Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Má Pêche: Peachy Keen

On his trip to Má Pêche last June, Noah left questioning whether David Chang's latest restaurant was, "boring," and concluded his post by saying,

"...yet David Chang and Tien Ho, with all their skill, are still searching for a way to bring má pêche up to the level of the rest of their restaurant universe. There is serious potential, though, and it would be foolish to expect Chang and Ho to just spin their wheels, especially when so much is seemingly at stake. It's a process, but here's hoping they succeed."

Well Noah (and anyone else reading this), I'm happy to report that Má Pêche is most assuredly not boring and that Chang and Ho have succeeded in creating yet another solid addition to the Momofuku empire.

While Chang continues to recieve the majority of attention from the media, I credit Ho's ability to replicate the skill and creativeness that he once displayed at Ssam Bar as the primary reason for Má Pêche's ascension. Despite Noah's earlier post, my visit served a dual purpose: a) I was hungry, and b) I wanted to see for myself just how the restaurant was progressing. Coupled by the fact that the restaurant started accepting non-Beef 7 Ways dinner reservations and MW and I found ourselves strangely headed past the East Village, towards the Chambers Hotel on 56th Street.

Arriving for our reservation, we walked through the upstairs Milk Bar where our hostess led to the dining room downstairs. Aesthetically speaking, the only thing that has changed since Noah's visit is the X-shaped table being replaced by four "community" tables. Nonetheless, all of the tables were packed tight. So much so, that we felt like one amorphous group with the parties seated to our left and right. But then again, none of Chang's restaurants exactly exude comfort do they? Besides, people come to the Momofuku's for the food, not the seats. We started off our meal with two cocktails. MW ordered the Moscow Mule - Tito's Vodka, Lime, Ginger Syrup, Seltzer - and really enjoyed the ginger flavor. I loved my Seven Spice Sour - Togarashi Infused "Momofuku" Honzojo, Yuzu, Lime, Simple Syrup - especially the slight kick from the togarashi.

We began with a selection from the raw bar. First was a half dozen Oysters (Hog Island, CA) and (Island Creek, NY) with a Thai Basil Mignonette. Easily some of the best oysters we've had all year. The Hog Island's were lusciously creamy, while the Island Creek were wonderfuly briney, each pairing exceptionally with the nuanced Thai basil mignonette.

Next were King Crab Legs served with a Calamansi Mayo. Unlike the oysters, the crab wasn't nearly as impressive. The crab was way overseasoned, in fact, they were downright salty. Even the calamansi flavored mayonnaise couldn't help temper the sheer overabundance of salt that erased any natural sweetness of the crab.

Our seafood was followed by an order of the Pork Ribs (Newman's Farm, MO) with Thai Basil and Lemongrass Caramel that Noah spoke so fondly of in his post. True to his words, the ribs were wonderfully tender, and were covered in a delicious sticky caramel that kept you wanting more. I will note that nearly every table around us ordered this dish.

Then it was time for another round of cocktails. This time around MW chose The Larceny - Ransom Old Tom Gin, Falemum, Bonal Gentian, Grapefruit - good but not great, the grapefruit was a bit overpowering. My Monmouth - Laird's Apple Brandy, Madeira, Creme de Cacao, Celery - was potent, doubling as a nice in-meal digestif.

While we originally flirted with the idea of ordering a slew of dishes from both the prix fixe and regular menus, ultimately, the Pork Chop for Two (Bev Eggleston, VA), served with Potatoes, Cavolo Nero and Pancetta was a temptation neither of us were able to resist. Gloriously presented as thick pre-sliced slabs, the pork was cooked medium-rare, still containing a beautiful thick layer of fat, and despite its name, was more than enough food for four people, let alone two! The pork itself was incredibly moist and perfectly seasoned, and was neck-and-neck with the one I had at Vinegar Hill House as one of the favorite dishes I've eaten all year. If there was one (minor) complaint about the dish, it was the acrid pancetta that tasted exactly like what I imagine the Dead Sea to taste like. The salinity of the pancetta killed the cavolo nero, but seasoned the potatoes nicely.

Fortunately for us, we ordered a side of Brussels Sprouts with a Chili Vinaigrette, Cranberry and Scallion. Now I'd by lying if I said the appearance of these veggies on the menu didn't sway us to finally visit the restaurant, and after one bite, I'm glad we did. While I cook a perfectly good version of brussels sprouts (bacon, caramelized onion and a balsamic reduction), the combination of flavors and deep caramelization easily proved to be the superior version. The cranberry's tartness and kick of the chili vinaigrette was a great counterbalance to the sweetness of the brussels sprouts.

Practically rolling out of the restaurant, we decided to forgo dessert as we struggled upstairs. Still, our meal answered a few lingering questions surrounding Má Pêche, namely the ability of this restaurant to form its own identity as well as reinforcing Ho's great ability as a chef. Best yet, was the fact that we had barely scratched the surface of Má Pêche's menu, encouraging further exploration on future visits.

Má Pêche
15 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 757-5878

To see all the pictures from this meal, click HERE.

Ma Peche on Urbanspoon

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