July 27, 2009

David Chang's evil genius

OK, so apparently I am late getting on the David Chang bandwagon. I just found out about him a few months ago watching reruns of No Reservations, but he's been around long enough to have 3 restaurants in Manhattan, wackily restrictive reservations policies, and an internet backlash.

I don't care.

The man is a deranged genius and I love him for it. Read the reviews I linked to -- they're completely accurate in describing his combination of trendy East Village bar atmosphere, haute cuisine technique and ingredients, low-rent comfort-food concepts, Korean flavors and raw unapologetic gluttony.

Any person who puts a whole section for country hams on his menu is OK with me. And if said person also decides to offer a bo ssam spread of braised pork shoulder bigger than my head along with insanely-great homemade kimchi and beautiful raw oysters and rice and lettuce, I am on board. Just as I am with the platter of two whole fried chickens, one southern-style, one korean-style, that can be had at his noodle bar.

Some of the criticism is justified. $18 for the few slivers of cured hamachi we had was a bit much -- it was delicious and clever, but dishes like that are where Momofuku is gleefully extracting cash from the hipster masses.

On the other hand, 5 people ate that pork braise, and then 7 more ate the leftovers. And it was fucking fantastic both times. The meat was soft, moist, oozing with fat, as glorious as any slow-smoked cut I've ever seen, with a sweet sticky skin and perfect rich flavor. I about shoveled that kimchi into my face with a spoon it was so good. Apparently people go gaga for the ginger scallion sauce, which was admittedly good, but holy crap that kimchi!

We also ordered a fried rice cake dish that was cylindrical Korean rice cakes snipped into bits, crisp-fried in a wok, and served with a spicy sauce, ground pork, and chinese broccoli. This was probably the most delicious thing we ordered short of the pork. The snap peas in xo sauce with mint and crumbled hardboiled egg gave it a mighty challenge. Addictively good, both of them, and probably gone from the menus even by now. DAMN YOU, David Chang!

At least he throws us all a bone by keeping the pork belly steamed buns constantly on the menu at all 3 of his establishments. I don't care if he does buy the buns frozen from chinatown. They taste great, the pork belly is perfect, soft and dripping fat, and the balance with the hoisin and lightly pickled cucumber slices and finely sliced scallion is dreamy. The fact that you can have such a thing in the middle of the night, or drunk, or both, is just gravy.

(pictures will come when yahoo stops douching around and lets me back into flickr)

Posted by foodnerd at July 27, 2009 09:14 PM
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