Momofuku Ko: David Chang with His Shirt Tucked In
I was shocked to see Ruth Reichl's love letter to Momofuku Ko, the new restaurant of New York's reluctant superstar chef David Chang. Not because Chang's latest effort doesn't deserve such effusive praise. It does, but when I ate there last Saturday night, Chang and his running partner Cory asked me not to blog about what I had eaten. Trying to be a responsible journalist, I agreed, assuming other journalists would be asked and agree to the same thing. This past Monday I saw some course-by-course Flickr photos linked to by Eater.
I thought to myself that's OK, because it was just a series of photos.
Then I read Reichl's rapturous blow-by-blow desciption of her meal at Ko. Enough is enough, I thought to myself. I emailed Mr. Chang.
Ed Levine: I think the frozen foie gras is out of the bag, don't you think? Let me know. I really do want to post about my fab meal.
David Chang: Please. Things just got out of control. Have a great, safe vacation.
Levine: Do you mean "please do" or "please don't"? Congratulations, by the way. The food really was terrific and special and a reflection of the point of view of you and your team. The food in Portugal, where I am now, is not very special. Open a Momofuku in Lisbon.
Chang: Please do. Things just got out of control. Have a great, safe vacation.
I don't need to give you a bite-by-bite, course-by-course, blow-by-blow description of that. Nobody does that better than Ruth.
But there are a few things left to be said. Chang may be uncomfortable with all the critical bon mots thrown his way by me, Ruth, and others. What do I say to that?
Tough, because with Ko it's only going to get worse, Mr. Chang. The food at Ko is crazy good, ambitious but earthy, and forward-thinking but never silly. It's Chang's food with his shirt tucked in and a jacket, but no tie. The short ribs, the soft-cooked egg, the foie gras, even the fried apple pie with miso caramel and sour cream ice cream are all the stuff of legend.
The only question is whether people are willing to pay more than a hundred bucks (with wine and tip) to eat at a counter. Joël Robuchon has already proved that people will pay big bucks to eat at a counter at his L'Atelier restaurants, so this might be a moot point, though Robuchon does have servers, which Chang has dispensed with at Ko.
Of course at Ko, the floor show, watching the insanely talented team of chefs and cooks in action led by Peter Serpico, is thrown in gratis. We can think of it as Chang's dinner theater, no lame musical numbers necessary. He may not want to admit it, but Ko is haute Chang without the normal haute trappings. Fine dining, whatever that is, will never be the same again.
Address: 163 First Avenue, New York NY 10003 (10th/11th streets; East Village)
Phone: None (reservations to be taken online)
Opening: March 10