Elation at Momofuku Ko

Edit (4/15/08): As per this commentor‘s request, I took down the photo of looking down the bar, if you noticed any changes from the first time you’ve seen prior to this edit. You will be able to see on my Flickr photostream but not on my blog, per se. But at least you still got the food porn!

Door Signage of Momofuku Ko

As you remember me posting my urgent, desperate need last week about my reservations to Momofuku Ko, I have indeed found people. YAY! It’s not a failed mission…not like many things in my life. Anyways, I met up with Andrea, her friend, Grace, and Kyle. Everyone arrived before I have since I was in Chelsea running errands and admittedly shopping for a new camera. Yes, I have upgraded to a 5D and retired my Rebel XTi.

Moleskine Notebook of booze Place setting
The book of booze and Place setting

As I sat down on the stools for a four-top (which was the corner spot on the bar), one of the waitresses/hostess gave me a Moleskine notebook of booze. Since I can’t handle any alcohol that’s beyond the total of two wine glasses, I passed and awaited for the food and chat with my guests of the evening.

The place setting was very simple – a folded napkin, a pair of chopsticks set on top of a cork that had a diagram engraved with something have to do with “experiment” – I can’t recall too well. The bar is made of a warm, blonde wood with a few pegs on the bottom to hold bags. The stools were backless and made of the same type of wood; not exactly as cushy as what you would encounter in L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon but it’s fine.

Chicharrón Amuse
Mmmm…fancy pork rinds!

After waiting about five minutes or so, the cooks presented us with two orders of amuses to share among us – chicharrón. Basically, it’s a fancier version of pork rinds made of Four Story Hill farm pork skin and seasoned with togarashi. It’s tasty and quite familiar.

Housemade English Muffins with rendered pork fat
Amuse #2: English Muffins + PORK FAT

Soon after that, came in our second amuse of the evening, housemade English muffins with rendered pork fat and green onions. I’m not really an English muffin person. It’s awfully dry and unpalatable when it comes to the stuff my mom buys from the grocery store. But this sets the standard of how an English muffin should be. Crisp with little nooks and crannies with salty rendered pork fat permeating its tangy, thin core. I wish I have this for breakfast everyday – without getting atherosclerosis.

Scallop Sashimi, Poppy Seeds, Chives, Spicy Buttermilk Fluke Sashimi, Poppy Seeds, Chives, Spicy Buttermilk
(Scallop, on the left; Fluke, on the right) Sashimi, Poppy Seeds, Chives, Spicy Buttermilk

Moving onto the fluke and scallop sashimis, poppy seeds, chives, spicy buttermilk, were a great starter for the dinner. The silky freshness of both types of seafood meets the creamy, slightly spicy buttermilk sauce and the nutty crunch from the poppy seeds. Personally, the fluke shined better here since it’s cut thinner, giving it a more silky texture. (I should note that the fluke was given to myself and Grace, while the scallops were given to Kyle and Andrea).

Pouring the Kimchi Consommé Kimchi Consommé with Long Island Oyster on a half shell with Crispy Pork Belly
The Pour; Kimchi Consommé with Long Island Oyster on a half shell with Crispy Pork Belly

The next course, Kimchi consommé with Long Island oyster on a half shell with crispy pork belly was interesting. The spicy, clear broth contributed the warm mouth feel and gave the silky oyster a kick to it’s briny meat. The pork belly was crisp and as it absorbed the kimchi consommé, it adds on an additional layer of moisture, making it more softer and more moist.

Coddled Egg with Soubise Onions, Sweet Potato Vinegar, Hackleback Caviar, Potato Chips, Chervil

This dish is certainly one of the highlights of the evening: Coddled egg with soubise onions, sweet potato vinegar, hackleback caviar, potato chips, parsley chervil. The oozy yolk that gently cascades over the small pile of soft, creamy, sugary sweet onions mingling with the pop-like texture of the caviar. Oooh…it made my palate dancing with joy. The potato chips were precious and very crisp; contrasting the smooth and chewy textures of the dish.

Scallop with Clams, Trumpet Mushroom Puree, Pickled Fennel, Nori, and Bacon Dashi Fluke with Clams, Trumpet Mushroom Puree, Pickled Fennel, Nori, and Bacon Dashi
Scallop with Clams (on the left); Fluke with Clams (on right), Trumpet Mushroom Puree, Pickled Fennel, Nori, and Bacon Dashi

The scallop with clams, trumpet mushroom puree, pickled fennel, nori, and bacon dashi was served to Kyle and Andrea, while Grace and I had the fluke with clams, trumpet mushroom puree, pickled fennel, nori, and bacon dashi. The sweet, meaty scallops fared a lot better than the fluke due to the lovely sear, cooked to perfection. The fluke was a nice but it lacked the complexity compared to the scallop. The clams, dashi and mushrooms gave it an earthy and briny elements and it the flavors were very clean.

In between courses, I managed to take this photo down the bar. It just look like everyone’s bowing down their heads to revere and contemplate the food and the chefs. Which in many ways, can be that argument…the maniacal reservation clicking, and the buzz before opening, etc. Anyways, back to the food…

Shaved Foie Gras Torchon with Riesling Jelly, Lychee, and Pinenuts

The other dish that truly amazed me was the shaved foie gras torchon with Riesling jelly, lychee, and pinenuts. The thin layer of grated foie gras was so ethereal yet accomplished so much in terms of its silky textures and balances the flavor of the dish. The sweet-savory nuances of this dish went from juicy, fruity, and delicately sweet and went to the flip side of savory with the foie and the buttery pinenuts. Man, talk about foodgasm in every bite…

Underneath the shaved foie...
Innards of the Foie dish

Deep Fried Short Ribs with Grilled Scallion, Pickled Daikon, and Pickled Mustard Seeds
Deep Fried Short Ribs with Grilled Scallion, Pickled Daikon, and Pickled Mustard Seeds

Now we move onto a heartier dish, deep fried short ribs with grilled scallion, pickled daikon, and pickled mustard seeds. As any person who likes food (and isn’t exactly health conscious) would go with the mantra, “You can’t go wrong with fried food.” In most ways yes, but for my own dish it seemed a tad too overcooked that perhaps I don’t enjoy it as much as the others were. It was crisp and moist but a tad tough. The nice touches were the crunchy, pickled vegetables to cut the fattiness of the dish.

Time to dig in!
Miso Soup and Grilled Rice with Nori, Rolled in Pork Fat, With Pickled Turnips and Cabbage

The miso soup and grilled rice with nori, rolled in pork fat with pickled turnips and cabbage is basically the finisher of the savory course, meaning after this dish, we’re moving to dessert. The miso soup is the best I’ve tasted by far in the city, where most just gets it wrong, afflicting my taste buds with a bucket load of salt. But this is perfection – balanced, great body, and enough salt that my tongue doesn’t scream for water. As for the little cylinder of rice, it was nice and crisp from the grill and the vegetables gave it an additional textural interest with a touch of sweet-salty brine it’s been marinating in.

Pineapple Innards(?) of Pineapple
Pre-dessert: Pineapple (on the left); its innards (on the right)

We finally moved to the sweets, pre-dessert: pineapple. This is basically a palate cleanser of sorts by having this refreshing, über pineapple-y dessert. The pineapple sorbet’s ice crystals were so fine that I almost thought I’m eating ice cream and it’s not very sweet – just intense pineapple. To go an extra step with the pineapple, they added a small pile of chewy, dried chunks of pineapple for something beyond smooth. That was lovely.

Deep Fried Apple Pie, Sour Ice Cream, Toasted Miso
Deep Fried Apple Pie, Sour Ice Cream, Toasted Miso

We’re now at the grand finale: deep fried apple pie, sour ice cream, toasted miso. The first thing I thought when I saw this pie was that it looks similar to the McDonald’s apple pie due to its shape. In terms of flavor, it’s very different. Eating this pie alone actually tastes insipid – it needs more cinnamon. But when you do eat a little bit of everything with it (sour cream ice cream and the miso swash in the back) it’s wonderful, though I do prefer having creme fraiche ice cream instead. The only thing that made this particular dish different than anything else in the city is the use of the extremely salty miso that amplified the entire dish’s elements that created multiple tones of flavors makes it remarkable.

After eating at our pace of nearly two hours or so, we’re all satiated (some had the booze) and we paid our check. In case you didn’t know by now the entire tasting menu is $85 and the wine and sake pairings are an additional $50 pre-tax and tip. It’s not cheap eats, but it’s a lot cheaper than Per Se or a lot of other restaurants that strictly do tasting menus. My verdict: YOU MUST TRY IT!

Momofuku Ko

163 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Giulia says:

    wow u tried a lot! all the pics look amazing and it sounds like the food was great too!!

    Im so excited about tomorrow i cant sleep

  2. thewanderingeater says:

    Marge: Whoops! I made the change. Thanks for correcting me.

    Ginny: It was AMAZING! And “yay” for having eager diners.

    Giulia: Thanks! It was a lot of food but the portions were just right in terms of a tasting menu.

    I’m excited about tonight as well… :]

  3. Rich_aka_Wig says:

    Looks great! Good to hear that after all the reservation hassle it was worth it! (At least I think Momofuku Ko is the restaurant people were giving reservation tips for!).

    At the current RoE, £42.50 for a tasting menu like this is a bargain, ha ha.

  4. thewanderingeater says:

    Rich: Waahh…! Don’t rub it in (even though everyone knows the US Dollar tanks)!. :p

  5. thewanderingeater says:

    Jen: Thanks!

    S: Thank you, too! I do know “anyways” isn’t plural but I use it just for the sake of sounding like a person who talks to you in a normal way…despite of grammatical problems.

    Chubbypanda: Ah yeah, I loved my 5D…except my aunt wanted it so I sold it to her (before she go back home overseas) and went back to my XTi. Still good but it’s not the same.

  6. roze says:

    I got a last minute reservation yesterday and went last night. It was , as you say, elation. I have been dreaming about those english muffins all day long.

    Congrats btw on having your pictures featured on nymag!! They are fantastic.

  7. roze says:

    Hi Tina,

    My pictures of Ko didn’tcome out so well. I’m trying to do my write up and my English muffin picture is so blurred it is unrecognzable. If possible could I use your muffin picture? Of course I’ll give you total props. It was my favorite part of the meal and I really want to be able to show it.

    Let me know what you think. If not that’s okay as well! I’ll always love your blog :)

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  9. spamwise says:

    There are now quite a few new dishes on the “menu”. Look for langoustine, pea sprouts and sweet pea consomme, and a dessert that involves toasted corn flakes and chocolate.

    I don’t know when I’ll return. Ko is indeed very, very good (and ought to be, given that the reservation system is insane).

  10. marvis says:

    The picture you have up of the diners is of me and I would like you to take it down. I would also just like to tell you that it is extremely annoying to have the person sitting next to you taking a million pictures of every dish. Being as how this is a communal restaurant your incessant picture taking is quite distractive to other diners who are trying to enjoy their expensive meals. Are there no manners in this “me first” internet age?

    I for one do really enjoy food, you and your group however were more interested in the status dining at a place like Ko offers rather than enjoying the food. You might need to rethink your priorities when eating out and try and live in the moment as opposed to doing things for your “blog” cachet.

  11. thewanderingeater says:

    Marvis: First of all, I don’t have a picture of you on this post. It’s your friend who dined with you that evening who didn’t protest like you. Also, you’ve dodged my camera anyway so why do you care? I don’t even use flash.

    I would ask you, if say the NY Times or some big publication actually brought their photographer to a restaurant you happened to dine in that night and took a photo of you, would you complain?

    I enjoy my meals at every food establishment I ever been to thoroughly. I paid this out of my own pocket and I take photos out of the mere joy of loving food and I remember everything that happened and what I ate.

  12. dana says:

    hey WE! haven’t commented in a while, but have been avidly
    lurking. Congratulations on your mention on nymag!
    What a beautiful meal ……

  13. Thank you for what you do. Some of us cannot get to NYC to dine at these places so we live through the lens of foodbloggers and we appreciate it. I would hope that if I ever tooka pic of somebody at a restaurant they would okay it, if not I would take it down. The manner in which you posted, Marvis, was hostile from the start. I am sure if you would have sent a private email you would have gotten the same result but what do I know I live ina flyover state. Thank you again WE I love your work.

  14. Edgy555 says:

    hmmm…I absolutely understand not wanting to eat next to someone taking pictures like a mad man. At the same time, I just scored a reservation this morning and your blog is seriously whetting my appetite. I’m so conflicted!

  15. Amanda says:

    I love taking pictures of my food! I appreciate expensive food so much, I want to remember it forever! That Marvis sounds like a real stodgy old fellow.

  16. Liz says:

    Thanks so much for this post – I’m visiting NYC for the first time next month, and have been dying to try at least one of the Momofukus. Your post and pictures have been a great really helpful in planning our stay, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who really appreciates them.

    It’s obvious from all your writing how important the food, as opposed to what ol’ grumpy guts up there calls ‘status dining’, is to you. Keep up the good work!

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  18. J says:

    lovely photographs! truly stunning.
    i say you should get some compensation for such stunning advertising!

  19. thewanderingeater says:

    Chicken Fried Gourmet: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, Marvis was hostile but I got over it.

    Edgy555: Aren’t we all conflicted? Most of the time, I would take photos without asking until a staff member (e.g. waiter) would ask me nicely, not to. If Marvis was actually asked me not to photograph him, fine. I won’t take a photo of you, just my food and the general people who don’t protest.

    Amanda: I agree. Though, Marvis ain’t old.

    Liz: You’re welcome. Thanks for the compliment.

    J: Thank you! I wish I could get compensated…alas, it’s not going to happen.

  20. Pam says:

    Is there a trick to getting reservations at KO? I’ve tried just about every day for over a month now.

  21. Sounds incredible. O just ate at Momofuko noodle bar. And I walked by Ko, peering in with envy. At least with your pictures, I get a slight taste, well not really taste, but glimmer.

  22. The short ribs may have been a tad tough because they looked like they were medium rare. Because of where this cut comes from unless it is braised or very slowly cooked over a length of time you will have from a bit to a whole weekends worth of chewing. The only med rare short ribs I ever had that were tender at med rare was thinly sliced Kobe style Wagyu.

  23. mikphire says:

    wow! just read what that Marvis person said. Sounds like a food snob if you ask me. I like your response- atta girl!

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