Tasting Menu: Momofuku Ko

March 24, 2009

Last week, I scored reservations to the elusive Momofuku Ko restaurant!  The dining experience here starts even before you clamber onto a stool and eat – getting a reservation requires you to navigate through the online system, and beat hundreds of other hungry clickers for a spot at the 12-seat bar of Ko.

Everyone is treated equally – no special VIP attention is given.  That’s the enforced rule at Ko; that everyone has access to it.  Ironically, this makes it really difficult to get a res, and the one week ahead only rule doesn’t make it easier.  Every day at 10AM, the online system opens for the 7th day from that day.  Reservations can be made for 1, 2, or 4 and are taken very quickly, so a fast finger and persistence is vital.  Sometimes, people get lucky and score random cancelled times, but more often than not, the screen will look like this:


Frankly, I think the whole process of snagging a reservation inflates the whole experience.  It sets lofty expectations for the meal quality, taste, service, decor, etc. 

On the contrary, my night at Ko was low-key and chill. First off, we couldn’t even find the door because it’s so nonchalant and hidden.  I live by the East Village, and have walked right past Ko many times (but for a good reason – Tarallucie next door for dessert!)  Once we found the door, the pretty hostess seated us on stools at the bar and we commented on the no-frills wine cork that doubled as a chopstick holder.  Digging the casual vibe.

When our meal started, the dishes came quickly at first – yummy appetizers that were pleasing and promised a great meal ahead.  We had about 5 plates in 20 minutes, and the bf deliberately slowed down, wanting to drag out the night as long as possible haha.  Beginning favorites included:

  • a standalone biscuit that was plain yet buttery and fluffily delicious
  • long island fluke sashimi in a mildly sour/spicy buttercream sauce accented with poppyseeds
  • soft boiled runny egg with caviar, vinegar, and topped with a sprinkle of fingerling potato chips

After the teaser appetizers, the dishes get heavier. I remember a pasta with snail and chicken sausage (i am terrified of snails and gave my pieces away), halibut, the (in)famous foie gras and a tri-tip steak surrounded by a genius jalapeno sauce.  Each plate is pretty generous considering that there is still more to come.  However, this is where the meal lost a few points with us – the bf and I weren’t so pleased with the shaved frozen foie gras with Riesling jelly over pine nut brittle and lychee, which was the one dish that everyone who dines at Ko raves about.  Not being a huge fan of foie gras and its heavy taste, I’d been looking forward to it with some hesitation.  To some, the peculiar arrangement was just the right balance of heavy flavor, crunchy texture, and light sweetness.  For me though, the way the foie gras flakes melted and stuck to the roof of my mouth just didn’t sit right with me, and I concentrated my anti-gag reflex efforts on the brittle and lychee, which I did think were yummy. *shrug* maybe we need more sophisticated taste buds.

Dessert was okay but not spectacular – a guava sorbet with liquid cream cheese (would have much preferred the sorbet by itself) and black sesame + lemon ice cream with a huge hunk of sugared funnel cake.  Throughout the meal, we shared a good wine pairing which went well with each of the dishes, which I’d recommend.

The menu changes a little each week; I read somewhere that the chefs rotate out one dish at a time so that it’s not always the same meal.  Reading/seeing pics of other people’s accounts of their Ko experience, this seems to be the case, as we didn’t get to try some of the other much-written about dishes.  Also, we didnt take pictures b/c the bf forbade me from doing so, no mixing technology with food.

 (photo by thewanderingeater.com)

All in all, it was something cool to do once, but probably not again for us.  At $100/person, it didn’t rock my world as I’d hoped. We probably wouldn’t get another reservation for awhile anyway, and plus, there are so many other restaurants that NYC promises!