Kappo at Má Pêche – Diminishing Marginal Utility of Food?

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene I

There are a few certainties in life and one is that if you get offered one of the eight seats at Momofuku Má Pêche’s 10 course chef’s tasting menu “kappo“, you pretty much have to go. Another, related, fact of life is that law of diminishing marginal utility always wins out.

Address: In Chambers Hotel, 15 w. 56th Street, between 5th and 6th Ave., New York
Price: $95 / person, $65 for the drink pairing (don’t get it)
Hours: One seating per night Weds-Sat 7:30pm
Wait / Reservations: No wait! Because you’re paying for the personal service…and because you called at least one week before to make your reservation.

And I’m not kidding about the personal service: the head chef Paul Carmichael will call you the day of to ask if you have any allergies / preferences…and that’s just the beginning of his very hands-on demeanor. Paul and his entire staff will, in a laid-back but quietly efficient manner, prepare your dishes mere inches from your counter seat. There’s a very brief introduction before each dish is served. And brief also is the respite from the staccato proficiency of the staff. Ten dishes actually went by pretty fast since there was never a lull in the action – an edible substance is constantly being cut/cooked, shoved in front of you, into your mouth, or all of the above. So if you aren’t examining your plate to see what completely unexpected ingredients Paul has cooked together, you are watching the action in front of you.

Needless to say, the portion sizes aren’t huge, but if the first several don’t look filling, you will understand later that they are small for a reason. On the other hand, Paul doesn’t use traditional reason for his style or for his order – Momofuku is Asian fusion, but Paul is Barbadian; dessert might come last or it might not, bread might come first or it might come in the middle. Only one thing is sure: don’t get the drink pairing because devouring the food itself will occupy enough of your energy.

Chef Paul says hi

Seasoned pork rinds and other dried, crunchy snacks like fried chicken skin and nori – a new treat for those who didn’t frequent Asian grocery stores in their youth. For Asians, the newness is that we can safely eat them without getting yelled at by mothers who want to save for the soup. Oh, there was a “ghetto white sauce” on the side for dipping. Hunger level: 11 out of 10.

Choice slices of marine animals with fava shoots, strawberries, and some lime juice. Really cleansing? Either way, fruit + sushi = must-try combination. Hunger level: 10/10

More fish! This time, topped with sea foam. I spent too much time trying to figure out where the sea foam came from and couldn’t really taste the fish and black dots. Weakest dish. Hunger level: 9/10

The lobster that they were pulling apart in the beginning is dropped in here with fried cassava and cucumber. He loves to garnish, which is great to chew on while waiting for the next dish. I ate both separately and together – both way was absolutely delicious. Hunger level: 8/10

I was excited to see meat (and our first cooked dish), but then realized that it was steamed oyster mushrooms. The other chunks were tofu and the green dots were chimichurri. I’m a big fan of mushrooms and the sauce really got the right flavoring. Hunger level: 7/10

Alright this is where it gets interesting. That’s just a poached egg chilling in the bottom. Then they douse it with some caramelized onion puree and grated parmesan cheese. They call it french onion soup….? Hunger level: 7.5/10

My soup is on fire! With a light-based blowtorch? So curious I drank it all in two gulps. Ooops. Hunger level: 6/10

This was hands down the best part of the meal. Sea-salted challah (Jewish egg-based bread) soaked with duck fat. You can dip it in the aforementioned french onion soup or you can just eat as is. I just wanted. To. EAT. All. The. Bread. Hunger level: 4/10

Actually not a big letdown with this ramen dish served Italian-style with tomato, pork jowl and monkfish liver. Looks just like spaghetti without meatballs but the texture of ramen made it slightly more shocking. Wait who am I kidding, I was still on a high from the bread. Mistake: ate my dining mates’ ramen too. Hunger level: 2/10

Time to do some work! They gave us a wooden mortar and pestle set to grind our own mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish from Puerto Rico) – also including more pork rinds (chicharron), garlic, and lobster stock. The deep bowl deceptively conned me into eating way too much here, but absolutely delicious. Hunger level: 0/10

Duck two ways – duck sausage on the left and duck breast on the right. Normally I would’ve ate this up, but I started to hit a wall here. I would come back just for the duck. Hunger level: -2/11

Our first “oh please let this be the end” moment. We got a palate cleanser in the form of chrysanthemum tea poured over apple granita. Leave it to an Asian fusion restaurant to serve tea in the middle of a dinner. Hunger level: -1/11

Frozen fruit and some ice cream in the middle, but honestly I was just running back and forth to the bathroom at this point. Other days had more interesting dessert concoctions. Perhaps, Paul took pity on our over-satiated state. Hunger level: -3/11

Chef Paul says bye

Verdict: A great experience and extreme value for the dollar spent compared to other New York tasting menus. Highly recommend for anyone who likes good food and worth a second trip in a different season. Now I know not to over eat during the middle portions of the food procession and to obey my economic principles.

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