Friday, May 22, 2009


After reading all the hullabaloo about the difficulty in getting a reservation, I was blessed with the good fortune of securing two reservations at the restaurant. One for dinner and the other for lunch. The dinner is ten courses, while lunch is seventeen. I figured that I would determine whether lunch was worthwhile after sampling dinner. After the second course of dinner, I turned to Grace and said I'll be back for lunch. She laughed and agreed that it was a wise decision (her judgment was still sound at that point because we had not become completely buzzed by the wine pairings).

The foie gras dish was incredible. Lychee and brittle played into it perfectly. The fried short rib was o.k. sous vide made it tender and the seasoning was perfect. It was just too far into the meal for me to enjoy it well. Ramps, which seem to be one of Chang's favorite components, counterbalanced the richness of the meat. The reisling gelee worked with the lychee. I think the only miss was the dashi dish with snap peas topped with some crab or fish, the raw taste of snap peas overpowered the dish, but I happily slurped up the dashi surrounding it. My overall impression was this was one of the best meals and certainly the most memorable evening I'd had in a very long time. But full disclosure, I was dining with one of my favorite eating partners and we did enjoy each and everyone of the generous pours on our wine pairings. So whether it was the artistry of the chefs, the brilliance of the pairings, the wit of my drunken dining companion -- I don't know. We left the restaurant very buzzed, myself on the food and Grace on the wine. It was good enough that I was thinking about it the next day and didn't really want to eat anything so as to hold on to my last food memory. In a sense a food hangover of the highest degree. 5 *highly recommended

Some dishes from lunch (cribbed from a blogger)

Chicharrone with togarashi
Black pepper and mirin bisquit- It was at this point I decided I would return for dinner.

Monkfish sashimi with poppy seeds and buttermilk
- this one didn't stand out compared to the rest of the dishes.

Sliced diver scallops with uni and apple

Hand torn pasta w snail sausage and pecorino cheese topped with crispy fried chicken skin
-excellent. Grace loved this one.

Shaved foie gras over lichee and reisling jelly and pine nut brittle
-My fave. I could eat this all day, but I think it would be my last day on earth as I'd probably collapse from clogged arteries.

Ko Lunch

This was an afternoon long adventure of food, our menu leaned toward the Japanese but it was a mashup of ingredients from different types of cuisine, a melting pot of techniques and styles -- truly American food. The succession of dishes was so well orchestrated into a coherent composition that it's difficult for me to pull out specific dishes as outstanding. I was just left with an overall feeling that everything was outrageously delicious. And, even though the menu used every color on the palette and every tool in the toolbox to fully harness the properties of each product, it did not feel like a gimmick. Perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy, tart, bitter, and umami.

A's Record of the lunch menu:

Asparagus with black garlic miso reduction, paired with a pomme "soufflé" (a potato wafer cylinder, about as thick as a potato chip, filled with crème fraiche and hackleback caviar
Village Bay oyster with hackleback caviar and lime
Kampachi with white soy sauce and meyer lemon
Long Island fluke with matsuba shoots, 2-year aged soy sauce, radish and banchujang (sp?) sauce (a Korean chili sauce)
Julienned diver scallops with meyer lemon, watermelon radish, freeze-dried soy sauce and meyer lemon zest; while everything had been good so far, this was the first "Wow" dish for me, it was like one of Yasuda's scallop with yuzu and sea salt preparations but with the added texture of the freeze-dried soy sauce; from here on, it was at a different level
Santa Barbara uni with yuba, horseradish and puffed black rice
Tempura soft-shell crab hand roll, with cumin mayo and XO sauce
Octopus carpaccio with sea beans, espelette aioli and buckwheat croquette (more of a crouton, actually)
Puffed egg in bacon dashi broth, paired with a bacon and cream cheese "bagel" (more like a beignet)
House-made tofu with morels in bacon broth and pea soup
Turbot in cherry blossom broth with hearts of palm, matsuba and hackleback caviar
Rabbit liver and leg cannelloni in braised rabbit sauce and fennel
Freeze-dried and shaved foie gras with lychees, pine nut brittle and riesling gelee; this dish is the one constant on their menu, and justifiably so; one diner asked if she could lick the bowl after she finished
Long Island duck, with duck sausage stuffed inside the skin and then cooked, accompanied with grilled ramps and rice, in a vaudovan-cassis sauce
Singing Brook (sheep's milk, TN) and Humboldt Fog cheeses, with smoked cantaloupe jam (incredible), sweet and sour red onions and pork fat brioche
Apple cider sorbet on toasted marshmallow, graham cracker ganache and ginger crumbs; this was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the day, a perfectly placed refreshing course
Parsnip ice cream with grapefruit, hazelnut nougat and fudge sauce
The first time I entered the restaurant I thought that this is an unassuming restaurant with its simple spare decor, really just a kitchen with seating space. I was completely wrong. This place, and perhaps its owner, is the epitome of confidence - so confident in fact that there is no need to do anything other than to wow people with food. No need to talk, no need to look at fancy paintings on the wall, just sit and let them feed you -- that's all.

p.s. I love that the art in the bathroom is a bookshelf of cookbooks and a large photo of a Japanese teppanyaki chef with a wild smile. I would call it whimsical, but it isn't actually attempting to be. It's just an expression of the decorator's personality, whom I assume is David Chang.

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