Manhattan, New York – Má Pêche (Momofuku)

Restaurant: Má Pêche
Cuisine:
Fusion/Asian/Euro-Asian/Desserts
Last visited:
September 2, 2011
Location:
Manhattan, NY (Midtown West)
Address:
15 W. 56th St. 
Nearby subway stop:
5 Av/59St
Price Range: 
$20-30

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4 (based on what I tried)
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Chef/Owner David Chang
  • Award winning restaurant brand
  • Modern fusion/Euro-Asian Menu
  • Asian food/menu
  • French technique
  • Seasonal menu
  • Famous Steamed Pork Buns
  • Posh atmosphere, modern feel
  • Local favourite
  • Small portions
  • Moderately priced
  • $25 lunch price fixe menu available
  • Breakfast Mon-Sat 7am-11:30am
  • Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm
  • Dinner Mon-Sat 5:30pm-12am
  • Sunday 7am-11am, 5:30pm-10pm
  • My post for Momofuku Noodle Bar

**Recommendations: The food is very good, but the value isn’t. The Steamed Pork Buns are the “must try” item, but I found them better at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Don’t be confused. You are at Má Pêche, however you have to walk through Milk Bar first. The outside was discrete enough already and I actually missed it the first time around. This seems to be a characteristic of the Momofuku restaurants, so just beware the signage and restaurants are all quite subtle.

Má Pêche is located behind Milk Bar, and both are the latest New York additions to the Momofuku restaurant empire. Created and owned by world renowned chef, David Chang, who is Korean American, it is influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, but executed with French flair.

With 5 restaurants in New York, and next year one in Sydney and Toronto, I can just feel an eventual location popping up in Vancouver, BC. All of these cities have a strong Asian presence, on the other hand I found it catered to a non-Asian clientele. I guess it is similar in theory to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie in Vancouver (which I do enjoy), but they are different in style.

Fusion Asian food, or modern Asian food. It’s a tricky concept to appreciate especially if you’re Asian or familiar with Asian cuisine. Usually you can’t help but to think there is better for cheaper, but you almost have to turn off that attitude or you won’t enjoy this. My experiences have generally led me to enjoy fusion Asian food only when it comes to Japanese cuisine, so I was hoping this would convince me otherwise.

Next to introducing ramen to New York through Momofuku Noodle Bar, these infamous pork buns are what launched the brand to its success. These Steamed Pork Buns are offered at all of his restaurants in New York and it is the signature David Chang item.

The philosophy is Asian food made with French technique, which tends to translate to nicer looking Asian food at double the price. The portions are smaller than expected, so it takes a few dishes to get full. It’s not fine dining, but the portions and price almost speak of it, so I thought it was pushing it a bit. The food was great, but the value wasn’t, so the experience wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped.

The Momofuku restaurants were on my itinerary from the start. I had to see what the hype was all about so I put them as priority, and eventually they started to move down the list. I even got my reservations for the 2 Michelin Star “impossible to get reservations for” Ko, but I ended up canceling that too. I did end up trying Momofuku Noodle Bar, and it’s not that any of the three I tried were bad, but it gave me enough of an idea that I didn’t feel the need to try them all in the two weeks I had in New York.

On the table:

Steamed Pork Buns4/6

  • Hoisin, Cucumber, Scallion $10
  • This is the signature Chef David Chang “must try” item.
  • It’s a modern version of a traditional Chinese dish that has existed for centuries.
  • These are really small, but very rich so I would only want one, but I wouldn’t be full.
  • The first bite was excellent, and then the hype kind of faded.
  • The bun was super soft, pillowy light and moist.
  • The pork belly was incredibly buttery and creamy and it literally melted in my mouth, but probably because it was so fatty.
  • It was actually too fatty for my liking, and I did want more meat. Yes, fat makes it tender and delicious, but I don’t want so much of it.
  • The pork was savoury, super oily and almost dripping with oily juices, I barely had to chew it. Calling it “tender” would be an understatement.

  • It was very good, but there wasn’t enough of the other ingredients.
  • I wanted more hoisin, cucumber and scallion. I actually couldn’t taste the scallion at all.
  • It was missing crunchy texture, especially since the bun and meat were so soft.
  • It didn’t have enough sweet Hoisin either and overall I just wanted more balance, texture and flavours instead of just bun and fat.
  • I ordered these Steamed Pork Buns again at Momofuku Noodle Bar and I liked them better at that location.
  • To see an authentic version of it see Taiwanese Steamed Sandwich (Koah-Pau) at Delicious Cuisine in Richmond, BC.

**Steamed Oxtail Buns4.5/6

  • Apple, fish sauce, crispy shallots $10
  • I actually liked this one more because it wasn’t as rich and fatty as the pork buns and it had more dynamic texture and flavour.
  • The beef was tender and quite fatty, but not juicy and surprisingly a bit on the dry side.
  • It was a bit oily, but not saucy, and I think I would have preferred braised beef brisket.
  • The crispy shallots are always a great addition to anything, and the pickled green apples were juicy with a nice tang and sweetness.
  • It was sweet, salty, tangy and crispy and the fish sauce gave it a bright savoury flavour without taking away from the beef flavour.

Crispy Pork Shank4.5/6

  • Yogurt, lime, jicama $14
  • This was considered a main but it was the size of an appetizer.
  • The pork shank was about the size of a hockey puck, but it was rich and delicious.

Just to show portion, and that was an “extended” pen too…

  • The pork shank (leg) was shredded into bits and pieces and it was very well disguised especially with all the tendons and muscles chopped up and mixed.
  • The meat was formed into a patty with minced, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic, and lightly breaded in Panko and deep fried until crispy.
  • The meat was moist, tender and savoury with a bit of heat from I think Japanese chili powder.
  • It was also a bit chewy and sticky from all the tendons gelled throughout the filling, so the texture was a bit acquired.
  • I could have used a little more meat and a bit less tendon for more balance in texture.
  • The thin crunchy crust was a great contrast to break things up though.
  • The yogurt was under the spicy and zesty jicama root salad and it was a thick tangy Greek yogurt.
  • The spice, tang, and refreshing crunch of the salad was a great contrast to the richer pork shank.
  • The pork shank wasn’t hot, but mildly spicy and the yogurt made it a bit more mild.
  • It was pricey, but at least it was something new, different and creative, and it was well executed.

Dessert: Don’t worry! I didn’t skip it! I ended up ordering a few things from Momofuku Milk Bar upstairs. All desserts from Milk Bar can be ordered and enjoyed at Má Pêche. My post for Milk Bar here!

Here’s a teaser of one of the desserts I ordered.

The famous “Crack Pie” – see my full post here.

[geotag]

Ma Peche on Urbanspoon

12 Comments

  • Linda says:

    momomomomomomomomfuku :) this is definitely a spot i’m going to hit up too! i always wondered about his steamed pork buns and I actually made some myself the other day… what do you think:

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/315595_979801592801_21006516_46788316_1850369295_n.jpg

    i can see how the hype of it sort of died after the first bite.. the oxtail bite definitely looks more interesting though :) $10 for each of them seems a bit overpriced if you ask me.. i know he’s uber well known for them but wow.

    the crack pie looks so good!!! i can’t wait for your next blog entry about it!!!

  • Jonathan says:

    I can’t believe you canceled Momofuku Ko!! If there was one Momofuku that was going to blow your mind, it was that one!!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – just be prepared that you may be underwhelmed especially if you’re familiar with this food.. which it looks like you lol. The buns are very small…. so yes they are overpriced… but it has brand so I can sort of see why. I still think you should try it though… and then comment back on here so I know what you thought lol… and ummm your photo looks way better,, has more colour!!

    @Jonathan – I know!!! BUT the other reason is also because I booked for 2 and I couldn’t find a +1 and they would have charged me for 2. BUT I also wasn’t TOO sad about it…. I’ll make it there someday….. I hope! You’re absolutely right though… that would have been THE one.

  • May says:

    You should make a trip to the Cayman Cookout, it’s where I had my first momofuku experience straight from david himself. They give you an itimate 20 seat dinner with these chefs and it’s a great space to get to know them. This year Ferran Adria will be there…insane! It’ll be my 4th year going…I treat it as a ‘food conference’ to make myself swallow the ticket price tags a little easier ;)

  • KimHo says:

    Really? $10???? Next time you end up in Crystal Mall (if you dare, that is), check places that sell rou jia mo, aka, Chinese hamburgers, and let me know how they compare. But, probably as you say, if you are familiar with, grew up with or knowledgeable enough about Asian food, this might not be the place for you…

  • Bow says:

    Funny that the steamed pork belly buns made David’s rep…Vancouverites ate these in good Northern style restaurants, like the Beijing Cuisine, for years. Do you think that Momofuku lived up to the hype ? Or have your Vancouver food experiences and subsequent comparisons make you realize that Vancouver is underrated ?

  • WS says:

    Continuing on the talk that this David Chang Asian fusion restaurant don’t cater to Asians. Curious at Vij’s, do they cater to a non-Indian clientele(it’s Indian fusion food they serve)? Wonder the same thing with Susur Lee & Ming Tsai restaurants(do they cater to non-Asians?).

  • Edda says:

    I was underwhelmed with the food at Ma Peche as well, and noticed he liked using Maggi Seasoning on a lot of his dishes (prolly a little too heavy handed w it because that was all I tasted) and if you are S.E.Asian, we have had our share of Maggi seasoning so we can identify the distinct flavours.

    Definitely not the place for someone well versed w Asian food, they try to be creative but keep a lot of the basic flavours yet kind falls short in execution. Mind you, the food is tasty but just a little too hyped up.

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