Dinner – Wednesday, October 17, 2018
I never dined at the original incarnation of Ko – my loss, I’m sure. The current grown-up, polished version of Ko has occupied its current space in the East Village since ~2014 (and just expanded last year). An entire wall of the restaurant is dominated by steel fridges holding meat and alcohol – quite the conversation piece. The rest of the space essentially consists of the U-shaped counter surrounding the open kitchen. There’s lots of room for every diner, and some good music on the playlist. Here is what I ate.
The meat locker
Pomme soufflé, sour cream, onion
Feuille de bric, Thai basil, mint
Fried chicken oyster, honey mustard powder
A haute McNugget – I approved.
Soy-pickled mustard greens, shiso salt, rye bonji
Great textural contrast between the fish and the mustard greens. The bonji is a Momofuku invention – a liquid seasoning in the style of tamari, but made with grains. Clever.
Lobster, blood orange, chili
Ko egg, Golden Osetra caviar
Onion soubise, potato chips, sweet potato vinegar
The famous Momofuku smoked egg. It really is quite decadent, what with the yolk and caviar and chips. The key is the vinegar, which is a great balancing ingredient (and also makes me feel like I’m eating salt-and-vinegar potato chips). Sourdough bread and cultured butter were served on the side – perfect for sopping up all the drippings.
8-week aged striploin au poivre
The meat was lightly grilled on one side over binchotan – tasty and definitely very beefy tasting, but matched by the sauce (which was perhaps almost too peppery).
Razor clams, pineapple, basil
My two favourite dishes of the night came in succession. First was this bowl of sliced razor clams, in a chilled clam and pineapple dashi. Wow! The balance of briny and sweet was perfect – definitely a 3* dish. Basil seeds and droplets of basil oil were not only beautiful to look at, but also added texture and a herbacious element that paired well with the shellfish and fruit.
Tomatoes, uni, broken rice, tomato dashi
A much richer course followed the fantastic razor clams. This was Maine sea urchin served over broken rice, with crushed tomatoes and a tomato water dashi. Warm, creamy and comforting. Delicious.
Dry-aged Elysian Farms lamb leg
Yellow plum, eggplant, Szechuan peppercorn
Concord grape sorbet, anise hyssop
Riesling jelly, lychee and pine nut tartlet
Shaved foie gras torchon
Wild rice ice cream
Candied seaweed, puffed rice, lime zest
Mandarin tarte tatin, cheese
I’ve become acclimatized to eating on such highly stylized tableware that the plates here felt almost quaint by comparison. That is no knock on the presentations here – just an observation of how you get used to certain things. David Chang would probably say, “it’s just food,” or something to that effect. Overall, I had a very pleasant time, but did sneak into their bar next door for a supper of nori rice and cold fried chicken after (highly recommended). Next time, I might just skip the tasting menu and hit up the bar!