Ringside Seats at the Chef’s CounterChef’s tables used to be the final word on special treatment: the one table in a good restaurant to which the chef paid personal attention. But as the entertainment ante is upped each year — blurring the line between gastronomy and theater — chef’s tables have given way to the even more intimate chef’s counters. There, the lucky diner sits only a few feet of burnished wood away from the action. From the high-end bar at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to the counter-only option at Momofuku Ko, diners are eager to see the sausage being made. Here are a few of our favorite counters, each an example of the narrow border between feeder and fed.
Back of the House
David Chang on the Secret of Ko: ‘We Have No Idea’David Chang never claims to be a mastermind; he’s just treated that way by the food press. Or maybe he is a mastermind, and that’s all part of the plan. We can never tell. Anyway, he couldn’t be much more frank than he was with Time Out New York today: “Everyone thinks I’m bullshitting when I say this: We have no idea what the fuck we’re doing.” But if that were true, would he really say it? We still can’t figure it out.
David Chang to descend from heavens…again [TONY]
Related: Grub Street’s complete coverage of Momofuku Ko
Ko Reservation System Almost Online; Banks’ Cafeteria Workers StrikeMomofuku Ko’s online reservation system will go live sometime before Saturday. Here’s hoping the inevitable Web traffic doesn’t kill the server. [Eater]
Cafeteria workers for many of the city’s largest investment banks have been on strike since Tuesday, since they’re taking home an average of $21,000 a year, which is what the average Goldman Sachs employee makes in less than two weeks. [NYDN]
Hallo Berlin! Germany has more three-Michelin-star restaurants than any other country — except France, of course. [NYT]
Mo’ Momo: Dinner for Two, $281.78Still more enticing photos have emerged from within Momofuku Ko — these depicting more of the restaurant’s interior and friends-and-family diners such as Ken Friedman and Ruth Reichl. The photo that really got us? A dummy bill that puts the prix fixe at $85 and the wine pairing at $90. Dinner for two: $281.78. Which brings us to the question: Anyone want to throw some freelance work our way?
Kathryn Yu’s Momofuku Ko Photoset [Flickr via Eater]
Earlier: Ruth Reichl Pens First of Many Love Notes to Momofuku Ko
A Tantalizing First Look at Momofuku Ko
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]
A Tantalizing First Look at Momofuku Ko
A couple of much-anticipated East Village joints are coming out of the shadows — last week the magazine published first photos of Sasha Petraske’s new coffee bar, Mercury Dime, and today on Flickr an aficionado serves up some glorious pics from deep within friends-and-family night at Momofuku Ko. Chances are this is as close as you’ll get — for a while, anyway — to planting your butt in one of those fourteen seats, and luckily the snaps are primo quality: Even the house-made chicharrón looks leaps and bounds above what you’d find at a Bushwick bodega, never mind the kimchee consommé with Malpec oyster, pork belly and braised cabbage.
Don Lee’s Momofuku Slideshow [Flickr via Eater]
Momofuku Ko to Open Next Week; Wheat Prices to Affect Pizza and Bagel LoversMomofuku Ko is scheduled to open on March 12, and once the friends-and-family period ends, the only way to get in will be through online reservations. [Eater]
Café Boulud still has the power to draw big names like Tom Ford, Barbara Walters, and Bruce Springsteen. [WSJ]
The same I.D. scanners that help keep out underage drinkers at nightclubs are also helping police track down the various shooters and stabbers that frequent these places. [NYP]
No Liquor Love for Momofuku Ko and Veselka Bowery; Boulud and Keller Hit DubaiMomofuku Ko may be ready to open in a couple of weeks, but they’ll have to get by with serving only wine and beer, since David Chang’s rep neglected to bring the necessary petitions to the liquor-license hearing last night. [Eater]
Veselka Bowery was also denied a liquor license by Community Board 3 last night, but unlike Momofuku Ko, it doesn’t seem like they’ll ever be granted one, thanks to Daniel Boulud’s nearby liquored-up establishment. [Eater]
Related: Veselka II Is Coming — Let the Burger War Begin
Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter to put your leftovers in a doggie bag. After all, you did pay for that food. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
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.”
At Momofuku Ssäm It’s AC/DC 24/7A while back David Chang told Eater that his new fourteen-seater won’t be a fine-dining restaurant, though a recent Craigslist ad recruiting cooks says “prior fine-dining experience is preferred.” Whatever Momofuku Ko turns out to be, we can’t imagine Vivaldi will be playing in the dining room — it’s not like critics have been turned off by the steady diet of AC/DC that we heard during a recent stop-in at Momofuku Ssäm.
‘GQ’ Names David Chang Chef of the YearGQ’s Men of the Year issue is hot off the presses, and you can probably guess who their Chef of the Year is: none other than soup sachem David Chang. It’s got to feel good to the Momofuku Man, but we wonder if he might be experiencing a little anxiety as well. The most recent deluge of media love has been largely in response to the top-notch work Chang and co-chefs Joaquin Baca and Tien Ho pulled off in opening the justly popular Ssäm Bar, and Chang could be staking his good name on the success of his forthcoming Ko. Ko will have to be phenomenal (and, let’s be honest, it very well could be) to shield him from what could be some backlash against the flood of praise bestowed upon the young chef in the past year. At any rate, you’ve got to admire Chang’s willingness to rise above the Momofuku/Ssäm love parade and take his game to the next level. Between now and the time Ko opens, we hope he lets himself bask in the glow for a few minutes.
Year of the Pig [GQ]
Related: Yet More Kudos for David Chang!
New Momofuku(s) Opening Next Week; Meryl Streep to Play Julia ChildMomofuku Noodle Bar 2.0 is set to open Tuesday, which by David Chang’s accounts should mean Ko will be raised in one night and ready by Wednesday in the original’s former space. [Eater]
Related: Keeping Up With the Momofukus
Food & Wine questions whether Meryl Streep can carry the role of their “Patron Saint” Julia Child, though they have hope from a scene in The Hours in which the actress “deftly separated egg whites from egg yolks by letting the whites run through her fingers.” [Mouthing Off/Food&Wine]
Hudson Valley is the largest foie gras producer in the country so even though 15,000 breeding ducks were killed in a fire this week, it “shouldn’t seriously affect production,” says Frank Bruni. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
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.
Tre From ‘Top Chef’ Lets Texas Down; Momofuku Ko Still On for FallSome Texans aren’t happy about the Lone Star State’s Tre Wilcox losing the barbecue challenge on Top Chef: “The fact a Texan didn’t finish in the top three in a barbecue challenge is, alas, troubling and disappointing.” [Dallas Observer]
Related: Adam Platt Is Willing to Bet Against Howie on ‘Top Chef’ [Grub Street]
David Chang, looking for an assistant, is aiming for a fall opening of Momofuku Ko. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Related: David Chang Going Upscale — Again [Grub Street]
A new blog about Latin food in New York, Nueva York Guide, just launched. It was created by two undisputed experts, Carolina Gonzalez and Seth Kugel, who wrote the book on the subject. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]