Today, Frank Bruni concludes the early review cycle for Momofuku Ko with a strangely mixed three-star review:
You don’t get start-to-finish enchantment, but that’s not a function of insufficient coddling. It’s a function of where you set the bar for a restaurant that must master only a cluster of dishes on a given night, and that compels you to surrender so fully to its authority.
Under those terms there’s a promise of unwavering transcendence, and Ko in its early months serves a few dishes that merely intrigue along with others that utterly enrapture. It also falls prey to some inconsistency.
At least half the review was about matters other than the food: the newfangled reservation system; the minimalist aesthetic; the pared-down service. When he does discuss the food, he finds it surprisingly uneven.
In a sense, this was a “review by subtraction.” Bruni started with the unwritten presumption that Momofuku Ko was gunning for four stars — a presumption certainly bolstered by Adam Platt’s review in New York — and proceeded to explain why “Deification may have come prematurely to Mr. Chang.”
It seems that there’s a “bonus star” available for any restaurant that confirms Bruni’s wholly unwarranted assumptions about what the younger generation of diners is purportedly seeking in a restaurant:
Ko pares down stuffy atmospherics in a particularly thorough way. It wagers that for a younger generation more focused on food than on frippery, a scruffy setting, small discomforts and little tyrannies are acceptable — preferable, even — if they’re reflected in the price.
Bruni’s reviews have improved markedly over the years. We could almost become a fan if these tiresome rants were sent to the cutting-room floor, where they belong.
We and Eater both took the obvious three-star bet, paying just even money. We both win $1 on our hypothetical bets.
Eater NYJ Bankroll $87.50 $98.67 Gain/Loss +1.00 +1.00 Total $88.50 $99.67 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Won–Lost 39–16 39–16