A few weeks ago, for 2 nights only, David Chang was a guest of Fergus Henderson at his St Johns Hotel. The pigs of Britain were rightly worried by this news. In short a rare treat from Londoners to sample Chang’s food on their home turf. David Chang has openly admitted he is reluctant to open a London branch of his burgeoning empire claiming the critics here are too harsh.
(Oh come on David they ain’t that bad) Instead he has installed one of the UK’s own bright young stars, Ben Greeno in his Sydney outpost Seiōbo. All of which is very much our loss. Greeno’s already receiving the plaudits of a demanding Aussie audience and The Australian recently voted it Sydney’s hottest restaurant.
For those from the other side of the pond David Chang will need no introduction his restaurants Momofuku, Ssam Bar and Ko have taken New York by storm and his anarchic style has been mimicked but not bettered. He’s since opened further restaurants in Toronto and Sydney. So for anyone from these shores or indeed Europe they will need to travel to get an idea of what Mr Chang is all about. I’m fortunate enough to have eaten at Momofuku and Ko and I loved both. They are different beasts but incredibly interesting and worthy of the plaudits they get in the US.
As you might imagine tickets for the night went like hotcakes and the resulting chaos of overuns on booking slots was perhaps inevitable. All good fun some may say and there was a lively atmosphere in the upstairs bar. Mr Henderson was on hand apologising profusely and even reloaded our bottle of wine while we waited.
The Chicharrón to start Per Momofuku Ko, Crunchy and delicious with a sprinkling of shimichi togarashi though it helps if you know how much effort goes into making what is ostensibly a pork rind.
I’ve seen some ‘cooing’ on the net and twittersphere about the famous Pork Bun. But lets be clear here – that served on the Friday night was a different beast from that served in Momofuku. For the crew at Momofuku this is a signature and they have had time to perfect it as you’d expect. Yum buns street food version is good, but it aint quite there yet, though I would agree it edged the offering on Friday. That on Friday was good – but for me the bun lacked that lightness or airyness it was too dense; the pork, not quite as melting as I had remembered. You only need to look at the two pictures to see the difference. (though to be fair the lighting isnt as good at St Johns.
These were follwoing by kombu marintaed mackerel again this comes firmly from the Ko stable, light and deeply flavoured.
Of the standout dishes the eel and dashi was a clean impressive dish with a great depth of smokey unami flavour.
The highlight though was perhaps the most unexpected the roasted rice cakes again from the momofuku classic repertoire pimped up with pork mince and Changs hand clearly on show. Chewy sticky and just plain damn delicious I’m pretty tempted to give these a go now from the his book.
The meal concluded with the rightly famous Bo Ssam – shoulder of pork, lettuce a variety of dipping sauces and Oysters. This was delicious stuff. I think the oysters are lost on me as a part of this dish but it might just have been that we were pretty stuffed by this point.
Finally with a nod to Fergus Henderson and his favourite tipple, Fernet Branca ice cream a bitter sweet finish that really was rather good . I’d not expected to like this but strangely I did. For some Fernet Branca may be an acquired taste but in ice cream form its was transformed, an adult dessert that lingered long in the memory.
Whether it was worth the £100 a head I’m not sure. For that money I’d have really liked to see the Ko signature dish of shaved foie gras.
An interesting experience all the same even if Mr Henderson’s staff charged us for that bottle of wine he ordered for us but I’ll forgive him the oversight it was a jolly old night after all.