Last night, my wife and I completed our David Chang experience by eating at Momofuku Ko. The first time I visited one of his restaurants was a little more than a year ago, on my way back from getting my ass kicked by the Wii Tennis gods, where I had myself some rosemary ice cream. Yes, you heard that right, rosemary ice cream! Since then I’ve also had stuffing-flavored ice cream, and last night, I had perhaps the weirdest of all, BBQ sauce. And just to prove that I’m not making this up, click on the thumbnail of the cellphone photo I took of the Milk Bar’s menu.
Anyway, in case you haven’t heard of Ko, it’s the most interesting of all of his restaurants, because you eat what the chef prepares for you (i.e., no menu to choose from). And it’s an adventure even getting in the door, because there are only twelve seats and two sittings, which means on any given night, there are a maximum of 24 diners. The only way you can get a reservation is by signing up for an account on his website and then logging on at 10am to see if there are any spots open. I got lucky, as a few days ago, I was able to refresh the page like a coked-up monkey and snag somebody’s cancellation.
Dawn and I sat at the head of the table, so we had the good fortune to have the vantage point of the photo above, able to look at the entire kitchen and all the diners. There was another couple sitting catty-corner from us, and they were Canadians on a visit, at Ko to celebrate her birthday. The music was on the loud side, but we kinda liked it. I especially liked it when they played Safety Dance, the 80’s Men Without Hats staple!
But you’re at Ko not to talk to people or listen to music. You’re there to eat, and boy, eat we did. There must’ve been about a dozen courses total, and the three chefs kept it all moving at the perfect pace. Some dishes were just a bite, while others were more substantial, sort of like tapas. My favorite of the night was the lobster tortellini with breaded sweetbread and some exotic mushroom that was sauteed and diced. Dawn’s favorite was my second favorite, a succulent oyster and grilled pork belly with kimchi surrounded by a warm broth. There was a lamb rib that was as hearty as a hug, and a dessert that featured what seemed like ground-up peanuts in the shape of blueberries.
Was it all that I’d expected? Absolutely. This was creative cuisine at its finest, and the only downside was the guilt I felt for eating it all so quickly. These chefs spend hours preparing the meals, and they take surgical care assembling their dishes, and there I am, shoveling it down like I was going to the electric chair.
In the end, we were stuffed, but that didn’t stop us from modifying our route back home to stop at the Milk Bar, where I got the BBQ sauce ice cream and also picked up a dozen cookies, a truffle of cake, and an order of pork buns for breakfast. Except this morning, neither of us is in shape to eat the buns because our stomachs are still full. It’s like we went on a bender, which I suppose we did. But man, I wouldn’t change a thing. David Chang, thank you.