"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, May 23, 2011


Someone once said if you have a bad meal go and have another. So the next day following a less than sparkling dinner I took a stroll down to Ground Zero to see how the construction of the Freedom Tower is coming along (final height: 1,776 feet) then wandered back up to the LES for lunch at Momofuku Ko.

I was told it's a notoriously difficult res having only a dozen seats at a bar and only two sittings a day available solely via the website. I got lucky and had got a booking the first time I went on the site a couple of weeks earlier.

They don't allow photographs so there's not much to report apart from the fact that I spent an enjoyable three hours or so for lunch and that David Chang had obviously hidden all his Dan Brown tomes and carefully selected cookbooks by all his chef chums to decorate the toilet (come on, we all do it).

During the meal there were one or two wow moments and there was a good arc to the whole meal although it climaxed with chicken which was a bit prosaic, nice though the chicken was. It was good to have visited but I wouldn't be in a hurry to return.

I would return like a shot to Andrew Carmellini's The Dutch though. Situated in SoHo this American restaurant had only recently opened and when I popped by for an early supper the place was rocking. The friendly FOH directed me to the bar where I knocked back one of those American beers that taste as if a three-year old (remember, the one with the gun?) was now in possession of strong alcohol and a DIY beer flavor kit (No: 3 Porter).

I needed it mind you, on a Saturday night the sound levels were, er, quite challenging. Eventually the nice lady came and retrieved me and sat me down at the Oyster Bar which is not a bad place to be – there’s a quieter back room for those with reservations.

To be honest I wasn't expecting much from the food so when I started eating I was surprised at how good it all was. After a platter of Oysters (well I was exhorted to Eat Bivalves) tender Asian White Boy Ribs finished with a sort of soy glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds were excellent but even better was the little Oyster Sandwich.

A riff on the slider/po’ boy, the oysters were fried in cornmeal and served in a toasted sesame seed bun with some sort of mayo-based relish. Possibly one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth all year and believe me there’s a lot of stuff that’s been in there. I quickly ordered another one. In case they ran out.

When I said it was one of the best things I’d eaten so far that was only because I hadn’t had the Fried Chicken yet. I don’t eat a lot of Fried Chicken – finding the good stuff in London is a bit tricky – but I’m willing to wager that I’ll never eat any as good as the Dutch’s version.

It had obviously just been cooked because it was very hot and a big waft of steam escaped as I broke into its coating, exposing the moist meat underneath. Normally I indulge in a certain amount of analysis (too much?) when eating a meal but this was one of those occasions when the response was purely visceral.

The chicken came with some warm, crumbly biscuits which were slathered in a honey butter and a tray of trad accompaniments, (almost condiments): coleslaw, collard greens and mashed potatoes and gravy.

Oh yes, and the fries were the best I had on the whole trip.

Sure, it’s just fried chicken and trimmings but to get them this good requires no little effort and a big heapin' helpin' of skill on the part of the kitchen.

Desert was a bit of a flop - the flavours of the Ice Cream and Sorbet selection I had ordered to fill in any small gaps in my stomach were too diffuse – although the little cookies were nice. Dear reader, I forgave them.

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Anonymous C.elder said...

Thanks for these NY write-ups.
I notice that you frequently mention the noise levels. Do you ascribe this to the decor i.e. nothing to absorb the noise like tablecloths;curtains; etc...., or do Americans just all talk like foghorns?
While not wishing to appear snooty, especially while O'Bama is in blighty, my experience points to the latter, even in office situations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 2:31:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Glad you're enjoying the posts.

Americans do like to gab -loudly - but like you say it's only one factor. Hard surfaces play a part but also the fact that most restaurants I visited played music so there's a constant battle to be heard over the sound system. Result: cacophony.

The young folks seem less bothered by this than I do - don't know why...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011 9:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Sharmila said...

Thanks for the write up. Went here last night, and I can safely say the noise levels are not particularly quieter in that back room.

However, the food more than made up for the banshee like screaming from the table of ladies behind us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011 1:52:00 pm  

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