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Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar
Jul 6th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

If you’ve ever thought, “Boy, I sure love Eleven Madison Park, but wouldn’t it be great if the chef instead used his immense skills to make me a chicken parm?”, Mamma Guidara’s is for you. It’s Chef Daniel Humm’s take on classic red sauce dishes, named in loving honor of his co-owner, Will Guidara’s, mom.

On Sunday nights, the NoMad Bar transforms into one of those red-checkered-tablecloth joints from the 80s, and although the decor is a little chintzy (in the best way), the food is just what you’d expect from a three-Michelin-star chef. And it’s only $74 for four courses that seem more like eight or ten by the time it’s all said and done.

Mamma Guidara’s is on hiatus this summer but will be back on September 10th! In the meantime, drool over what you’ll be getting, and watch this site for reservations.


a Blue Hawaiian cocktail to start, no shame


Caesar salad


crusty bread that we ordered more of in order to make sandwiches with our leftover chicken parm


fried calamari with marinara


seafood salad


meatballs


chicken marsala

One of my friends insisted that we get this when we were given the choice of chicken parm, chicken piccata, and chicken marsala and asked to pick which we wanted for our three shared dishes. The other five of us all wanted triple chicken parm, but she thought we should try at least one of the others, and we all scorned her. Until this turned out to be totally delicious, and it would’ve been really sad for me to have not known how good it was. Don’t be a fool! The chicken parm is big enough for four people; if you have a group, get the other kinds, and everyone will still be able to have some of everything!


chicken parm

If you think this looks like a normal-sized portion, this picture is misleading. It was equivalent to, I don’t know, a medium pizza? And made out of mostly fat and protein so nothing could be more filling in the world? Since our group of six had two of these plus the chicken marsala, extra bread was procured and take-home sandwiches were made.



side of roasted cauliflower


side of cacio e pepe


side of spaghetti


cannoli

I don’t care about cannoli at ALL and am never sure why New Yorkers freak out about them, but these have me convinced now that cannoli are delicious, even though I really know it’s only THESE cannoli that are delicious. The pastry was so much lighter than usual, buttery instead of crackery, and the filling was just . . . better. I wanted three of them to myself, and it’s a travesty that I can’t walk into a bakery and buy them.


cutting the tartufo



decorating the tartufo


There’s ice cream, and then there’s ice cream rolled into a ball and stuffed with jam.

Overall, this was such a totally fun experience, with familiar food that just happens to be way better than anyone’s mamma used to make it. I’m totally biased toward novelty dining (think the dessert magic trick at Eleven Madison Park), but I’m not sure how anyone could resist a place that serves Little Italy’s food without the surly attitudes and with cannoli that are actually worth freaking out about.

Chef David Santos’s Secret NYC Dinner Club, Um Segredo, at Good Stock
Jun 26th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I’ve followed my favorite NYC chef from his West Village restaurant Louro to his taking-the-city-by-storm soup venture, Good Stock, but what made me first fall in love with Chef David Santos‘s cooking were his secret home supper clubs, which he called Um Segredo (“a secret” in Portuguese). Well, they’re back, and they’re not so secret anymore! In that they take place right out in the open at the Good Stock on Carmine Street.

But the same secret feel is still there: just you and five others in the tiny store front, gathered around a table while Chef Santos cooks directly in front of you, offering insight about each of the ingredients and just shooting the breeze like he doesn’t need to concentrate while shaving $100 worth of summer truffle onto your plates.

The fresh herbs and flowers were a beautiful compliment to the late afternoon sun warming the front windows. The roast duck with fresh cilantro and lamb with cumin-flavored squid ink were so good it seemed like a crime that this guy doesn’t have a tasting-menu-only restaurant. The cold peanut butter dessert was so comforting and just plain old yummy that you couldn’t believe he had the guts to serve a warm dessert after it, and then that was just as outstanding. I left feeling like I can’t go to any dinners that aren’t Um Segredo dinners. It’s such amazing food, topped off with an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Follow Chef Santos on Instagram for the link to buy tickets to the next dinner!



Bien Cuit bread with bacon marmalade



Swimmer crab
Watermelon
Avocado pudding
Turmeric pickled rind
Shiso
Lime and olive oil


Bluefish pate
Pickled pearl onion
Biscuit crackers
Herb salad


Carrot dog:
Carrot cooked in olive oil and smoked paprika
Buttered bread and mustard puree
6-month-fermented beetkraut
Amaranth


Examining bitter:
Roasted porcini
Charred breakfast radish
Cocoa nib
Elderflower
Charred onion tea infused with elderflower stems and porcini


Pouring the onion tea


Schmaltz-cooked kohlrabi
Milk and aged creme fraiche pudding
Flowers
Summer truffle


Shaving the truffle



Red wine braised Portuguese octopus
Puree of its braising vegetables
Hazelnuts
Crispy shallot
Chives


Roast duck
Honey sous vide apricot
Goose tongue
Puffed rice
Cilantro


Sous vide lamb
Royal corona beans
Fermented vegetables
Squid ink cumin eggplant puree
Wild garlic flowers


The Elvis:
Honey roasted peanut pudding
Steel cut oat and sorghum crumble
Bacon and banana ice

(This picture does the dessert no justice, I’m sorry; I just got excited about the Good Stock cups.)


Warm strawberry and rhubarb jam
Roasted rhubarb
Biscuit crackers
Vanilla goat’s milk ice cream


The Tasting Menu at Agern
Mar 30th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Had you asked me a week ago if I had any interest in Nordic cuisine, I would’ve given you something like a polite, “Sure, I’m interested in all cuisines!” And then, you know, gone back to eating my tacos. But if you’d prefaced that question by mentioning that the chef at Agern, the restaurant inside of Grand Central Terminal, has a restaurant in Iceland called Dill, I might have thought differently. I LOVE dill. And it doesn’t hurt that the owner of Agern is the same guy who helped found Noma in Denmark, which has been named the best restaurant in the world, oh, I don’t know, four times?

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Senses – Warsaw, Poland
Nov 4th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’m not sure people think of creative fine dining when they think of Poland, so it’s not surprising that Warsaw’s Senses restaurant only has one Michelin star, even if that’s a crime. My boyfriend and his family are from the area originally, so he took me there last month to see where he grew up, and naturally, I checked the Michelin guide. There are only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole country, and one just received its star this year, so we decided to give the new kid a try.

I emailed the restaurant for a reservation two weeks before our trip and was able to get us in at 8pm, although we admittedly were trying for a probably-not-so-popular Monday night. They offer 7- and 9-course tastings, which my boyfriend’s family all laughed at the impossibility of. They were super skeptical about their ability to eat so many courses and for so many hours, especially when his dad doesn’t even like seafood. But I basically forced them to forge ahead, and it ended up being one of the very best meals and experiences I’ve had anywhere.

In NYC, this meal would’ve been on par with Eleven Madison Park or Brooklyn Fare. It would have easily had three Michelin stars, and it would have cost $300. In Warsaw, it cost $99 and included about 20 extra treats not listed on the menu. And even value aside, the service was phenomenal. The servers spoke in English to me and then repeated everything in Polish for my boyfriend’s family, and just like at our two-Michelin-starred dinner in Vienna, everyone was hilarious. Just always anticipating what would delight us and making us laugh through every course. Having just visited Eleven Madison Park last month, I noticed a huge difference between the polite professionalism of the servers there and the way the Polish servers made us feel like we were guests in their home. Which might make sense when you remember that Chef Andrea Camastra is Italian and French.

Click here to read more ≫

Gabriel Kreuther Probably Deserves More Than One Michelin Star
Aug 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.

It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?

Click here to read more ≫

Luksus Probably Deserves Its One Michelin Star
Aug 2nd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Luksus, the Nordic tasting-menu-only restaurant hidden behind a door in Greenpoint’s Tørst beer bar, has been on my list for a long time as a Brooklynite who’d love to never have to leave the borough for her fine dining. I was scheduled to go see my family in Ohio over the July 4th weekend, but when my flight got canceled despite clear blue skies, I consoled myself by booking a table for two there in the hope of getting to sit at the bar and watch the chefs work. The OpenTable reviewers had given Luksus a 4.5, and Eleven Madison Park, which I would call one of the standard-bearers in the city, had a 4.8, so I congratulated myself on my good choice. But when I started talking to my friends, the consensus was that Luksus was good but probably not somewhere they’d return to. I thought about changing my reservation, but then I remembered the optional beer pairings and just had to try it for myself.

Click here to read more ≫

Game of Thrones Season 6 Dinner by Chef David Santos
Apr 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’ve been following Chef David Santos around the city since he was doing secret dinners in his apartment on Roosevelt Island, and I can tell you that there’s no one in NYC doing more creative menus than this guy. There’s been Nashville hot chicken served in giant buckets, a Sun Noodle dinner with bowls of chilled and surf & turf ramen, and meals celebrating Dave’s Portuguese heritage, but I’ve especially come to love the themed dinners. Last week’s “Game of Thrones” pop-up at Noreetuh in the East Village is something my friends and I look forward to every year. Not only because the food is always boundary-pushing but because Dave’s menus are these masterful/hilarious odes to the characters on the show that proclaim this chef both an artist in the kitchen and a wordsmith on the page. None of us will ever forget the bacon-wrapped monkfish dish from a couple of years ago, where Dave said that the bacon protects the monkfish like the Hound protects Arya. Genius. If you want to see the entire explanation for this year’s menu, head on over to the Eventbrite ticketing page and prepare to be delighted.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
bread and butter

Dave’s bread is reason alone to come to one of these dinners and is worth the price of admission itself. Crusty on the outside and beyond smushable in the middle, and then he always makes some amazing butter to top it with. This time, the butter was sprinkled with thick salt crystals to make it even more delicious and more likely to kill you.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
black truffle fritter, asparagus puree, zahatar oil

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
fluke tartar with eel, avocado wasabi pudding, scallion, and puffed rice

Texture on texture on texture!

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
roots, celery, parsnip, peas shoots and tendrils, dirt

There was an asparagus granita on this that my friends refused to accept as a real thing in cooking, but they couldn’t deny how refreshing it was to get a little pile of savory shaved ice on top of a cool salad. None of us were okay with that carrot suggestively sticking up like that, but Dave is such the godfather of incredible carrots that the Times posted one of his carrot recipes, so you have to forgive him. The “dirt” was rye bread crumbs, just in case you were scared.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
smoked sable chowder, oyster, chicharron, nettles

I don’t care for oysters, but I care immensely for a huge crispy-as-hell piece of pork skin that I can dip into my chowder. Comfort food pushed to the max.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
malloreddus pasta, spicy wild boar ragu, house-aged ricotta

Apparently malloreddus is the national pasta of Sardinia, kind of like a gnocchi, that translates to “fat little calves”. Dave left his with quite a bit of chew, just the way I like it, and gave us just the right amount for being totally satisfied but not dying from the richness.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
steak and eggs, foie caramelized onions, emu eggs

The waitstaff passed around giant green emu eggs for us to all pretend to be the mother of dragons with before taking them back to the kitchen so Dave could make THE most intense scrambled eggs, loaded with foie and onions. They were so earthy I could’ve sprouted a tree in them, and then he had to go and top them with a piece of steak just for effect. The scallions gave the dish just the right amount of brightness to balance out all of that fat.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
ice cream sandwich, meringue, strawberry puree

Representing the wall and the blood of Jon Snow, this ice-cream-sandwich-meets-baked-Alaska had just the right amount of novelty for such a fun dinner and just the right amount of elevation for a chef like Dave.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark in Vienna, Austria
Apr 12th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Early last year, my friends and I were planning a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Athens, so I pulled up the ol’ San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list to see if that part of the world had anything to offer. Lo and behold, #15 was smack-dab in the middle of Wien (that’s Vienna in German, see; I’m getting you ready for your future trip there), a modern Austrian restaurant perched on a canal of the Danube River in the middle of a 19th-Century park. Steirereck promised the white gloves and unnecessary decorative plates stacked beneath each dish that I love but also tons of fresh local ingredients that I would have never heard of. Adventure!

I was able to request a reservation through the English version of the Steirereck website and received a confirmation the next day with the exact date and time I’d hoped for (this was four months in advance of our travel date), but I had a question. Four of us were sure we wanted to try the tasting menu, but one friend didn’t think she was ready for five hours of eating and wanted to order a la carte. I replied to the confirmation email and basically told them, “Don’t worry, we’re going to be drinking enough alcohol that you won’t mind if one person isn’t eating.” They didn’t reply. A week before our dinner, though, they wrote to reconfirm my reservation, so I took the opportunity to ask again. The reservationist replied,

Thank you for your confirmation!

Don’t worry you can all order on stage.

We are looking forward to your visit.”

My friend imagined herself on a stage at the front of the restaurant, ordering samples from the cheese cart over a microphone. But we just let it go, because adventure!

Having crammed two weeks of vacation clothes into one carry-on bag, I was woefully underprepared for our fancy dinner and arrived in the 60-degree evening wearing sandals, no tights, a sleeveless dress, and a Gap hoodie. The hostess still totally took it from me like it was a real coat and gently folded it over her arm to hang for me without any hint of judgement, god bless her. Aside from the lingering fear of the stage-ordering, things were going great.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Steirereck seems to be set up like a clover, with each leaf representing a different room with rounded edges overlooking the park. It meant that even with the restaurant completely full, we were only sitting in a room with a handful of tables. Which was lucky, because while the other tables were full of austere Europeans, our table was doing wine pairings and having a really good time of it. It was the staff’s fault, though! They seemed to take great joy in seeing if they could entertain the Americans and kept making jokes about carrying us out to our cabs after the wine pairings and telling us to let them know if we found worms in the salad because it was so fresh. Their humor was so dry that we would all laugh, wait for them to leave the table, and then ask each other, “Wait, he was joking, right?” It was the perfect kind of service for us, a bunch of normal people faking like we were fancy in a different country.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
austere!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We all ended up going for the tasting menu with wine pairings, so we never found out what ordering “on stage” was like, but we started off with cocktails in case nine glasses of wine wouldn’t be enough. Mine was this celery cocktail with housemade vermouth, an “Arabian mountain herb” grown on their roof, and rosemary.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The bread cart was overwhelming to a carb-lover such as myself, but there was a nice blood sausage loaf for the one person at our table who wanted to balance his carbs with protein. I chose the white bread with lavender and the double baked sourdough.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
double baked sourdough, white bread with lavender

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
bacon butter with hemp seeds, sage butter with chia seeds

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

After our first wine pairing was served, a huge spread of tiny dishes arrived:

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
allergens

Apparently Austria has 40 different allergens that have to be displayed on a menu lest someone die from eating hidden mustard, so the restaurant cheekily decided to make dishes featuring all of them. We each received a card naming all of the dishes, the allergen they contained, and a description of who the allergy generally affects. (Eggs: It is possible to be allergic to just the yolk or the white. Most common in children under the age of five, most people grow out of it after a couple of years.) We had things like wheat cracker with pericon, crayfish tomalley with salsify and lovage, peanut with sweet corn, and the worst offender of all,

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

CELERY. Which we got a whole plant of. The little ribs dangling amidst the stalk were soaked in verjus & vermouth salt, but we were told to eat as much of the stalk as we wanted to. (We did not.) Other highlights were the duck egg with tons of chive, and the sour milk dip for the cucumber.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
young carrots with fennel, coconut and reinanke

Glazed young carrots, carrot and fennel salad, marinated wild fish (reinanke, a kind of salmon, spicy carrot and fennel juice. Lots of fruity, sweet flavor in a savory course.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peppers & melon with olive herb & venus clams

Grilled preserved yellow peppers, roasted muskmelon, braised Jerusalem artichoke, Taggiasca olives, Venus clams cooked with tamarind, ginger, and lemongrass.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
celeriac & peas with hazelnut & verbena

Confit young celeriac with peas, pea shoots, and hazelnuts, sautéed salad hearts, celeriac-citrus sauce with pepperoncini, and wild celery herb. So much lime flavor!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
redondo courgette & chanterelles with buckwheat & plum

Sauteed chanterelles, barbecued and steamed redondo courgette (zucchini), avocado and plum marinated in lemon, roasted cashews, spiced green tomato jam, and French sorrel. I loved the spiciness of this one.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
alpine salmon with porcini, cucumber, passion fruit & pepperleaf

Raw “branded” alpine salmon, Mexican pepperleaf inflorescence, verjus-infused radish, grilled porcini, cucumbers with mustard seed and dill, borretsch leaf, passion fruit cucumber juice with pepperleaf oil, fried pepperleaf pearls. We liked the layers of cucumber with dill and porcini with lemon, accented by those crunchy pepperleaf balls.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
amur carp with Job’s tears, kohlrabi & pandan

Pan-fried amur carp, kohlrabi marinated with balsam vinegar & panda oil, Job’s tears crisp, sourdough bread creme with crunchy Job’s tears seeds. Standouts included the crispy fish skin and the way the creme broke up the acidic dish.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
quail

I failed to record more detail about this, but it was quail with this wonderful sesame sauce.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
venison with squash, baby artichokes & orange blossom

Roast Hochschwab venison, butternut squash cooked in brown butter with orange blossom and rosemary, baby artichokes glazed with Madeira and thyme, red onion and radish chutney with horseradish. The chutney was the favorite element of everyone at the table, and isn’t this just about the prettiest plate you’ve ever seen?

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

For those who didn’t opt for the plated cheese course, a cheese cart came loaded with everything from the mildest hard cheeses to the stinkiest washed-rinds. My boyfriend had the restaurant choose a progression of four for him, but you can have the whole cart if you like.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
sweetened vanilla “fresh cheese” with physalis & cereals

Unpasteurised “fresh cheese”, preserved and dried “Little Buddha” physalis, frozen “fresh cheese” whey with toasted hemp seeds, black sesame, amaranth, and coconut. The server plated this in front of us at the table, cutting into the cheese so the whey would drip through the mesh. The physalis (or cape gooseberry or Peruvian cherry, depending on where you’re from) came in preserved and freeze-dried forms to provide different textures.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Drunk Katie can’t keep her camera still!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peach with lemon agastache & basil

Peach poached with lemon agastache flowers and verjus, basil and sorrel creme, marinated peach, and basil beignets with basil sugar.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
basil beignets

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
raspberries with roses, fig leafes & sesamy

Raspberries marinated with rose-vinegar, set sesamy milk, fig leaf snow, rose petals preserved in apple vinegar, “weinviertler” water leaf, and baked raspberries with sesamy.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
medlar, violets and crepes

Crispy deep fried crepe with Japanese medlar (or loquat fruit) and violet jam and powdered candied violets, strawberry mint, lemon verbena, and violet petals marinated with violet syrup and medlar juice, medlar kernel and violet ice cream. This was an extra course the restaurant brought us just to try, in case our stomachs hadn’t exploded already.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Another gift from the restaurant, these were traditional poppy seed noodles that were too savory for me for dessert, but my Polish boyfriend with all of his poppy seed desserts at family holidays loved them.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We’d seen this cart at other tables in the restaurant, with a distinctive buzzing sound emanating from its core. BEES! I was so sure it was just a recording but wanted so badly for a restaurant to just be casually wheeling a live hive around the place. The lady at the table closest to us was so scared of being attacked, though, that her server had to show her the little speaker inside to get her to calm down.

Our server pulled out the honeycomb to scoop a bit off for each of us onto little wooden spoons and then offered us tastes from each of six jars of honey made from the nectar of different flowers from different regions of the city. There was also nougat, little jars of watermelon that tasted like cubes of honey, and honey covered in white chocolate.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

At seven courses for $142 and $75 for the wine pairings, Steirereck felt like a steal. The food all tasted so fresh and so full of exotic things we’d never tried before (physalis! medlar! crunchy pepperleaf balls!), and the service was somehow exactly what we wanted all of the time. When I sneezed, I was handed a package of luxurious Relais & Chateaux tissues, and each dish was accompanied by a card with the title of the dish, a description of the ingredients in it, and then notes about elements like reinanke that we may not have seen before. But when we wanted to have a drunken good time with the staff, the white gloves came off. The allergen spread is one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten, and I loved the way the restaurant had plenty of those novelty moments to delight our eyes but also made sure the food stood up to the experience. All in all, this was just what I would expect from a many-Michelin-starred restaurant in the U.S., only everyone had great accents and we were sitting on the Danube.

The New Momofuku Ko
Jul 27th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

You wouldn’t know it from reading my blog, but Momofuku Ko is the restaurant I’ve been to most in NYC. I only ever reviewed my first meal there, because their no-photo policy meant that my reviews would just be words, and my dearest friends have let me know that no one cares about my writing. But I loved Ko for its creativity, its super-relaxed atmosphere where jeans were recommended and the soundtrack included everything from 70s prog rock to 80s alternative to current hip hop, and the way its counter seating allowed you to talk to your chef as he used tweezers to top your miso ice cream cone with puffed black rice. It was my favorite restaurant in NYC, so I was understandably worried when what everyone is calling “Ko 2.0” opened with its much-much-huger space, its revamped menu with a higher price and no extended lunch option, and its attempts at wringing that third star from Michelin.

The first big change I noticed when I walked in with my boyfriend is that service seems to be a bigger deal at the new Momofuku Ko. Someone was there to hold the door open for us when we entered, and it wasn’t a long-bearded hipster who would also act as our sommelier for the night. The general manager, Su, then checked the computer for our reservation (there’s no more printing out your confirmation at home and having to show it at the door), led us to our seats at the counter, and made friendly conversation with us.

At the old Ko, the seats were small wooden benches with no cushion and no back. They looked streamlined and minimalist pushed under the counter, but they didn’t seem so cool after twelve courses. The new Ko has tall stools with comfortable seats and leather backs that you can melt into with your after-dinner cocktail and your full belly. There’s also a gorgeous dark-wood counter now that looks richer than the blonde wood at the old Ko, and you’ll now get a printed menu in a textured cover at the end of the meal. So that extra money you’re paying now is being well-spent, and Michelin is sure to notice that Ko is now way, way more comfortable than Brooklyn Fare is.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

We started off with a bottle of Riesling

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

and then took in the sights of the new kitchen and chatted with the chef in front of us while we waited for our first course:

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

And then, the food:

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
pommes soufflees

A Ko classic that keeps evolving, this little fried potato tube was filled with creamy pimiento cheese. Imagine eating a Lay’s cheddar potato chip, only way more delicious. And where you can only have one instead of half the bag.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
apple, beet

A sweet little beet ball with the lasting tang of citrus. Followed by a slice of apple with the sting of horseradish, topped with smoky, crunchy rice.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
lobster paloise, tartlet

The tiniest “lobster roll” with an unexpected mint finish (though not unexpected if you, unlike me, know what a paloise sauce is) tasted so fresh next to richer–but not any bigger–Caesar salad boat filled with avocado mousse. The woman next to us told me to put my very small iPhone in the shot to show how incredibly, incredibly adorable these little dollhouse dishes were.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
vegetable roll

This Arctic char roll hit us with jalapeño first, then cucumber to cool it down. The freshness of herbs finished off every bite.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
millefeuille

Like the teeniest triple-decker sandwich, this was miniature toasted bread with a little hint of brine. Our palates missed the green tea on top because of the overwhelming toasty taste, but I sure did like squashing the roe with the layers of cracker.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
madai – consomme, shiso

I always think of Ko when I have madai thanks to the plate of sashimi included in their old lunch service that inevitably included some brand new take on the fish every time. Chef Carey wouldn’t tell us what he was misting the bowl with before he served it to us, but the scent of shiso filled our airspace. It turned out to be a spray bottle full of “shiso essence” he had, which we should all inquire about buying from them as perfume. Little bits of jalapeño and lime caviar made for occasional bursts of flavor in an otherwise very subtle dish of consomme jelly.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
scallop – bamboo, almond

This was one of the most memorable dishes of the night, which isn’t surprising, since it reminded me of the wonderful halibut in whey I had at Atera. That was back in 2012, and I still vividly remember the experience of eating it. This was a New Jersey(!) scallop with an almond milk sauce that was slightly starchy to give some texture to the dish. The bamboo was tender, not woody, and the little slivers of green pepper packed so much perfectly-paired flavor that I felt I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of them. I can’t wait to eat this one again sometime.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
razor clam – pineapple, basil

This was a razor clam for anyone who’s afraid of the way it looks in its long tampon of a shell. This is one of the main reasons I love fine dining: eating things I wouldn’t necessarily seek out otherwise but having them presented so beautifully that I can’t resist them. The little slices of clam had a little chew to them, while the basil seeds were super slimy. The overall effect was slightly fruity and sweet thanks to the pineapple, but it was missing the little punch of flavor I expect from a good Ko dish, and we would’ve been fine had this been a very small serving, like a shot.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
razor clam slime!

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mackerel sawarazushi – ginger, dashi ponzu

Mackerel sushi with lots of ginger and scallions. A layer of fermented sunflower added a grainy texture.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mackerel dashi – king oyster, asian pear

This broth was made with the bones of the mackerel from the previous course’s sushi, with slivers of onion, king oyster mushroom, and Asian pear. It was really subtle, and we liked how the pear absorbed some savoryness from the other ingredients present in the bowl but a little sweetness sung through every now and then.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
sunchoke – blood orange, tarragon

This sunchoke with its skin still on was dry-aged in beef fat and did indeed look like a little morsel of meat. It was very sweet, like it was covered in a marmalade. We guessed the flavor to be apricot, but it wasn’t distinctive, just fruity and sweet next to the earthy interior of the choke. It turned out to be blood orange sauce, but we blame the restaurant for not making the flavor pronounced enough, not our own palates for not being able to discern it, OF COURSE.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
tamagoyaki – sweet potato, caviar

Sweet soft eggs with an even sweeter dollop of potato, cut with a pop of savory caviar and with crunchy wisps to contrast all of the creamy texture.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
cavatelli – nettle, aged cheddar

This ricotta cavatelli was rolled in a sauce made with stinging nettles to keep it very fresh and light despite the aged cheese flavor. I sort of felt like I was eating mossy caterpillars, but please ignore my imagination.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
bread and butter

We got a little overexcited for pure carbs and took a big hunk out of this butter for our bread before I could get a picture. The combination of the bread and black radish butter made this a sour and funky interlude.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
lobster – snap pea, citronette

More lobster! The super fresh sugar snap peas gave this a bright crunch next to the rich, buttery seameat.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly

I’ve had this every time I’ve been to Ko and hope to have it every time for life. The foie gras is shaved cold into the bowl and then melts as it mixes with the jelly, pine nut brittle, and whole fruit slices. I thought it was better than ever, and the chef told me it might be because they’re not plating it using cold bowls anymore. I love the idea that something like the bowl temperature could affect the taste for me.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
duck – lime pickle, xo

When I got this slice of duck breast, the lady next to me at the counter learned over and told me to savor it. It was sweet and sour, peppery, and had a thick crunchy top and bottom, like there was a piece of brittle on both sides. I never got used to the pungent lime pickle, in that every single bite was as delicious as the first. The side of XO vegetables reminded me of the first time I ever had XO sauce, which also happened to be the homemade one at the old Ko. This dish was maybe the best thing I’ve eaten at Ko yet, and you can bet I did savor it while that lady watched me in envy.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
vegetables in XO sauce

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
sorrel – rhubarb, elderflower

If you’ve ever wondered what it’d taste like if you stuck an entire garden in your mouth, this is the dessert for you. The sorrel ice cream tasted exactly as green as it looked, but its savoryness was offset by the sweet diced rhubarb, which also added texture. The cake had a slightly crunchy, caramelized exterior, and it was entirely unfair that they hollowed out the middle of this for the ice cream, because I needed every last crumb.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
huckleberry – laurel bay, bee pollen

I had no idea what bee pollen was before I ate it, and I’m not sure I could even fully explain it to you now. It’s pollen, nectar from whatever the bee was collecting the pollen from, and bee spit, all made into a little pellet by the worker bees for some reason. I have no idea why we would ever eat this, except oh wait, yes, I do–because it’s delicious. It was crunchy and tasted like honey, and this dessert would’ve been nothing without it. The funky creme fraiche made this a challenging dessert if you’re someone who wants ice cream and frosting after a meal, but the huckleberry sorbet was just sweet enough with the bee pollen to top it off.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mignardises

To finish, we had chocolate cookies that tasted like the herbal liqueur Fernet-Branca and a sunflower macaron that tasted like buttered popcorn. And then we got a little drunker and hung out, just enjoying the sights of the kitchen.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
old-fashioned

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
a space to the side for larger parties

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

So did I need to be worried about missing the old Momofuku Ko? Well, not really. I did miss some of the cutesy things that Ko used to do, the novelty things like the miso ice cream cone, the bento with the pork fat rice ball, or the lunchbox with fried chicken. It was fun to reminisce with Executive Chef Sean about the soft shell crab sandwich I once had in the early days, and even he seemed a little nostalgic about the magic they made over in that tiny kitchen on 1st Avenue. But Ko 2.0 is legit fine dining now. It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful, and all of the extras–from the printed menu to the mignardises you’d get at Per Se or Eleven Madison Park–are included.

Plus, with the huge kitchen upgrade, so much more food is being made right in front of you now. We watched a duck being carved, fruits being juiced, fish being finished on a Japanese charcoal grill–all things that would’ve happened behind the scenes at the old Ko. Ko used to be about watching beautiful pre-prepared things being plated from little boxes, but now it’s about also watching things actually get cooked.

And the bones of the old Ko are still holding the place up. You’ll still hear Radiohead, The Cure, and Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, and you’ll still get really delicious, sort of Asian, very tiny, extremely imaginative, wildly well-composed plates of food. And hey, with all of the extra space, you can actually get a reservation now.

Momofuku Ko
8 Extra Place
New York, NY 10003 (map)

Eleven Madison Park in Pictures
May 13th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

My relationship with Eleven Madison Park caused a little bit of a ruckus once. The first time I dined there, I thought the meal was generally fantastic but not as life-altering as I’d expected. I gave it meal 4 out of 5 donuts without an ounce of malevolence intended. But the restaurant wanted me to be completely happy, so they invited me back for a meal on the house and the opportunity to be wowed. People on the food-related message board where I posted the review called me a whiner, and donuts4dinner got mean comments for the first time in its history. But I didn’t care, because my second meal at EMP was so phenomenal that I regretted my first review and became an EMP fan for life. My third visit was also excellent and had me asking if this was the best restaurant in NYC.

I went back for the fourth time almost a year ago and had a meal that easily bettered my third and may have been more delicious than even my second. I had decided after my third time at EMP that while I loved it, it wasn’t the best fine dining experience in all of NYC. My fourth meal there changed my mind. Everything was so exciting and new, so amazingly delicious, and coupled with such perfect service that there was no question anymore. I never posted a review back then, but feeling the effects of EMP withdrawal recently, I pulled my pictures out and decided I at least wanted that much of a record of the meal here. I’ve heard that the menu is totally different at EMP these days, so don’t use this as any indication of what you might see there now, but you can bet the food is still just as incredible.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Bereche & Fils, Brut Reserve, Ludes, Champagne, France

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CHEDDAR: savory black and white cookie with apple

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
OYSTER: wood sorrel, buckwheat, mignonette

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SEA URCHIN: custard with apple, scallop, and chervil

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, Jerez, Spain

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SURF CLAM: morcilla sausage, pear, and celery root

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
LITTLENECK CLAM: clambake with whelk, Parker House roll, and chowder

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Francois Villard, Les Terrasses du Palat, Condrieu, Rhone Valley, France 2009

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
FOIE GRAS: terrine with bitter greens, pear, and achovy

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Klostersatz, Wachau, Austria 2011

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Whole carrots, ground tableside.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CARROT: tartare with rye bread and condiments

What’s more exciting than a whole tray of fresh ingredients to play with?

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

The kitchen tour always includes a liquid nitrogen cocktail.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Schlossgut Diel, Riesling, Dorsheim, Trocken, Nahe, Germany 2010

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
LOBSTER: poached with rutabaga, pear, and lovage bisque

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Rouge Frais Imperial, Sciacarellu, Corsica, France

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SALSIFY: roasted with apples and black pudding

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Tenuta Sella, Nebbiolo, Lessona, Piedmont, Italy 2006

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

They presented the 140-day aged ribeye to us and then took it back to the kitchen to prepare it.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
BEEF: grilled with mushrooms and bone marrow, braised oxtail with foie gras and potato

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Ithaca Beer Company, Picnic Basket Ale, Ithaca, New York

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
GREENSWARD: pretzel, mustard, and dried fruit

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
MALT: egg cream with vanilla and seltzer

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
J.J. Prum, Bernkasteler Lay, Auslese, Mosel, Germany 1998

J.J. Prum is my absolute favourite wine, and it just appeared at our table out of nowhere. I wouldn’t put it past EMP’s amazing customer service to have researched the wine we liked.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CELERY ROOT: creme cake with apple sorbet, walnut, and white pepper

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SHEEP’S MILK: cheesecake with earl grey and honey

At the time, EMP was known for its magic trick. The server brought our dessert plates to us and then asked us to pick a card from a deck. Each card had a different ingredient printed on it, and I chose a card with a rose. When I lifted my plate, the top separated from the base, and underneath was a rose-flavored chocolate that had been there all along. I’m weirdly a fan of magic tricks, so I thought this was the coolest. Other people thought it was gimmicky, but other people are curmudgeons.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
PRETZEL: chocolate covered with sea salt

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CHOCOLATE: sweet black and white cookie with apricot

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

So now you see why I can’t wait to go back.

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