Momofuku-Ko, NYC, USA

Located down an unassuming street in the East Village, Momofuku Ko is a staple in NYC. Fine dining with a casual twist! The restaurant opened its doors in 2008, got its two Michelin stars in 2009 — maintaining them since, and is currently rated #58 on the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list in 2017.

Inspired by Japanese kaiseki tradition, Momofuku Ko is the crown jewel in David Chang’s ever-expanding restaurant empire. Known for his distinct style and taste, his restaurants include — Momofuku Noodle BarMomofuku Ssäm BarMá PêcheMilk Bar (literally obsessed with the Crack pie, but that’s an entirely separate story) and, of course — Momofuku Ko.

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Converted from an old garage — with its industrial-feel, graffiti-covered walls and modern design — the restaurant immediately sets the tone for the relaxed, unpretentious fine dining experience ahead.

If ever presented with the choice, I always prefer to sit at the counter of any restaurant. As the local pioneer of the tasting counter, Ko is perfect for an interactive dining experience with its open kitchen, 12-seat spacious “U”-shaped bar and very friendly staff.

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Blachfish — rye bonji and perilla

I am a rather fussy (read, “super annoying”) vegetarian and any Japanese restaurant has a difficult time accommodating my preferences, but not Ko! This was one restaurant I didn’t leave hungry.

We went for the 13-course tasting menu — we are no quitters! — and that, not surprisingly, led to the longest lunch I have ever had in my life — bordering on four hours. Our culinary adventure started with a pre-course (like we needed one) — of potato soufflé, lobster pastry and a fried chicken oyster.

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Tofu — xo and sea rocket

The tasting menu is priced at an impressive $255, regardless of whether you are there for lunch or dinner, and an additional $195 if you were to go with the beverage pairing. $60 from the food menu price is a service charge —so, no tipping is expected— not very common in American restaurants.

The tasting menu is priced at an impressive $255, regardless of whether you are there for lunch or dinner, and an additional $195 if you were to go with the beverage pairing. $60 from the food menu price is a service charge —so, no tipping is expected— not very common in American restaurants.

Each plate is interesting and at times even startling, and the expert combination and balance of flavours are unexpected in the best possible way.

The next dish, in the photo above, is definitely a fan favourite and also one of Ko’s staple dishes — an exquisite, partially peppered, wholly mackerel. The photo to the right is the vegetarian alternative to the fish dish — sliced melon.

I will never understand what the appeal of sea urchin is for anybody, and luckily, it happens to be among the very few things my fiancé does not enjoy eating, so this one went down the hatch without too many comments.

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Sea urchin with chickpea puree and hozon

When I first saw the next dish they put in front of me I was pretty sure it was some kind of sausage — yes? No! It was actually Sunchoke, aka Jerusalem artichoke, the root vegetable of a species of sunflower. In all honesty, it was a bit too earthy for my taste but the blood orange made for a nice balance.

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Sunchoke — blood orange and tarragon

Drumroll, please! Here comes the star of the show — The Ko egg — one of the restaurant’s signature dishes — soft-boiled egg, American hackle-back caviar, potato chips, onion soubise, and purple sweet potato vinegar. For my version of this dish the caviar was substituted with tonburi — “land caviar” — a type of edible seed, a specialty of Akita prefecture in Japan.

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Ko egg

One of the reasons I love sitting at the chef’s table is because I can experience how dishes are prepared and plated and Ko doesn’t disappoint. What followed next was beef au poivre — the tender, thinly sliced, charcoal-warmed, grass-fed beef with peppercorn sauce was definitely one of the meal’s favourites.

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Beef au poivre

The perfect compliment to our spectacular gastronomic experience was the intuitive, unobtrusive service — a combination of cooks and waiters working seamlessly in unison to bring to life the Ko dining experience.

Our next dish was a whole roasted eggplant stuffed with steamed striped bass and topped off with tomato sauce.

As if s if all up to this point wasn’t enough, we were in for a three course seasonal dessert selection.

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Lately, we have been obsessed with Japanese cheesecake and the one we had a Ko definitely did not disappoint — light, creamy, delicious.

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Japanese cheesecake

With its menu changing depending on the season, Ko keeps several dishes as a staple. Its signature dessert is one of them — frozen shaved foie gras over lychee, pine nuts and riesling jelly. In this case, we got to watch the guys grate the frozen fois gras — let’s be honest, it’s pretty cool 🙂 The food is the show and we had our front-row seats.

Following the foie gras extravaganza, we were treated to some kombu wild rice. “Kombu” — for those who don’t know (and I was one of them) — is dehydrated edible kelp seaweed. A bit too much of a “dirt” flavour for me, but surely is a hit among people with more sophisticated palates.

Even though the wild rice ice cream was not among my favourites, the strawberry vanilla dessert which capped off our lunch was a divine finish — coconut jasmine rice, saffron meringue, strawberries and pickled cubanela!

And when you hang out at the counter long enough and chatting with the pleasant staff, you might end up meeting the man who first joined Momofuku Ko as a sous chef and now inspires this exquisite tasting menu — Sean Gray.

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Sean Gray — Executive Chef at Momofuku Ko

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