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Momofuku Ko (Part 2)


Fat Guy
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Another brilliant lunch at Ko yesterday. I finally took my sister to lunch (found out that the chefs are very accomodating to her no pork diet--there were only 2 courses that needed adjustment). We both loved it. Usual 3 hours. The lunch felt more delicate than in the past (meaning that I didn't feel uncomfortably full at the end of the meal); we went to Milk Bar, took home a piece of crack pie (my favorite), cornflake cookies, and I even ate the peaches and cream soft serve--great new flavor). The 16 courses included: oyster with hackleback caviar, fluke, kanapachi, madai (sea bream--I think), the best toro, uni and yuba skin, the egg dish with the "bagel" with cream cheese and bacon (very yummy), a lovely corn dish with chanterelles, gnocchi, black bass, grilled octopus, the always wonderful shaved foie gras, the wonderful duck with plums, a new cheese course (that I like better), green tomato sorbet, and a delightful strawberry dessert. I have always found the chefs very approachable and willing to answer questions. Service was (as usual) very attentive. As much as I love Per Se, I think I actually prefer Ko for the most creative and delicious cuisine. A comparable meal at Per Se would cost twice as much, and there is something so enjoyable about dressing casually. You all know I'll be back soon.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I had dinner at Momofuku Ko this weekend, and there were a few changes in the menu since I last ate there earlier this year. I will try to list down as much as I can remember of the meal:

Amuse bouche 1: Potato soup topped with bread crumbs and Benton's bacon bits.

Amuse bouche 2: Shrimp-foie gras croquette served with micro-cilantro and yuzu marmalade.

Amuse bouche 3: Mirin-soaked black pepper brioche and todarashi-spiced chicharron.

Course 1: Slices of scallop topped with chive oil, water chesnuts, Benton's ham bits and pineapple puree.

Course 2: Oxtail consomme with oxtail and daikon dumplings, daikon strips, basil and cilantro. Very Michel Bras, and a homage to the oxtail soup once served at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Course 3: Soft-boiled hen's egg with hackleback caviar, fingerling potato chips, sweet potato vinegar, soubise onions, and herbs.

Course 4: Dumplings (cannot remember the stuffing) served in a matsutake mushroom broth. This was paired with a matsutake mushroom tea accompanied by a french toast brioche on some maple syrup.

Course 5: Pan-roasted monkfish topped with Santa Barbara uni, in a spicy seafood broth.

Course 6: Shaved torchon of foie gras with Riesling gelee and pine nut brittle.

Course 7: Roasted venison served au jus, with sauteed brussel sprouts and huckleberries.

Pre-Dessert: Animal cracker ice cream with peanut butter ganache.

Dessert: Blueberries served with ice cream (cannot remember the flavor), black pepper ganache and black pepper crumble.

Very interesting and lovely meal. Favorites were the matsutake mushroom dish, the oxtail consomme, the venison and the desserts. Some new staff as well, but service remained smooth and professional. With dinner at $125 and wine pairing at $95, it is not something I can indulge in regularly, but it was a wonderful experience nonetheless.

Edited by The Food Doc (log)
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I think it was some sort of mushroom ravioli? Relative to other options, Ko seems a fairly questionable value now at $125, especially given the lack of amenities. At this point, they're charging as much for food as the more conventional 3-star restaurants, especially given the hassle of getting a reservation at Ko. Then again, enough people seem to disagree with me that all their reservation slots are still taken every day.

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There's a whole debate to be had about what constitutes the universe of comparable restaurants and menus. I think Ko's tasting menu is comparable to something like the eight-course tasting menu at Daniel, which is currently priced at $195. You get a lot more amenities at Daniel but I think Ko is serving a menu as good or better (and certainly more interesting) for $70 less per person.

I believe the reason for the price increase was to allow the restaurant to buy better ingredients. If there was a limitation on Ko's cuisine, it was the budget. The menu price limited the range of ingredients available to the kitchen. If an appropriate percentage of the increased menu price is being designated for ingredient purchasing, then it brings dinner one step closer to lunch.

Given the bottomless demand for seats at Ko, it would make sense to raise prices even with no corresponding increase in ingredient expenditures. But my educated guess is that this increase at least in part covers food cost.

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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Relative to other options, Ko seems a fairly questionable value now at $125, especially given the lack of amenities. At this point, they're charging as much for food as the more conventional 3-star restaurants, especially given the hassle of getting a reservation at Ko. Then again, enough people seem to disagree with me that all their reservation slots are still taken every day.

The details quoted above are a 12-course meal, counting amuses. The price of $125 is a good deal for a long tasting menu. For instance, Eleven Madison Park's equivalent menu is $175. Per Se is $275, which is equivalent to about $220 without service. Ko, of course, is much less comfortable than those places, but their price reflects that.

Ko still seems to be selling out most of their seats. When it opened, cancellations would be snapped up in about 30 seconds. Nowadays, it sometimes takes longer. But as of this moment, the next 6 days are totally sold out, and that usually seems to be the case.

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Counting courses is only one element of a menu comparison, especially when you consider that an eight-course tasting at a place like Daniel might include a multi-part amuse, dessert amuse, petits fours and a significant bread selection. But what it comes down to is that if the appropriate comparison is a $200-range degustation than Ko is a bargain, and if the appropriate comparison is one of the tasting menus at Babbo then Ko is now overpriced. But I think the former comparison makes more sense.

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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My mental point of comparison here is more something like the tasting at Corton, which is currently $135 according to the website. Not as many sequential courses, but with the use of side dishes at Corton, comparable in the variety of food served, in my opinion.

I don't think the comparison with EMP's Gourmand is quite apt – if nothing else, it takes a lot more time than the dinner tasting at Ko.

ETA: Or, for that matter, the tasting at wd~50.

Edited by taion (log)
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Ko seems a fairly questionable value now at $125, especially given the lack of amenities.

I'm with you Taion. I first thought this after leaving the 10 course $75 at Degustation when (at the time) I compared it to the old $100 Ko price point. At $125, to leave still hungry enough to eat a dessert, with no appreciable change in the types of ingredients used, and with no form of expense being invested into the dining "room"... Well, I don't get it. Well, I do get it - supply & demand. But I don't see the value being there as it used to be.

As for comparables, I find it absurd to compare the EMP Gourmand and Per Se 9 course to Ko, you are ignoring some seriously massive elephants in the room (decor, service & environment at very least - all of which I'd rate as "poor" at Ko). I would go with Degustation as a primary comparable (with far far far better service), also Aldea Chef's Counter - for both you now have an extra $50 to supplement your meal at will, which for Aldea, can easily bring you from 5 to 9 courses for example.

Which is not to knock the food. Ko's food is still delicious, as are their $50 fried chickens. I'm just agreeing that the exceptional value once present (a key part of the Momo empires proposition) is, in retrospect, fading.

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At $125, to leave still hungry enough to eat a dessert, with no appreciable change in the types of ingredients used....

When the price went up to $125, they said that more expensive ingredients would be used. Are you saying this is untrue? I have to say, if you left hungry after a dozen courses, you have a remarkable appetite.

I agree that Degustation is a suitable point of comparison, which no doubt would be more expensive if there were greater demand for it. My recollection is that the service at Degustation was similar to Ko, and the ambiance (counter stools) certainly is.

As for comparables, I find it absurd to compare the EMP Gourmand and Per Se 9 course to Ko, you are ignoring some seriously massive elephants in the room....

Far from ignoring them, I am pointing out that this is one of the things you are getting for the extra money you pay at those places. (And yes, I think the food is more advanced too.)

Ko's food is still delicious, as are their $50 fried chickens.

Ummm, you can't get the fried chicken at Ko. Different restaurant.

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Which is not to knock the food. Ko's food is still delicious, as are their $50 fried chickens. I'm just agreeing that the exceptional value once present (a key part of the Momo empires proposition) is, in retrospect, fading.

I think the purported value proposition was always something of a mirage. The Momofuku restaurants were never cheap eats, except maybe for Chang's first 15 minutes of fame. They are now, and have nearly always been, relatively expensive, especially when the missing amenities are factored into the equation.

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At $125, to leave still hungry enough to eat a dessert, with no appreciable change in the types of ingredients used....

When the price went up to $125, they said that more expensive ingredients would be used. Are you saying this is untrue? I have to say, if you left hungry after a dozen courses, you have a remarkable appetite.

Actually, despite the large number of courses "on paper", I didn't find my dinners at Ko to be that much food, or particularly filling. I was full after the lunch, which is larger, but certainly had a little room at dinner. My companions did, too, so I don't think sickchangeup's comment is out of line. Loved the food, though.

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I think when you're talking about food at the gastronomy/art level, quantity isn't terribly relevant to the question of value. I'm sure a meal at Momofuku Ko is about a million calories anyway, but especially without a bread service it's not going to be as filling as a meal at a restaurant where you can have multiple pieces of bread throughout the meal. I actually like the fact that I can leave Ko without feeling stuffed. Allows for a slice at Artichoke after.

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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Wow! I did not expect to ruffle any one's feathers by posting about my recent meal at Ko: my only intention was to share the details of my dinner to the public. All I can say is you get what you pay for. I like eating at Ko because of its relaxed and informal atmosphere, and because I have the opportunity to interact with the chefs during the meal. I have nothing against Per Se or EMP -- I also enjoyed my meals at those restaurants -- but if I had the money, I'd rather go to Ko. That's all.

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Wow! I did not expect to ruffle any one's feathers by posting about my recent meal at Ko: my only intention was to share the details of my dinner to the public. All I can say is you get what you pay for. I like eating at Ko because of its relaxed and informal atmosphere, and because I have the opportunity to interact with the chefs during the meal. I have nothing against Per Se or EMP -- I also enjoyed my meals at those restaurants -- but if I had the money, I'd rather go to Ko. That's all.

I'm grateful for the rundown Doc. Have a rez for Sunday night and wondered what the current menu looked like - but was hoping for the famous short ribs though.

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I know someone pointed out the $95 wine pairing. That is also relatively new - they used to have a 3 tier priced wine pairing - $55-$85-$100 - or very close to that. I feel that the newish $95 wine pairing simply isn't worth it. I obviously realize the wine pours are going to be small but couldn't believe how small they truly were - in some cases I would be shocked if they were even at 2 ounces. When they had the 3 tier system the pours were much more generous. The new way I was having a difficult time balancing a food to drink ratio - I was simply out of wine well before I finished my dish. I think next time I go back i am better off ordering a bottle.

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Really? I have found the wine pours, while not large, to be generally sufficient, and several times when I finished early I've gotten top-offs. And trust me, I'm certainly no slouch in the wine drinking dept. Certainly not over-generous, as I rarely get to help finish the wines of some companions who I often have the pleasure of helping at other wine paired dinners, but nothing to complain about from what I've seen.

I suppose they are more stingy than other places, but it pains me sometimes to see excellent wine go to waste when lots of people can't finish and even I can't take up all the slack.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

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

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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The ungenerous wine pours are only since they went to the $95 only pricing. When it was tiered it was better - but you know - it could've been an off night of pours for us but not something I want to order again until I hear different. A decent bottle per person I am sure can be found for under the $95 price point. That said the food is ALWAYS fantastic!!

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  • 3 months later...

I was about to grab a drink at Momofuku Ssam Bar tonight when I was informed that there was an opening at Momofuku Ko. I quickly took advantage of this, and I rushed to Ko for dinner. It has been two months since my last meal there, and not much has changed in terms of dishes offered, which are as follows:

1) Amuse bouches: Aside from the usual chicharrones and the black pepper/mirin brioche, we were offered three other canapes: a steamed littleneck clam served with bacon dashi; ebi with blood orange and minced black olive; and beef cheek cooked sous vide, served with broccoli puree. I felt that the olive overwhelmed the shrimp and blood orange, but the other two canapes were spot on.

2) First course: Slices of diver scallop served with buttermilk/sriracha sauce, poppyseeds and chives. The dish remains sublime, with the scallop providing added sweetness to the dish.

3) Tataki of Spanish mackerel topped with ginger-marinated onions, puffed rice and radish sprouts, and drizzled with yuzu. A dish similar to that being served at Momofuku Ssam Bar, done simply and perfectly.

4) Daikon ravioli containing caramelized onions and oxtail ragu, served with basil, mung bean sprouts and an oxtail consomme. Nice, clean flavors, with interesting flavor contrasts from the daikon and bean sprouts.

5) Hand torn pasta served with crispy chicken skin and chicken sausage, topped with grated black truffle. The truffle worked well with the rest of the dish, allowing the other flavors to come through.

6) Lightly smoked hen's egg served with hackleback caviar, soubise onions, fingerling potato chips and a drizzle of sweet potato vinegar

7) Almond crusted skate wing, served with roasted cauliflower florets and minced olives, and topped with foamed almond milk. A lovely dish, with the crunch of the cauliflower and almond crust contrasting well with the soft flesh of the skate, and the salinity of the olives pairing well with the subtle sweetness of the almond milk.

8) Shaved torchon of foie gras, served with riesling gelee, lychees and pine nut brittle. A crowd pleaser, and my favorite dish ever from Ko.

9) Roasted Muscovy duck breast glazed with pomegranate and mustard, served with charred Chinese mustard greens, and honey/ginger glazed turnips topped with pumpernickel crumbs. My favorite dish of the night: the duck was perfectly cooked, and the sweetness of the pomegranate works well with the bitterness of the mustard greens and the earthiness of the turnips. I actually preferred this dish to the other iteration of Muscovy duck served at Ko previously, with cherries and parsnips.

10) Pre-dessert: Spiced white wine sorbet served with diced Asian pears and elderflower. A pleasant palate cleanser.

11) Dessert: Pretzel panna cotta with mustard and rye chips, with a side of root beer ice cream. Unexpectedly subtle, and totally delectable.

I did not go for the wine pairing this time, opting instead for half bottles of white and red wines from Lucien Crochet of the Sancerre region. Both wines were refreshing with floral and grassy tones, and simply wonderful. My compliments to Cory Lane for these wonderful vintages!

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  • 1 month later...

i had dinner at Ko last night for the first time.

There were a few standouts, things we moaned over - the biscuits in the amuse bouche, the brioche in comte-infused broth, and the duck+mustard greens - but overall we were disappointed. I didn't finish the pasta dish, which was underseasoned, and found the fluke inexcusably bland. I also had an unremarkable scallop.

We went to Veniero's afterward (and they sure did hustle us out of there ungraciously.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had dinner at Momofuku Ko last night, and here is a rundown on the dishes:

1) Amuse bouches: With the usual chicharrones and the black pepper/mirin brioche were two other canapes: braised lamb belly on top of green garbanzo puree, drizzled with lemon; and cornbread topped with crabmeat and a lime mayonnaise. Lovely.

2) First course: Slices of fluke rolled up with pea puree, pea shoots, and mustard oil, topped with chopped sea beans and rice puffs. @mig found it bland; I thought the fluke served as a vehicle for the heat in the mustard oil.

3) Second course: Beef carpaccio with radish greens, charred onions, crisps, horseradish sauce. This was one of the initial offerings when Ko started lunch service in 2008, and a personal favorite.

4) Third course: Brioche topped with bone marrow, caramelized pearl onions, and black onion dust, served in a Gruyere and comte infused broth. This dish grew on me, and I truly loved the broth.

5) Fourth course: Hand torn pasta served with crispy chicken skin and chicken sausage, topped with Pecorino cheese.

6) Fifth course: Lightly smoked hen's egg served with hackleback caviar, soubise onions, fingerling potato chips and a drizzle of sweet potato vinegar. One of the original dishes.

7) Sixth course: Almond crusted skate wing, served with roasted cauliflower florets and minced olives, and topped with foamed almond milk.

8) Seventh course: Shaved torchon of foie gras, served with riesling gelee, lychees and pine nut brittle. My favorite dish ever from Ko.

9) Eighth course: Roasted Muscovy duck breast glazed with pomegranate and mustard, served with charred Chinese mustard greens, and honey/ginger glazed turnips topped with pumpernickel crumbs.

10) Ninth course: Spiced white wine sorbet served with diced Asian pears and elderflower.

11) Last course: Pretzel panna cotta with caraway crumbs, with a side of root beer gelato.

A few new dishes in the menu since February. The wine pairing last night was a head-scratcher, to say the least, and I was not a fan of most of the white wines served last night. It still surprises me that more than half of the diners are first-timers; Ko remains a curiosity, even today.

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Cheers FoodDoc, I've been twice to KO (I live in Ireland). The first lunch (August 09) and the second dinner (January 10), lunch was brilliant, dinner was a good meal but didnt hit the highs of the lunch i had had 5 months previous.

16th August 2009 Lunch (All over the place as we tried to piece it together some days after the event took place)


First course- tofu on spoon

(Little Crispy Stick thing) (Little Breaded Cube Tongue)



Potato souffle



Deep fried onion daikon cube



3 sashimi courses (Hamachi was one i think)



Oysters and caviar



Urchin with soy milk curds and puff rice



Grilled ocotopus (Fennel, Pickled something!)



The "glorious" egg dish with bagel filled with ????? (Bacon & Cream Cheese?)



Gnocchi dish with radish squash and onion rings



Grilled corn, nori and corn soup



Shaved foie lychee, peanut brittle and reisling jelly



Crispy black bass, calamari, clams, daikon and smoked tomato water



Duck with sausage, rice, vandouvan and fruit (Peach)



Ash cheese, compressed pinapple, mustard cres and pistachio



Pre- grean tomato sorbet, buttermilk and deep fried bread



Strawberry sorbet with ritz crackers

13th January 2010 Dinner

1. Fried Pork Skin, Black Pepper Biscuit finished with Mirin

2. Braised Pork Belly, Compressed Cabbage & Onion Consommé

3. Raw Prawn, Pineapple Dashi, Dehydrated Broccoli Flowers

4. Long Island Fluke, Spicy Buttermilk, Poppy Seeds and Chives

5. Spanish Mackerel, Mizuna, Yuzo, Pickled Ginger and Puffed Rice Balls

6. Shaved Daikon Tortellini of Onion Puree and Oxtail Meat, Oxtail Consommé, Bean Sprouts, Basil and Cilantro

7. Smoked 5 min Egg, Soubise, Potato Chips, Caviar, Chervil and Chive.

8. Torn pasta, Chicken and Snail Sausage, Chicken Skin, Black Truffle & Parmesan

9. Almond Crusted Skate, Cauliflower Florets, Green Olive and Almond Milk Frothed

10. Shaved Foie Gras Torchon with Riesling Jelly, Lychee, and Pinenuts

11. Duck, finished in reduced pomegranate juice, Tokyo white turnip (baby nave), Pumpernickel, Mustard Leaves, Foie and Japanese Mustard Sauce, On the side Little Duck Terrine (Liver and Leg and herbs)

12. Brunoise Asian Pear, Elderflower and White wine sorbet

13. Goats and Ricotta, Cottage cheesecake, cranberries, Squash Ice-cream, Pumpkin Oil, Pumpkin Seed brittle

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  • 5 weeks later...

I had lunch at Momofuku Ko this past Mother's day, and I was pleased to see that there were substantial changes to the menu since my last lunch in February. Here, to the best of my recollection, in no particular order, is the lunch menu:

1) Amuses bouche:

Deep-fried quail served with pickled chanterelle and roasted eggplant puree

Burgundy snail and chicken sausage with grilled pearl onion, grilled cauliflower, woodsaw and piquillo pepper puree

Potato soufflé filled with crème fraiche and hackleback caviar

2) Kusshi oyster topped with herbs and sweet potato vinegar

3) Quartet of crudo:

Madai drizzled with XVOO and topped with crispy fish scales

Long Island fluke marinated in spices topped with puffed black rice

Raw scallop topped with lemon zest and herbs

Bluefin tuna toro tartare with scallions and black pepper

4) Dry-aged sirloin tartare topped with hackleback caviar, and soft-boiled quail’s egg topped with horseradish, accompanied by Wagyu short rib topped with shallots

5) Kimchi gelee with spring vegetables - A nod to Michel Bras, IMO.

6) Puffed chicken’s egg topped with scallions, served with house made English muffin with bay leaf butter

7) Beef cheeks sous vide with roasted jalapeno puree, pickled onions and cauliflower

8) Ricotta-filled dumplings served in fried chicken broth and topped with grilled ramps

9) Deep fried soft shell crab dusted with salt and todarashi, served with kohlrabi slaw, wax beans in XO sauce, and uni and beans in a clear broth topped with mustard oil

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

11) Roasted spring chicken breast stuffed with leg meat, served with poached asparagus and jus

12) Pre-dessert: Black rice crusted coconut-caramel custard served with banana-passion fruit sorbet and dessicated coconut

13) Dessert: Mandarin orange granita with black sesame streusel, dehydrated almond cake

It is gratifying to know that creativity and technique remain in the forefront at Ko. Wine pairing can elicit head-scratching from time to time, but the vermouth paired with the spring vegetable and kimchi gelee dish was inspired and perfect.

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Thanks for providing the updated lunch menu at Ko. I need to make a return visit (almost 2 months since my last lunch visit). Glad to see they have made some changes while keeping some of my favorites. A little disappointed that they have substituted chicken for the duck entree. I notice no more lobster dish; looks like they've substituted the soft-shell crab. I love ordering a nice 1/2 bottle (or sometimes a full bottle) of German Riesling; I have found that the Riesling pairs beautifully with all of the dishes.

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