You would think that finding a restaurant for dinner in NYC would be easy, given all the amazing options. Not so, at least for me. I find it almost paralyzing - so afraid I am of wasting an evening. I spent an embarrassing amount of time debating whether we should eat at Ma Peche. It was my first choice, initially, but then I kept second guessing myself. I knew I wanted to try at least one of David Chang's places, but I agonized over the middling reviews on New York magazine's website and Yelp, contemplated the menus and the cost, and debated whether lunch at Ko or dinnner at Ssam Bar were better options. Ultimately, it was all a big fat waste of time, because we went, and it was fabulous.
The menu is deceptively simple - the descriptions are minimalist, but the dishes themselves are not. The prices are also fairly reasonable, as you can see above. Teens for starters, twenties for entrees - not bad for the big city. We sat at the bar, so we could see them preparing the food, and chat with one of the chefs as well as the people next to us. I preferred it to the dark-ish dining room, though I didn't find the room unpleasant - I certainly expected worse after reading the vociferous complaints in other reviews.
We started with a half dozen oysters - which as you can see here were plump and lovely specimens. They were also, without question, the best I have ever had. Buttery, sweet, rich - just perfect. We would have ordered another half dozen if we hadn't planned to eat our way through the rest of the menu.
This dish was the surprise stunner of the evening. It was on the menu as "fluke, butternut squash, yogurt, pepitas" - not the most likely combination of ingredients, but a winner nonetheless. The shaved raw fish was layered with shaved pickled squash and plated with a drizzle of tangy sauce, pepitas and a accent of mint leaves. We liked it so much we encouraged our neighbors at the bar order one too, and they thanked us for it.
Our next course was a David Chang specialty - sticky, sweet pork ribs. Ironically, these were not my favorite. They were fine, but a little bit flabby, and just not all that special.
We made friends with one of the chefs at the bar. I think he was pleased by our obvious delight with the food, and gave the four of us at the bar a special treat - a delightful little mini-course of raw scallops with mustard oil, mustard flowers and shaved white lily bulb. (This is why it pays to sit at the bar!)
This next dish was another favorite of mine. Called a "coquillage" - it borrowed from Vietnamese and Thai cuisine - a rich, creamy stew of king crab and clams made with coconut milk and cream, topped with fried shallots and chives. Somewhere in there, our neighbors also shared a bit of this amazing pork chop for two with us.
The brussel sprouts arrived last, and though they were good - I was far too full to eat very many by that time. You might have also noticed that everything here was sized generously - plenty for two people to share.
They don't serve dessert in the restaurant, but after dinner we went upstairs to the Midtown branch of the Milk Bar in the lobby of the Chambers Hotel. It's not quite as comprehensive as the downtown original, but they have the cakes, pies, two flavors of soft serve and other treats to go, as well as Stumptown coffee. I picked up a piece of crack pie, a compost cookie and some malted cake truffles. I also tasted the famous cereal milk soft serve, and was a little disappointed to find I didn't like it.
The crack pie lives up to it's name though, with a crunchy,oatmeal cookie crust and a thin, rich, sweet filling. You could just call it butter pie, and you wouldn't be too far off. They make the cake truffles with scraps from their four flavors of layer cakes, Chocolate Malt, Apple Pie, Birthday Cake (vanilla with colored sprinkles)and Banana. A little later in the trip, we went down to the original Milk Bar location next to Ssam Bar, on 2nd Street - which was definitely worth the trip. More on that coming soon!
15 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019