Monday, November 2, 2009

Lunch at Momofuku Ko (food)

I enjoyed the dinner I had at Momofuku Ko a while back, so decided to try the lunch, which is a longer, more expensive affair. After spending some time getting a reservation, I went there this past Saturday with CCG, a new friend I met randomly online. While I just write about food for fun, CCG is legit and will be attending a food bloggers conference out in San Francisco at the end of the week. A link to her blog is on the right side in the links section.

Since photos aren't allowed at Ko, you'll just have to do with my descriptions like my reviews of old.

To start, a trio including fried taro and shrimp with pickled cherry sauce, a taro and chinese sausage dumpling with chili mayo, and a rolled potato chip (think tiny pirouette) filled with pomme souffle, creme fraiche, and caviar. The stuff with taro reminded me of dim sum, and wasn't particularly special except for the fact that their chinese sausage tasted very good. As for the pirouette, it's potato, cream, and caviar. Hard to go wrong.

Next is a bunch of raw seafood preparations. A large wooden box filled with ice was put in front of us and the next few courses were all served on it. First was an oyster with hackleback caviar. Again, oyster and caviar, hard to go wrong. Tasty with a fresh salty taste.

Slices of madai (sea bream) with a white soy sauce and chives. This was fresh, light, and the madai had a very good texture. White soy sauce, known as shiro, uses mostly wheat and so is sweeter than most soy sauce.

Long Island fluke with mitsuba, pickled shallots, and spicy fermented chili paste. The fermented chili paste was too overpowering and we basically were reminded of kimchee as we ate this. I didn't like this at all.

Tataki of spanish mackerel with mustard oil, mustard greens, fresh yuzu, and little bits of rice crackers. The mustard oil and yuzu went very well together and I love spanish mackerel so enjoyed this very much. I assume the rice cracker was there for a texture contrast, but I didn't think there was enough of it to make a difference.

Diver scallop with spiced buttermilk, poppyseeds, chives, and a spicy red herb that I didn't get the name of. This is pretty much the same dish I've had before except they used scallop instead of fluke. I didn't like the dish then and I don't like it now. It's just weird. Had it been really spicy, I think the buttermilk would have had a better effect. I've read online that they do a version of this dish with sriracha which would make more sense to me.

Uni with tofu and some horseradish, and a quenelle of toro tartar on the side. I didn't quite get the uni and tofu pairing, since both have a creamy texture and so there's no contrast. The toro tartar was probably the best I've ever had, and that includes Nobu (altho I haven't been in quite a while) and Marea.

That ended the raw selections and next up was grilled octopus with grilled shisito peppers, grilled burdock root, yuzu mayo and pickled watermelon. The octopus was grilled well and had a nice texture. The pickled watermelon rind was sliced too thin and I didn't feel was significant.

Puffed egg with bacon dashi, shio konbu, and a hole-less bagel with bacon cream cheese inside. The design was very creative, but the bacon dashi was too salty for my taste. The bagel was spectacular and I could eat tons of it. Good crunch on the outside, great texture inside, and bacon cream cheese, what's not to like?

Toasted bread soup with confit tomatoes, chives, and smoked eel. Separately, the components did not impress. The toasted bread soup did taste like toasted bread, which wasn't necessarily a good thing. But when I had a bite that combined everything, the combination was magical. The smokiness of the eel with the heartiness of the bread soup combined well with a slight cut from the tomatoes. Well done.

Orecchiette pasta with cheddar cheese, crispy ham, cured broccoli stems, and broccoli sauce. This was tasty in a comfort food sort of way, but nothing particularly special. The weirdest thing for me was that I was given a spoon and a knife for this course. How does that work? If I remember my table etiquette correctly, both of those utensils are to be used in the main hand only.

Almond roasted skate with diced cauliflower, olive, water chestnut, and almond milk/foam. This dish was fantastic. I'm usually not a big fan of skate, but the delicate meat was perfect for this terrific texture mix. The sliced olive was very important in providing a fruity component to help offset the heavy but delicious almond and brown butter used to cook the skate.

Ko's signature dish, shaved frozen foie gras over peanut brittle, lychees, and reisling gelee. Just perfect. Beautifully balanced in flavors and textures.

Roasted Long Island duck with sausage stuffed under the skin, served with rice, grilled scallions, and a fig stuffed with foie gras and truffle. The sauce was made from fig and reduced red wine. This dish was really impressive. The sausage was tasty in itself, but also provided a three tier texture comparison of skin, loosely packed sausage, and perfectly cooked duck breast. The only thing for me was that I would have preferred the skin to have been truly crispy and lacquered like a peking duck type of skin. Even though I'm not a fig fan, I ate the whole foie gras fig and enjoyed the sauce with the duck and the scallions.

The cheese course was a comte puff pastry with comte cheese sauce, braised swiss chard, and golden raisins. The cheese course is usually used to bridge the savory and sweet courses, but I didn't feel that this dish did that. More raisins or just more of a sweet component might have helped, but overall it just felt weird. CCG felt the same way.

Brown butter cake with candied ginger, sweet cream ice cream, and carrot ganache. Carrot ganache is a bit weird, but worked well in this dish because the carrot and ginger combination is fantastic. Brown butter cake and sweet cream ice cream is a great match too.

Bitter orange sorbet with pressed celery, earl grey cake, and earl grey fudge. The use of celery in a dessert is interesting, and was refreshing while providing a nice crunch to the dish. I thought the fudge would have been better if thicker.

Overall it was a very good meal with some truly impressive dishes. The cost of the 17 course meal was $175 before t/t. However, I didn't feel the need for all those courses, and so I would recommend going for dinner, which is $125 for 10 courses.

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