reservation at El Bulli was easier...). Had a truly wonderful dinner last Thursday that definitely met all of my expectations. Menu is below:

- Fried chicharron

- House-made biscuit with mirin and black pepper

- Fried green tomato, roasted Maine lobster, kimchee puree

- Long Island fluke, whipped buttermilk, poppy seeds, white soy, chives

- Daikon potato soup, lamb belly, fried lilly bulbs, mustard greens

- Lightly smoked egg, hackleback caviar, onion soubise, house-made fingerling potato chips

- Hand torn pasta, matsutake mushrooms, mushroom broth, chives, toasted pine nuts, pine seed oil

- Roasted monk fish, pacific uni, chives, shellfish stew

- Shaved frozen foie gras, lychees, riesling gelee, hazelnut brittle

- Pan-roasted venison loin, fresh huckleberries, celery root, diced roasted brussel sprouts

- Kiwi sorbet, mashed apricot, olive oil

- Fried amish cheddar, granny smith apples, yogurt, pretzel ice cream

Everything was truly spectacular--standout dishes for me were the monkfish, the two soups and the egg. Did the $50 wine pairing -- overall some nice choices, especially the unusual sauvignon blanc from Scholium Projects (2006 "Prince in His Caves").

The chefs looked like they were enjoying themselves as much as they were working hard.

One thing I really liked about the place that I've seen little mention of on this site is the fantastic cookbook collection and Tsujiki fish market poster that are oddly enough in the bathroom. Chang has, on public display, one of the better-composed cookbook collections that I've seen.

Hopefully I will get back for lunch if the clicking gods look favorably upon me.

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Thanks for the menu for dinner. I just had lunch at Ko yesterday (the only dish that they repeat is the foie gras course). I find it easier to get the lunch reservation than the dinner. I got my reservation Saturday night for Sunday lunch.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In the approximately three weeks between my last Ko visit and a visit last night, it felt as though there had been a very extensive turnover in the menu. New dishes included hand-torn pasta with snail "ravioli" (actually cubes of escargot bits mixed with some sort of binder), rare seared mackerel standing in for the sashimi with buttermilk, monkfish with uni (I see from noplacelikesanseb's post above that this dish was added earlier this month), and a new-to-me entree: thinly sliced beef cheeks, bearing a similarity to country ham or something in that family. All winners, I thought. The soup course was different, though similar to past soup courses. The new twist was the addition of bay scallops. The amuses included a lobster-and-squash beggar's purse. The sorbet was Mandarin orange, and the fried-cheddar dessert remained the same from last time -- not in my opinion the best dessert I've had at Ko; and not even a particularly strong one. It's odd to me that dessert is a weakness for Ko, especially given how great some of the desserts at Ssam Bar have been and in light of the organization now having a dedicated dessert operation in Milk Bar. After several consecutive visits where I enjoyed the service experience, I felt last night that the restaurant was back to its old grudging self. An anomaly, I hope.

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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Good to hear the menu has changed somewhat. I'm going Thursday night and I also went a couple weeks ago. Not that I didn't love it then, but I like variety. On another note, I do feel like it has been easier in the last few weeks to get a reservation. I had been trying for a while to get one to take a friend who I knew would really enjoy it, but last time I got one he was out of town so I went with someone else, but it didn't take much time to snag another one for this week. But I know uni and beef cheek are two of his (and my) favorites, so I'm even more excited about the upcoming meal. I'll let you know what I think of the service this time, I've never been unhappy with it, but have enjoyed it more times than others.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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The quality of the uni that Ko is getting is very high. I'm not a lover of monkfish, but this piece of monkfish was quite good and the combination with uni worked brilliantly. The beef-cheek dish is nothing like any other beef-cheek preparation I've had. I think of beef cheeks as brisket-like, braised. This is a very thinly sliced preparation, the meat pink, almost ham-like but beef.

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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:biggrin: We are going for the first time Saturday night for our first anniversary. We are wine lovers; so should we do the $50 or $85 pairing? Don't love beer!! Do you have a choice of seating? If so where do you recommend? CAN'T WAIT!! Also, any ideas of how to get a reso in El Bulli..we are 0 for 7 years of trying!! THANKS
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