Posts Tagged With: David Chang

Nishi – La Cucina Fukina

nishi-jajangmyeonJanuary 9, 2017 Update:

When you finish the year with three meals in 9 days at the same place, it becomes quite apparent. I seriously need to learn how to cook  Nishi is my favorite newcomer of 2016 and I cant get enough of it.  One can very easily dismiss this place when Googling it and facing the cranky initial reviews, and that would be a grave mistake.  Grave I tell ya!  There’s a good place for food critics in our society, but they are often coerced to review too early, especially when faced with the buzz of a Momofuku.  Buzz and brand lead to certain expectations.  If Nishi opened last month with the current menu, and owned by a no-name, it would have gotten some major accolades right now.

So I’ve now tried all the pastas on the menu.  Love them all except the Chili Squid.  I think I prefer XO (spicy seafood sauce) on meat dishes, rather than seafood.  The Butter Noodle is still a revelation.  The Spicy Beef is a delicious combination of pasta shells, beef, mint, fried shallots, with a nice kick.  Love the Jajangmyeon with the biggest fried egg you will ever see covering the entire plate, and more joy to the spicy lovers.  But my favorite is still probably the Toasted Noodles (formerly Clams Grand Lisboa).  Eating this is like listening to an entire Ariana Grande song by accident in the car.  Lost in the moment, which can be dangerous when wife is giving you important weekend instructions.  I think I have to drive someone to the airport, but I’m not entirely sure who and which airport.

I will update the bottom line with my favorite dishes which is getting too long, but it will include the delicate Mackerel Tataki, and the BBQ Pork Rib with sweet and sour sauce which is a spare ribs game changer.  The Ko-esque Roast Pork is still quite good, but the best thing on the large section right now may be the fish.  A very shareable Skate Wing with bits of toasty Cauliflower, topped with this beautiful buttery light gravy.  Freakishly good stuff!

June 19, 2016 Update:

Happy Father’s Day to all the foodie dads out there!!

Nishi is quickly becoming my favorite Momofuku in the city.  Wait a minute… this just in… it just did.  See how quick it was?  I will most likely replace Ma Peche with Nishi on the next Z-List update.  Other than the Habanero, I’m simply running out of reasons to schlep there.  Every thing that I like are taken out of the menu, starting with the rice cakes w/pork, and ending with chef’s Paul’s sensational jerk wings.

There’s somewhat of an identity crisis I feel with Nishi.  Nothing outrageous, but more like “am I an Ox or a cow?” type of an identity.  They started with a No Tipping policy which got axed recently (New Yorkers may not be ready for it quite yet).  The much buzzed Ceci e Pepe is now Butter Noodle as they may be trying to get away from the Cucina Fukina Italiano tag.  Nishi Scallops

But what remains constant is all the goodness that comes out of that kitchen courtesy of Josh Pinsky, the man behind the best meal I ever had (bearded dude in one of the pics).  A very Ko-like Diver Scallops come floating on a citrusy Peruvian inspired Tiger’s Milk and topped with Shio Kombu to give the scallops a nice crunch and flavor.  If you going to serve scallops raw, this is the way to do it (I’m, looking at you Grand Banks).

Another great discovery is the Clams Grand Lisboa, one of the few staples on the menu from day one.  The clams are dressed with Oregano based sauce, sitting on top fried Chow Mein noodles and cabbage.  Calling this Cho Mein almost sounds like an insult to this dish.  Its cooked with apple sauce that give it this sweet richness, like no Chow Mein you’ve had before.  A newish Roast Pork with asparagus that is quite similar to what I’ve had in Ko is another winner.  I was so excited to get reunited with this dish, that I forgot to take a picture on time.  Go!     nishi-toasted-noodles-clams

February 3rd. 2016 Post:

Yesterday I blew the dust off of Fred Plotkin’s Italy For the Gourmet Traveler to brush up on my Sicily food scene.  The book was published in 1996 and is still a good resource for everything Italy foodstuff, since not much really ever change there.  In Venice, people continue to eat canal seafood.  In Piedmont they will continue to munch on Vitello Tonnato and Carne Cruda.  And in Rome they will continue honoring the Cucina Povera (simple food of the poor) for what seems like indefinitely.  You dont come to Bologna and ask what people are eating these days.  Its the same cuisine they’ve been enjoying for centuries.  New York City on the other hand is a totally different beast.  A Plotkin book on NYC would get stale after about a year.  Bagel, pastrami, egg cream, hot dog, steak…  those seeking what New York is known for are missing out in a big way.  New York is known for everything and nothing.  The only constant here is change, and the new Italianish Momofuku Nishi is perhaps the poster child of that NYC ever changing dining scene right now.

The answer to what is the hottest restaurant in NYC right now has never been clearer.  Franklin Barbecue, Noma, a psychic in New Orleans, a call girl in Stuttgart…  Just some of the things that come mind that are more difficult to snatch than a table at Nishi at the moment.  Those lucky enough to make it, got the bragging rights of a Taylor Swift posse member.  The other day they announced that they now accept reservations two weeks out.  That will improve your chance of getting a table by roughly .04%.

But as long as there’s no physical harm involved, I’m game with this modern “text me when my table is ready” wait.  Arrived at 5:45 on a Saturday, 15 mins after they opened, with a disturbing looking line around the block.  But things move fast, as after only 20 minutes I was having the much anticipated meeting with the hostess.  “Next available table is… looking like… ooh, I can sit you on Wednesday, 10:30” was going through my mind as I was expecting the worst (ok, slight exaggeration).  But instead I got “Two and half hours”.  No biggie, as I was planning to take the opportunity to show our visitors (from Staten Island!) Chelsea Market.  I get a text an hour and 45 minutes later, and off we go

Stylish wooden communal tables, extremely loud, supportless seats unless you count the occasional waiter bumping behind.  Essentially a typical NY establishment these days.  No complaints from me as long as the inventive menu delivers (spoiler alert:  It does).  Although the Asian Italian mashup isnt necessarily new to NYC (Piora, All’onda), Momofuku almost makes it look like brand new.

Ceci e Pepe – The early reports signature is what I call a grower.  A play on the Roman Cacio e Pepe but instead of Pecorino, it’s swirled with chickpea hozon which Ssam bar has been toying with for a while now.  The result is a subtle sweeter version.  While I couldnt quite make up my mind if I prefer this over the classic, by the time I finished I found myself “Scarpettaing” the plate with my middle finger.

Nishi Ceci e peppe

Beef Crudo – One of the more complex, and beautiful raw beef dishes out there.  Topped with watermelon radishes (think daikan), ponzu, dashi and scallions.  All combined produces a very nice bite.  And for only $48 extra you can get a decent shaving of winter Black Truffles on top,  Its about $24-30 more than I’m willing to pay for Black, and $10 more than I’m willing to pay for white in the fall.

Nishi Beef Carpaccio

Chicken and Dumplings – Another great dish.  A riff on the Korean Sujebi, with Chicken, bread dumplings and plenty of delicious shiitake along with an excellent rich broth.  Mrs Ziggy especially appreciates a good soup and this was her favorite dish

Nishi Chicken Dumplings

Spicy Beef Sichuan – Perhaps the top pasta of the night.  This is where they take a classic Italian dish like Pappardelle with meat ragu, and applying bold Sichuan flavors like Yacai (preserved mustard greens), fermented chili paste and tofu.  Like Pappardelle with ragu, and Dan Dan noodles gave birth to a baby named Roger.

Nishi Spicy Sichuan

Chitarra with Squid – The only miss of the night.  Should have gone with the clams Grand Lisboa.  This was sort of one note, with fishy XO sauce that doesnt quite go well with this pasta for me (emphasis on “for me”.  How dare I question the king).  And then there’s the squid that sort of gets lost in the shuffle.  I like the use of XO in heavier pastas like the Agnolotti in All’onda.  Add the odd price of $36 (why?), and its an easy skip IMO.

Nishi Chitarra

Leg of lamb – Truly exceptional piece of meat.  Arrives looking nothing like the legs you know and love.  So tender, so delicious, with white beans and sauce that would disappear much quicker if there was bread (no bread here and not really necessary.  I’m just being a little melodramatic)

Nishi lamb

Finished with the famous Korean dessert… Pistachio Bundt Cake.  Or is it Italian?  Either way, it was a proper finisher, pictured below with my friend Robert still pursuing his dream of becoming a hand model.  Some wine, some Limoncello slushies (about a drink each) added up to $320 for 4 (Note we ordered 2 of the Cecis as one is not enough for 4).  No tipping allowed.

Momofuku Nishi
232 Eighth Avenue (22/21), Chelsea
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Butter Noodle, Mackerel Tataki, Beef Crudo, Spicy Beef, Jajangmyeon, Roast Pork, Toasted Noodles, BBQ Ribs, Skate Wing, Roast Pork, Pistachio Bundt Cake

Nishi Bundt Cake

Momofuku_Nishi

Gabriele Stabile

 

Categories: Chelsea, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Momofuku Ko – Son of David

Momofuku Ko huckeberryOn this fine second Seder eve, the beginning of Nutella week (I only eat Nutella with Matzah), I’ll start with a question I’ve been asked many time.  How can Jesus be the son of David!  Jesus was born 1000 years after David, and yet he is repeatedly described in the new testament as the Son of David.  Was David the first ever sperm donor?  I didn’t think so.  Mmm, a moment of silence as I reflect on the fact that I haven’t and most likely never will produce sons.  I get this moment every now and then, bare with me.  But the answer to our questions is that its just a Messianic title, like “Son of god”.  Jesus, born in the city of David, Bethlehem, was the long awaited Messiah, deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

Momofuku KoCoincidentally (or not) “Ko” means “Son of” in Japanese, and Momofuku Ko is the son of David Chang, the long awaited Messiah that came to free us from  French dominance, and who broke all the rules and then some, like an inspired blogger suddenly writing with run-on sentences.  Chang like Ko, is a trend setter that continues to reinvent himself.  In a recent editorial piece by Chang about the flux state of ramen in NYC, I couldnt help but notice the extensive profanities in the piece.  Some may say Vulgar.  I say fucking inspiring!Momofuku Ko Art

The best way I can describe Ko is like this.  A religious experience for non-religious food geeks.  A rather indescribable event that perhaps you should not read much about beforehand, like the back of the Netflix white sleeve envelope.  Even the cuisine itself is not something you can categorize.  The default “American (new)” is perhaps the closest but only because its the default, and not because its comparable to anything else in its category (with the possible exception of Atera and a few more).  Yelp lists it as “Korean, American (New)”.  Might as well say “Turkish, Uyghur, Fried Chicken”.

Ko DudeYou almost need to become religious when you try to make reservations.  You have to open an account with fuku, set a reminder exactly two weeks before the date you want at 9:55 am and start flexing the fingers.  At 10:00 am reservations open, and at 10:05 they pretty much close.  If you miss your big chance, they can put you on a calling list in case someone cancels on the same day.  For me it required a small village, with “fuku” texts from friends reminding me after many failed attempts.

Its counter seating, with ample room between you and other guests.  The 2.5 hours meal costs $175 and features a set menu of 18 or so dishes.  Overall it felt like what a 2 Michelin star in NYC should feel.  Professional, efficient, yet not too stuffy at all, even though you cant drop a napkin without someone handing you a fresh one within seconds.  Part of the enjoyment is sitting there watching the cooks do their thing, including someone we dubbed Momofuku Eddik who looked like our friend Eddik.

Ko DudesDescribing the dishes at Ko can be as complicated as describing Japanese elder porn.  I dont usually take notes while I eat so I will try to do my best describing and will omit some that were not so memorable, like the millefeuille, the only photo not taken (probably around the time I spotted Mr Chang.  I’m glad he didnt recognize me because I was having way too much fun with Mrs Z and didnt feel like being bothered)

Lobster Paolise was the highlight of the early round of small bites, served in a cylinder shell like a shot glass.  Paloise is essentially minty Barnaisse.  A terrific Vegetable Roll followed by less memorable millefeuille and pomme soufflee.  Madai (Japanese Snapper looking Sea Bream) served raw with clear jellied consomme and shiso was a nice little transition to the lightweights.  Razor Clams swimming in basily pineapple dashi was perhaps the first wow moment, only to be followed by much bigger ones.  Sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) aided by dry aged beef fat was meaty yet delicate.  Then comes a sensational Venison tartare with fermented black bean puree and shredded fried brussels sprouts providing a nice crunch.  One of the best dishes of the nightMomofuku Ko Paloise Momofuku Ko veg roll Momofuku Ko Madai Momofuku Ko Razor clamsMomofuku Ko sunchoke Momofuku Ko Venison

The Mackarel Sawarazushi that we saw our new friend Jay torch time and time again during the meal, was well balanced, and not as strong as mackerel can get sometimes.  Surprisingly, in a way I preferred the dashi (soup) they made with the mackerel with shredded King Oyster Mushrooms and Asian Pears.  Like the sickest Miso soup you will ever eat.  Soft scrambled eggs with Osetra caviar and breadcrum-like fried potatoes was quite the dish.  Add the homemade bread and radish butter and you got a triumph.  Like breakfast at Putin’s.  Momofuku, change the name to Breakfast at Putin’s

Momofuku Ko mackerelMomofuku Ko Torching Jay Momofuku Ko dashi Momofuku Ko eggs Momofuku Ko bread

The Pilmeni/ravioli like Kaboocha squash dumplings were light and springy.  A nice transition to the heavyweights of the meal (perhaps its a good time to say, skip lunch).  The lobster dish was another winner.  A few pieces of lobster tail with sweet potatoes and some sort of lobster espuma which was like the greatest lobster bisque on the planet.  When you make the sweet potato almost match the lobster in taste, for this sweet potato hater, you are doing a lot of things right.  The best way I describe the pork piece is steroid injected, beefed up incredibly delicious Canadian bacon.  They brine that thing for 6 days.  Add some Kimchi and onions and you got yourself an Ooooboy!  If you didn’t have your religious experience by now, it will probably arrive with the frozen foie gras liberally shaved on top of Lychee, candies pine nuts and Riesling Jelly.

Momofuku Ko Kabocha Momofuku Ko lobster Momofuku Ko Pork Momofuku Ko Frozen goie gras

The desserts, while perfectly acceptable, did not carry the similar oomph you get with the rest of the menu.  A Huckleberry sorbet with bee pollen, minty chocolate tart, some mignardises in a form of tiny macaroons.  The best thing was the last warm dessert that’s not on the menu but reminded me of a sticky toffee pudding.

Needless to say, put this Momofuku high up there on your NYC bucket list.  The first slot sounds about right.

Momofuku Ko chocolate Momofuku Ko mignardises Momofuku Ko dessert

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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