The older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate bar dining. Bar dining has come a long way from uncomfortable stool seats and limited “bar only” menus. Many restaurants now offer their full menus at the bar, with coat and purse hooks included. And now that I no longer have the luxury or patience for long, drawn-out dinners, the efficiency and relative swiftness of bar dining hold even more appeal. One of the best places for bar dining in the city is at Momofuku Ko, David Chang’s two-Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant in the East Village. It’s better known for its seated tasting menu experience, but it also operates a small bar near the entrance that offers an interesting, a la carte menu that changes each day. You get to benefit from the talents of a highly skilled, fine dining kitchen without having to pay the sky high prices or having to sit through the whole experience.
What I like most about the Momofuku Ko bar menu, which is scribbled by hand in a notebook each day, is the line it straddles between the low and high. Warm, roti-like sourdough crepes are a modest $8, but you can ball it out with an $100 addendum of 50g of caviar. You might be in the mood for a simple and comforting bowl of Shin ramyun noodles, and no joke, it was offered here on Valentine’s Day, but then go overboard with the roasted duck special, leftovers from the tasting menu next door, for $55. Whatever mood you’re in, fancy or humble, cheap or generous, the bar at Momofuku Ko can accommodate you.
While the menu is subject to revision, there are staples like the sourdough crepe, the fried chicken, the duck pie and the fish head that are consistently on the menu. The fish head looks and sounds like something better suited for your pet cat, and the huge eyes and gills that show up at your table are pretty intimidating, but once you dig in, those animal instincts will kick in and you’ll scrape out all the tasty bits from wherever you can, especially the cheeks. It’s the scene stealer at the bar, so if you’re a little self conscious, be warned that all eyes will be on you.
And once you’re done, there’s no chasing down the waiter for your bill or that always awkward decision making of how much you should tip. You make eye contact with the server, who’s right across from you, close out the tab, which already has gratuity included in it, and move on with your day. So unless you have a bad back or need the predictability of a reservation, which, to be honest, is a real need most of the times, then the case for bar dining in my opinion is pretty clear.
The Bar at Momofuku Ko
8 Extra Pl (between 1st and 2nd St)
New York, NY 10003