First Taste: Momofuku Ko

Momofuku Ko

Halfway through dinner at the new Momofuku Ko it hits you: You will never eat dinner here again.

“No phone. No favorites. No exceptions,” vows David Chang: His new restaurant will take reservations only online, on a first-come, first-served basis, starting one week ahead. “We wanted to keep the meal affordable, and we didn’t want to hire someone just to answer the phone.” (There really is no telephone in the narrow, unadorned space.)

This adds extra spice to a menu that will change according to the market and the whim of the chefs, who prepare everything before your eyes in the tiny kitchen behind the narrow bar where you are seated. If comfort is your concern, Ko is not for you.

But those fascinated by food will start trying to snag one of the 14 seats right this minute. At the moment the prix fixe menu (which comes paired with a different wine at each course for about $100) starts quietly, building to a crescendo of flavor as the dinner unfolds.

The first taste is a crunchy little tidbit of spicy chicharon.

Next come translucent petals of silky fluke folded into a soft pink puddle of buttermilk and Sriracha, and lavishly sprinkled with poppy seeds so that the whole thing looks like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Triangles of pork belly become a sly take on bo ssäm, nestled up to an oyster on the half shell with a swirl of cabbage in a kimchi-infused consommé.

Tiny butter clams dance around one stunningly sweet sea scallop in a smoky bacon dashi, the meat a dead ringer for the classic dried bonito flakes.

An egg (cooked sous vide) spills Osetra caviar from its yolk, while a crisp crown of tiny potato chips lines up behind it.

Seared rice cakes with a little bowl of miso act as a kind of palate cleanser before—drum roll please—a bowl of lychees topped with grated frozen foie gras is set before you. It reconstitutes in your mouth in the most amazing way as you take one bite, then another, fascinated by these textures.

And now there is the richest, silkiest short rib you have ever tasted. The meat has been braised for 48 hours and then briefly deep-fried. Served with a Rioja, this is one of the most intense pieces of meat you’ve ever put in your mouth.

The desserts—all three of them—each include something sweet, something sour, something salty, and something surprising. Expect puddings made of corn flakes soaked in milk with salted avocado, and deep-fried apple hand-tarts whose sweetness is edged with the strength of miso.

You linger, loath to leave, knowing that this is the last supper here. And then you try, because you really can’t help yourself. David Chang shakes his head: No, you can’t make another reservation before you leave. “Only online. I mean it.”

Momofuku Ko 163 First Ave., New York, NY (no phone)

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