Disbelief. I got reservations for 8 pm on Friday at Momofuku Ko, the new white-hot restaurant in town, where reservations are solely taken online, and go out after 1 minute of new openings? Unbelievable, but then few are awake before 10 am on Saturday when I struck gold. Sometimes having the sleep schedule of an octagerian has its perks.

Antsy was how I felt waiting for Cezi to show up at the restaurant, hanging out at the lone square table placed between the coat cabinet and the service counter. No seats, since the only 12 in the house are along the open-concept kitchen counter. The confirmation slip said I needed to be there within 15 minutes of my reservation, or else they would not seat me in order to accomodate the next set of diners coming in after me. Surely they wouldn’t throw me out if she showed up at 816? Luckily they didn’t and even eased my wait with a complimentary drink of non-alcoholic gewurztraminer juice and soda, and a bowl of Momofuku Trail Mix, similar but not really the type you buy from the vending machine, a little bowl of umami packed nibbles including dried seaweed, nuts and some strange salty/sweet/chewy but tasty things. Cezi shows up around 817 and we get seated. Phew…

The appetizers seemed so unsophisticated when taken at face value, but it is all tongue in cheek. Chicharron spiked with togarashi pepper is glorified fried pork rind, providing a little humor at the beginning of the meal. Home made mini English muffins were slathered, not with butter but with a decadent layer of lard and then toasted straight on the griddle. You luxuriate in the smell of sizzling fat long before popping the hot, oily little pillow of flour into your mouth.

momofuku ko pea soup

We next had raw fluke carpaccio mixed in sour cream and poppy seeds that was tart and refreshing after the lardy onslaught. Next the chef served several courses in pairs to the many double seatings that made up the table. For our soup course, I got a bright green pea soup, sweet and appropriate for spring, topped with lightly cooked crawfish, bitter watercress and a roasted yuba roll filled with inky black trumpet mushrooms. Cezi on the other hand was served the kimchi consomme with a slice of roast pork and a raw oyster. The pork had a melt in your mouth tendency while the broth is ultra concentrated and deeply flavored, except without any real hint of kimchi. I guess we were looking less for refinement and more for the blatant. The cooked seafood course consisted of two different dishes as well. Both Cezi and I both had expertly pan-fried scallops with bacon puree (read: liquid fat… so yummy) that we enjoyed tremendously, but we were secretly coveting our neighbors’ dishes of fried soft shell crabs instead. 

momofuku egg & caviar

The crowd pleasers have already been talked and talked about all over the blogosphere and online communities, which unfortunately caused us to be less impressed with the truly indulgent double egg dish. It was a beautiful plate consisting of caviar spilling out of a half broken poached egg which could have been slightly less cooked. The silky yolk blends pretty well with the mild salinity of the caviar and the sweetness of the slow cooked onion tempers the tang from the vinaigrette. Unfortunately, we didn’t experience fireworks. The deep fried braised beef rib with mustard seeds and daikon and the shaved foie gras dish were amazing though, the former more traditional and satisfying and insanely time-consuming to make, the latter innovative and fun. There was almost no chewing involved as we spooned a mixture of semi-sweet riesling gelee, litchee bits, nutty brittle and shaved foie gras into our mouths, an insta-dissolve foie gras dessert.  I wanted so much to lick my plate clean.

momofuku ko foie gras

We finished our savory courses with a tradition rice/pickle/miso soup combo, and then prepared ourselves for dessert by polishing 2 scoops of home made creamy sorbet. Cezi and I then got a pair of desserts, the deep fried apple pie, a homage to the MacDonald’s classic, and a corn flake panna cotta, which is made out of corn-flake soaked milk to impart that salty-sweet flavor into the panna cotta. Paired with a slab of soft hazelnut flavored chocolate and avocado puree, its whimsicality bordered weirdness. Fortunately the combination was absolutely fabulous. One of my favorite dishes of the night.

cereal panna cotta

With 10 courses accounted for, we got off our bar seats close to bursting and blissfully sated. Being able to watch the chefs in action is another bonus and it was cool watching David Chang run errands and buy Gatorade for his crew. Would I go back again? In a heartbeat. So what if the reservation is tough to get? I guess I’ll just have to wake up early on the weekend again.   

Momofuku Ko

163 1st Ave (Between 10th & 11th sts)

www.momofuku.com

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