At the Rusty Knot, There’s a Bass on the Wall and ‘Barracuda’ on theBack when Spotted Pig owner Ken Friedman first clued us in to the Rusty Knot, in the old West space, he said little more than, “We’re doing a little dive bar there — it’s going to have a pool table and a jukebox.” In this week’s issue, chef Joaquin Baca tells us what “dive bar” means (an addictive chicken liver, bacon, and avocado sandwich, it turns out), but he doesn’t say anything about the jukebox. All we can say is, don’t expect to hear Masta Ace or New Young Pony Club, like you might at the Pig.
In the Magazine
Good Times for High and Low in This Week’s IssueThese are high times we’re living in. Every stratum of society has something going for it. On the tippy top, the wine-swilling swells who frequent Adour can enjoy what, in Adam Platt’s view, is three-star cuisine. And their fellow plutocrats will enjoy South Gate’s posh but lively room and Gael Greene–approved food (well, except for the clams). But for the rest of us, Rob and Robin have a panoply of awarding options: There are the spring-inspired rhubarb hamantaschen made by Emily Isaac at Trois Pommes Patisserie; an interview the Robs did with Momofuku man Joaquin Baca, who now is doing the menu for world-class dive bar the Rusty Knot; and, adding to this embarrassment of riches, takeout sweets from Pichet Ong’s Batch, and a very appealing-sounding little Tuscan restaurant on Bleecker Street. On top of everything else, crackling is the latest snack trend. Good times, friends. Good times.
Back of the House
Ruth Reichl Pens First of Many Love Notes to Momofuku KoIt didn’t take long for the Momofuku Ko bandwagon to start rolling, did it? Ruth Reichl has filed a panegyric to her dinner there on the Gourmet Website, and it’s only a matter of time until her fellow food-media elders do likewise. Every other chef can only sit back and watch: Chang has become the official sanctioned face of the gastronomic Now, even though he’s not really even the primary chef at Ko, as he is always the first to admit. (The names of co-chefs Tien Ho and Joaquin Baca don’t even appear in the post.) Chang comes off as some kind of combination of Escoffier and the Dalai Lama in this review: Reichl writes of eating “the richest, silkiest short rib you have ever tasted,” “translucent petals of silky fluke folded into a soft pink puddle of buttermilk and Sriracha,” and “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.” (Ew!) Batten down the hatches and prepare to get a little cynical: A veritable onslaught of acclamation is coming your way. Odds are you’ll be very weary of reading them — and very desirous of getting a Momofuku Ko reservation, probably in about the same proportion.
First Taste: Momofuku Ko [Gourmet]
The State of the (Momofuku) UnionNews on Eater about the Momofuku empire suggests that there’s been a shake-up. In a letter, David Chang announces that Peter Serpico is the new chef at Momofuku Ko and goes on to mention that “Tien, Kev, Scott and Serpico” will be running the show. As for Joaquin Baca, formerly Chang’s co-chef and the Trotsky of the Momofuku empire? He’s not in on this one, instead “working on his own concepts.” Huh. We had heard that there was friction between the two, but we didn’t expect Quino to be uninvolved with Ko altogether.
From The Desk of Dave Chang: Peter Serpico Named Chef at Momofuku Ko, More Changes at the Momo Empire [Eater]
Update: David Chang called us to clarify what he says was our complete misunderstanding of his statement on Eater. While Quino is going to pursue his own concepts, Chang says, and
won’t be involved in the day-to-day running of the restaurant, “he’s still a co-owner of all the restaurants, will still be helping out, and is very much a part of the Momofuku team. We’re
family, friends, and brothers forever. Quino will always be involved.”
Back of the House
Yet More Kudos for David Chang! (Shoot Us Now.)Is the David Chang superstar era over yet? If not, can you wake us when it is? We just opened the October Gourmet, and there’s a multipage lovefest to the Momofuku Man, complete with the usual musings on pork (“a mystical, magical animal,” he calls it, echoing Homer Simpson) and the usual close-ups of him eating. Coming on the heels of Bon Appétit’s even more ridiculous Chef of the Year award, we think the time may have come to say what everyone we know is already thinking: that Chang, earnest and talented as he is, has turned into the Sanjaya of Soup and needs to be reassessed.
The Underground Gourmet
Momofuku Ssäm Bar Serving More Food More of the TimeOfficial Hours-of-Operation Keeper at Dave Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar must be the hardest job in the restaurant business. The sleek spot, which began its life as a cafeteria-style restaurant serving Asian burritos every day from 12 noon to 10 p.m. and then, several weeks later, entered its phase-two transformation into a full-service “latenight” restaurant on Wednesdays through Sundays, continues to tweak its hours and menu. Not unintelligent East Villagers are perplexed, if not downright baffled.
Ssäm’s Ssecret Chef’s TableVisitors to Ssäm Bar, David Chang’s sleek new “Asian burrito” emporium, may have noticed a big, unused kitchen that runs the length of the room. Chang fires it up tonight for the first time, rolling out a late-night menu of multiple-element small plates prepared by the chef and a rotating team of ambitious cooks — including his co-chef at Momofuku, Joaquin Baca; Cafe Gray and Cafe Boulud veteran Tien Ho; and several other classically trained Momofuku alumni.