NYC: Momofuku Má Pêche

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

momofuku_ma_pache_01_outside
Entrance begins with the Milk Bar, great for some Momofuku sweets! (Crack Pie & Compost Cookie!)
Over the holidays, I spent two days marathoning Season 1 of Mind of a Chef on Netflix. Over the course of 16 episodes, Momofuku's Chef David Chang takes us through his journey in food, from different techniques that he uses in his own restaurants as well as discoveries he makes with other renown chefs around the world. While I'm no stranger to Momofuku's food and have even tried my hand at his recipes, watching him on Mind of Chef instilled a new love for Momofuku and a craving for his food.

Coincidentally, Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen wrote a post a month ago talking about how her husband had what he claims to be "the best fried chicken he's ever had" at one of Momofuku's establishments, Má Pêche. Before reading Jen's post, I never really considered dining there as it seemed a bit far removed from his other two concepts, Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar which are both in the East Village. So with a gentle nudge, I made the trek up to Midtown to the basement of the Chamber's Hotel, where Má Pêche would end up satisfying my craving for Momofuku.


momofuku_ma_pache_00_meatsThe past two times that I've been to Momofuku, I ended up ordering their large format meals, meals that you had to pre-order in advance like the Fried Chicken at Noodle Bar (meh) and the Bo Ssam at Ssam Bar (yum!!). Since the fried chicken Má Pêche was just a regular order, we didn't have to do much besides make a reservation for dinner. It was a relatively easy process online, and surprisingly I was able to make a reservation for 10 people on a Friday night at 9pm the week of without much of an issue.
momofuku_ma_pache_02_outside Unlike the two aforementioned concepts, Má Pêche (meaning mother peach) focuses on a Vietnamese-French take on food instead of Chang's typical Korean/Japanese concepts. While there are dishes that are Asian-Fusion there was once upon of time when they served 7 Courses of beef here, a traditional preparation of beef in Vietnamese cuisine, sadly this isn't available anymore.

The night that we ended up going, there was a huge snowstorm in New York, so the restaurant was pretty empty. Not sure if it's because of the storm or if that's how it is usually. We ended up with a group of 8 and here's what we ended up ordering...

momofuku_ma_pache_03_beet_salad
Beet Salad w/ Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Lemon Vinegar and Berbere
I love me some beets, so this beet salad was just great. A delicious balance between the sweetness of the beets with the tartness of the yogurt and vinegar and the berbere spice sat at the bottom of the dish, which added an additional kick to the overall smooth salad. Definitely opened up my palette for what's next.

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Pork Buns w/ Hoison, Cucumbers and Scallions
I have commented in the past that I prefer Ippudo's pork buns over Momofuku's, but this night's preparation definitely improved Momofuku's version a tad higher in my eyes. My first time trying their pork buns was at Booker & Dax, the Momofuku cocktail bar. There, I found the pork in the pork bun way too chewy, with pieces that were TOO big and not melt in your mouth bites as it should be. The one I had this night was much better in that regard. If you love pork buns, this is still a must. We ordered 4 orders total - with 1 bun for each of us.

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Fried Chicken w/ Habanero, Coriander and Lime
Then came the fried chicken that I came here for. I was only able to get the dark meat pieces, and from what I can tell, this fried chicken was definitely better than the one I had at Noodle Bar. The skin was fried perfectly crispy without too much breading and it was seasoned really well. Top it all off with lime and I had the perfect bite. Note to self, add lime to fried chicken more often. Be aware though, that my non-spicy food eating friends didn't fare as well as they noted that the pieces were pretty spicy and made it difficult for them to finish.

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Roasted Pork Chop w/ red onion, shishito and bonito
We also ordered the roasted pork chop which was a large share dish. The pork was perfectly tender cooked via sous-vide, but the most exciting part about this dish was the delicious crispy potatoes that came along with it. They were perfectly crisp on the outside, but so soft inside. I would order this dish again just for that. Below the potatoes sat pickled red onions which helped cut through some of the fattiness of the dish along with shishito peppers which I just love. A tad of spice to this dish, but not too bad.

momofuku_ma_pache_07_sides Besides our two large share plates, we also ordered some sides. My favorite of the night is the Spicy Roasted Rice Cakes with pork ragu, water spinach and tofu. Each of the rice cakes was somehow crispy on the outside, and chewy in the inside. The contrast in textures is unlike any other rice cake I've had before, and having it mixed with a pork ragu just turned this into a fusion gnocchi dish that I come craving for. To note, this is spicy, so non-spicy friends at the table were also not in love with this dish like I was.

The Lobster Fried Rice had some coconut curry flavors but wasn't a standout to me. The lobster was few and far between so not worth the price of what I found to be regular fried rice. The Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts had a ginger-scallion sauce with it, it just tasted fried and therefore, delicious. Not healthy but always delicious.

This sums up my experience at Má Pêche - enjoyable for a large group with easy sharable plates. Non-spicy eaters be warned as there is a punch of spice at every turn. I personally enjoyed all the dishes we had but maybe not enough to come back again for seconds. What I found rather strange was that the restaurant had last call for the kitchen at ~10 and we were the last ones there at 11pm. Are we really in New York City?

Momofuku Má Pêche

★★★☆ - Pretty good, worth trying
Good for: Date, Friends, Large groups, Sharing
Come here for: Momofuku in a large space, easy last minute ressie
Recommended Dishes: Momofuku Pork Buns, Roasted Rice Cakes, Roasted Pork Chop

Neighborhood/Cuisine: Midtown West / New American Fusion
Má Pêche

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