Friday, May 06, 2011

Ma Peche

Because I had enjoyed Momofuku Ssam Bar last Spring and wanted to experience more of Chang's Asian-esque food, the first thing I did when I arrived in New York last Friday was to make a bee-line to Ma Peche, David Chang's first Midtown restaurant.

Ma Peche is a larger restaurant than Ssam Bar, but to maximize the space most of the seating is at communal tables. I'm not a big fan of eating with strangers, but this time I really lucked out. Across the table from me was a lovely couple, Blaine and Tim, who were celebrating Tim's birthday with a Changian feast. Like me, they were foodies, and did not object to my obnoxious photo-taking.

summer rolls – shrimp, lettuce, hoisin, peanut
I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to eat. The menu offers a three course prix fixe for $25, with a Milk Bar cookie serving as dessert. I find those to be a bit too sweet for my taste, so instead I opted to spend a few more dollars and order a la carte. I chose a fairly tame appetizer - the summer rolls stuffed with shrimp, pickled carrot and daikon, lettuce, and the unusual addition of long pieces of scallion and grissini (Italian bread stick) which stuck out of the back end. Also unusual was that instead of whole crustaceans, the shrimp appeared to be in the form of a mousse, cut into pieces.

While the flavors were fine and traditional, I think I would have preferred the natural crunch of a well-cooked shrimp over the artificial crunch of the bread stick.

pork ribs (newman’s farm, mo) – thai basil, lemongrass caramel
For my second course, I chose the pork ribs. The ribs themselves were toothsome, yet fall-off-the-bone tender at the same time. Unfortunately, the caramel sauce was so extremely sweet, I couldn't really taste the lemongrass or Thai basil at all.

While chatting with my tablemates about food and blogging and whatnot, they decided that I needed to taste more of the menu's offerings; to allow me to do this, they shared their food.

Clockwise, from top: fried shrimp po boy
pork loin chop
rice noodles with lamb ragout
I have to admit that I am spoiled by the po' boys at Cajun Kate's. While Chang's version was delicious, I felt it was a bit over-sauced. My favorite on the very generous sample plate was the loin chop, which was nearly fork-tender and had a very subtle flavor profile. The noodles, however, were not quite what I expected. I'm used to Chinese rice noodles, which are soft and slightly chewy; these Bún du riz had been crisped a bit, making them very chewy and rather crusty. While I know that's the texture that was intended, it reminded me too much of pasta that had been left out or uncovered for a long period of time and had air dried. The sauce itself was an interesting Bolognese-like concoction with a huge chile kick that I'd love to try on softer noodles.

Because it was Tim's birthday, they had ordered a small Milk Bar cake, which they also very kindly shared with me. The cake was pretty much straight-up banana bread, accented by the various textures of fudge and crunch. Mmm!

Banana Cake - banana cream, hazelnut crunch, gianduja fudge
While I wasn't as impressed by this meal as by the one at Ssam Bar, I did enjoy it, particularly the company. Thanks again, guys, for sharing! And once again, happy birthday Tim!

Ma Peche
15 W. 56th St.
New York, NY 10019
(212) 757-5878

Ma Peche on Urbanspoon
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