David Chang is “pausing operations” at Momofuku Ko next week, according to a post on his company’s Instagram account. It goes on: “we won’t call this a goodbye, but ko will no longer operate in the way it has.”
Just what that means is unclear, but it sure sounds like some kind of a goodbye given that about three weeks ago Mr. Chang turned out the lights for good at Momofuku Ssam Bar. The strange thing about both announcements is how muted the response has been. Maybe the sheer number of restaurants that have gone under since the pandemic began has made us numb to this sort of news.
The reaction would have been different — louder and more apocalyptic — 10 or 15 years ago. Back then, a change in Ko’s no-cameras policy or Ssam Bar’s doomed Korean-burrito menu would light up the food blogs, whose reporters used to chase scraps of Momofuku news like Woodward and Bernstein. If you weren’t living and eating out in New York then, it’s hard to imagine what the early days of those restaurants were like, especially Ko.
It was the restaurant where we first witnessed a frozen torchon of foie gras being shaved to make a mountain of salty pink snow. Where we had our first spoonful of panna cotta that tasted like the milk in the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes. Where we sat at a counter and listened to Yo La Tengo while staring at the backs of Mr. Chang and his cooks until one of them would turn from the stove to hand us a plate and mumble something like, “This is an English muffin with bay-leaf butter and melted pork fat” or “You’ve got a soft-boiled smoked egg with potato vinegar, fingerling potato chips and, uh, Tennessee caviar.”