Ma Peche: Beef 7 Ways
15 West 56th Street, New York NY 10019 (b/n Fifth and Sixth Avenues; map); 212-757-5878; momofuku.com/ma-peche
Service: Friendly, welcoming, helpful (full disclosure, I was eating with a couple of Chang regulars)
Specs: Parties of 6 or more only; 12:00 pm Mon-Sat, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, seven days; reservations »
Setting: Minimalist, spare, well-lit basement
Cost: A more than fair $85, before tax, tip, or beverage
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It's fair to say that David Chang, lord high executioner of the Momofuku restaurant empire, is a one-of-a-kind figure in the New York culinary world. In fact I have championed his cause to serious eaters and to other food writers early on. But it's also fair to say that Chang's reach can exceed his grasp. His restaurants are often original and groundbreaking—but, I feel, he can try too hard to be original and groundbreaking, at the expense of successful execution.
But that preamble isn't to say that the "Beef 7 Ways" dinner at Chang's newest restaurant, Ma Peche in the Chambers Hotel, fails to deliver. In fact, it represents the very best of chef Tien Ho's cooking and the best of Chang's and Ho's thinking—brilliant in conception and in execution, something that Chang's restaurants sometimes aren't in tandem. In short, with this seven-course celebration of all things beef, they deliver the city's most intense beef hit, which is saying something considering how many excellent beef emporia we have in Gotham.
Yes, yes, I know that "Beef 7 Ways" sounds incredibly decadent and unhealthy—and if you peruse the menu below, you'll probably come to the conclusion that it's not a meal that any sane person would eat more than once or twice a year. And you would be right. But don't let the menu descriptions fool you, because what's missing on the menu is the variety of pickled vegetables and lettuce leaves that are integral to the whole experience.
Once the two starters have been served, the remaining courses are all accompanied by pickled radishes, daikon, and carrots, and whole lettuce leaves, plum sauce, and homemade fish sauce. You design and fill your own lettuce wraps, similar to Chang's fried chicken and bo ssam preparations.
Beef 7 ways starts rather modestly, believe it or not, with two courses that are as much salad as beef. Xà lách de langue is the most delicious tongue salad I've ever had. The tongue slices are ultra-thin and come gently nestled in the leaves of fresh basil. The plum vinaigrette adds just the right touch of acid and sweetness.
Seared slices of wagyu in the Wagyu poêle are luxuriantly rich with plenty of intramuscular fat; but the ginger, scallions, and radishes eaten together with the Wagyu represent a perfect bite of food.
Chang and Ho start breaking out the big hunks of beef with the cote de boeuf. The minerally, nutty, bone-in ribeye, seriously dry-aged, is sliced and served Peter Luger's-style minus the butter, which is unnecessary here. The thyme and garlic add two more unexpected layers of flavor to the beef, but no worries; the flavor hit is all beefiness.
This juicy, moist sausage—saucisson xào sả, beef with lemongrass and Thai basil—is served alongside the slices of roasted ribeye, along with the lettuce, pickled vegetables, and housemade fish and hoisin sauces. Make your own lettuce packages of exploding flavors as you see fit. Somehow the fish sauce and the sausage emerged as my favorite flavor combination.
A ridiculously tender oxtail (queue de bœuf xì dầu) comes with a soy, sherry, and scallion reduction. The layers of flavor come right after your palate with each bite.
The Flintstones portion of the show—an enormous beef shank, braised for days, is prepared with crab paste and fairly mild chilies. The beef shank has the meltingly tender consistency of Chang's and Ho's bo ssam, and the crab paste and chilies add two unusual yet delicious grace notes to the dish.
This short rib broth is the most intense beef consomme I have ever tasted. Sipping the demitasse cup the broth came in, I felt as if I were mainlining beef. I don't know if drinking this consomme is the right way to end this meal. You can opt for a whole wheel of epoisses to end the meal, but that seemed like fat overkill on top of what was already a beef fat-drenched extravaganza—so we demurred.
Dessert did seem unnecessary after this epic beef repast, so maybe it's a good thing that none is served at Ma Peche. Nonetheless, it does annoying that if you do want dessert after eating any meal here—and not just beef 7 ways—you have to go upstairs to the branch of the Milk Bar you pass on the way to the street.
As a regular indulgence, beef 7 ways would surely shorten your life. But as a once-a-year feast, I can think of few better ways for serious beef eaters to get a serious cow fix.