Chef Pascal Barbot cooks with David Chang at Momofuku Ko

My fellow New Yorkers who enjoy the restaurant scene are quite aware that the most difficult reservation to get is also, ironically, the most democratic. David Chang’s 12-seat Momofuku Ko ONLY accepts reservations made via an online system. Every day, at 10am sharp, there’s a half-second time window to click your mouse just so, at the right speed, with the exact dose of love, at the perfect moment to secure a seat. So imagine my state of excitement when I tell you that I scored a chair at Momofuku Ko for the “Four Fucking Dinners” opening night, featuring no one less than the hottest French chef Pascal Barbot this past Sunday. The event was organized by the French restaurant guide Omnivore in honor of host David Chang’s favorite expletive. My higher than high expectations were not disappointed. The excitement in the air was obvious when I arrived early and started chatting with the other 11 lucky guests. “This is such an non New York moment”, said one of them. Really, in this city, where do you start chatting with fellow diners waiting on the sidewalk?

But this was almost a festive occasion with a heightened anticipation vibe in the air, Chang even gave a welcoming introductory speech. And there he was, proprietor and cook of the most impossible reservation in Paris, Pascal Barbot from L’Asperge, in an open kitchen for the first time in his career, prepping twenty inches from my bar seat. The restaurant, like all of Chang’s venues, has an open kitchen with the main seating space being the counter. Barbot was slicing mushrooms, cutting foie gras, chopping leaves, mixing sauces and finishing up all dishes right across from me. The whole evening was a delight, in every sense.

Without further ado Barbot went straight to preparing his first amuse bouche – ginger yogurt at the bottom, a tomato-red currant mixture in the middle topped by caramel foam. Hmm. “Make sure to dip your spoon all the way to get all flavors” ordered the chef.

His signature dish of super thin slices of white mushrooms layered with fois gras came next. A langoustine over vegetables in a delicious prawn stock followed. “Since I am in America, I made peanut butter! But wait, with a French touch!” said Barbot about the chili added, not sticky, perfectly creamy peanut butter.

I’m not a food writer, so I will make this 9 course dinner and wine pairing short, and let the images speak for themselves. However, I have to single out the razor clams in this tasting feast. One open shell with the clams placed on top of it (perfection in consistency) was covered with a parsley foam, the other shell placed next to a dipping kombu sauce. When the chef was preparing it, he asked Chang to taste the kombu-soy reduction from the pan, and he went back for more. “Wow… I told you, I knew you were actually Asian!!” was his response. The two leaves casually placed to the side were smuggled in from France by the chef and are called oyster leaves. That tiny leaf tastes exactly like an oyster. It was stupefying, I felt that must have been a joke. “Oyster leaves are incredibly rare in the States, you can find them in Europe, but they are very expensive no matter what”, said Chang at the sight of the incredulous look on everybody’s faces.

The experience was through and though unforgettable for its superb tasting bursts, surprises on the palate, intimacy and exclusiveness. Merci chef, a bientot, I hope. He said that if I call now I can get a resie for November. Bonne chance. At least I can get one…. As for Momofuku Ko, who knows when the cybernetic stars will align again for me.

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