Magazine article The New Yorker

Ma PeCHE

Magazine article The New Yorker

Ma PeCHE

Article excerpt

The name Momofuku--as in David Chang's epochal East Village restaurant--means "lucky peach" in Japanese. And Ma Peche means not "my peach" in French, as you might suppose, but "mother peach" in Vietnamese-French pidgin. Chang's new midtown venture, in the Chambers Hotel, is informed by the spirit of French Indochina, with a Vietnamese-born, French-trained executive chef, Tien Ho, and pervasive pan-Asian touches. Striped bass sits in a coconut broth reminiscent of green curry. Mayonnaise accompanying crab is delicately flavored with calamansi, an Asian citrus fruit. Steak comes with rice fries--astoundingly dense and rich, like the last scrapings of a pot of sticky rice--an innovation that impresses even as it leaves you suspecting that regular fries need not fear imminent redundancy. Ho has a nice way with fish, juxtaposing voluptuous twists of raw fluke with pistachio and strawberry, but the restaurant is basically a temple to meat. Tripe and jowl are thrown into a frisee salad; gooey chunks of pig's head are stuffed into a breaded parcel; steak and lamb loin are cooked sous-vide, the former also seared and aggressively salted, the latter accompanied by a breaded baton of lamb shoulder. For large parties willing to try it, there's a communal feast of seven preparations of beef.

Chang's restaurant battles valiantly against the limitations of its room, a strange scrap of space underneath the hotel. There are parking garages that elicit greater joie de vivre, but the staff is upbeat and charming, earnestly trying to make the place's bugs seem like features: dishes arrive at various times "because they come from different parts of the kitchen," one waiter explained gamely. …

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