Best tasting menu was voted as Shoto at Momofuku. I had been wanting to go to Momofuku ever since I got wind of it, before it even opened. One hitch: the price is exorbitant to say the least. I was ready to settle for the first floor noodle bar (in total Momofuku is three floors, three restaurants). I filed Momofuku away under “places I will eventually eat at” (Charlie Trotter’s being recently removed from that list, as he recently died; Chez Panisse still being on that list given they had a kitchen fire a few days before we were to eat there) along with Noma, and Moto (which is closest of them all, in Chicago AND now has a Michelin star*).
My jaw dropped when Brent said the reservations had been made for us at Shoto. What?! I thought for his birthday dinner we’d maybe go out somewhere for a nice steak. I was not expecting a $150 ten-course chef’s tasting menu at a swank restaurant.
The set-up at Momofuku is well done: the patrons sit at a bar around the kitchen. If you are not eating, you are watching the chef’s in a choreographed dance of prepping dishes. There were 5-6 chefs, in a rather small space and somehow no one ran into anyone and it all (at least appeared) to go off without a hitch. Every dish was presented to each party individually, the chef would explain what was in it. Thankfully we were given a menu at the end so we could double-check if what we heard was in fact what it was.
The meal started off with a few small amuse bouches, they were good and fun to eat. One was so basic and simple and yet it was our first (and not last) “oh wow” moment of the night. What was this fabulous dish we could not contain our enjoyment of? A square of rice held together with and fried in pork fat. The end. So simple, yet so delicious.There were a few other dishes that made us exclaim in foodie-joy. The pork fat rice was the only one where we simultaneously turned to each other and made faces. It is hard to say what the bset dish of the night was.
Was it the octopus, feta, black olives and broccoli dish? It made three things I hate: feta, olives and broccoli all delicious! For the first time in my life I actually (and happily) ate my veggies. But right after that we had a bite of the scallop dish and we were in heaven. I also hate scallops. But these were prepared in such a way that they tasted delicious, salty and saucy. As it turns out is also possible to make turnips taste good. I really thought they were food-world goners. Honest.
One of the best dishes was a raw oyster with a dash of green chile on top. But I admit, I am biased, I love green chiles and have been in withdrawl the past month. Around the 7th course, which is the largest the staff check up on people to see if any white flags are being waved yet.Apparently a lot of people get beat by the ten courses, we were shocked. How can you pay so much, for amazing food, and not eat it all?
We decided against the option of pairings because we had plans to go for best martinis after dinner. The woman beside me however did order the pairings. We did not miss much, a lot of white wine. The only that caught my eye was the late harvest wine from the Niagara region. But it is all listed on the menu we were given afterwards. The woman beside me should not have had the pairings, she could not hold her liquor and it was bad. She invited a chef back to her hotel room to party. He declined saying he had a girlfriend. The woman later told him that she will break them up and get him. At some point he asked her how the courses so far had been, she said, and I quote, “I feel like a baby, trying food for the first time. You changed my world.” Did I mention that she said this really loudly, borderline screaming? He gave an awkward smile and walked away.
The people beside Brent did not know that it was a set menu, the woman was anxious about getting to order off of a menu. She was also full about halfway through the menu. Looking around we appeared to be the only normal people there. We saw an middle-aged business man with a rather old blonde, who started taking pictures together, even getting the chefs to take their photo. Then he would (loudly) explain business stuff to her. I should not have been able to hear him. Across the kitchen from us was a spray-tanned yellow-blonde middle aged man who I swear in his facial expressions looked like the dorky guy from Brooklyn 99, I half expected him to drop his muffin and instead exclaim in a Guy Fieri voice (he had the hair of Fieri) “I dropped my muffin.” Somehow Brent did not see the resemblance. There was also a mother there with her 14 year old son. It is not good when I am the standard for normal.
All in all Momofuku was fun. The food was amazing (easily one of my top meals of all time). The staff were awesome. Brent asked one chef how to make burnt mustard and he happily explained it to us. A great place to go for a splurge dinner. Unless you have a weirdo aversion or are super picky about your food and you simply refuse to eat celeriac ice cream. Yup, ice cream made from celery root. They can’t all be hits.
Satiated and not overstuffed, having eaten the perfect amount of food (I have no idea what those “can’t finish the whole menu” people were thinking). We stopped at the Consort Bar at the King Edward Hotel for best martinis on our way home. I joked about having two martinis- only I wasn’t joking, I really thought I could do it: drink two martinis. Hah! Brent had the original, I changed my mind from the pomegranate one (which had gold flakes) to the King George V, because it was actually a martini (except sweet vermouth instead of dry) but with a dash of orange juice. I can see why they are voted best and why the $20 price tag. The martinis were rather large, but also made with alcohol brands I had never even heard of. I had a sip of Brent’s and immediately regretted it. Really martinis are gross, olives are gross, gin is gross. I was not having it. Nor was I having a second martini. Turns out martinis, real ones, are strong as heck. Needless to say I nursed my martini. It hit in me slow intervals but the worst was the morning after. No matter how much Gatorade I drink, my mouth still feels dry.
* I could go on and on about why I want to eat at Moto rather than anywhere else. I have wanted to go there before they got their Michelin star. Ever since I caught sight of the Modernist Cuisine cookbooks (which I also want to buy). Then I found out about their dessert nachos and I was even more in love. Add in their recent smores dessert dish?! HEAVEN.