You’re walking through the woods when you come across a man selling watches. Why is he doing this? You aren’t sure, and it would be rude to ask. The important thing is, you can either buy a Rolex for a certain sum of money, or open a mystery box that might contain a Rolex for about a tenth of the price. What do you do? If your answer was “Let’s open that mystery box,” congratulations. You just chose Ko Bar.
Ko Bar is the separate bar area of Momofuku Ko, a restaurant where the only option is $255 tasting menu (making it the equivalent of that first Rolex we were talking about). Ko Bar, on the other hand, has a short, à la carte menu that by no means requires you to spend anywhere close to $255. That menu is handwritten in little notebooks every day, and depending on what’s on it (it changes constantly), a meal here can range from perfectly fine to exceptional.
There are usually about 15 dishes available - and a few are things you’ll pretty much always find, like a warm sourdough crepe, a Nokia-sized burger with optional foie gras, and a single piece of cold fried chicken that’s crispy, slightly sweet, and exactly what you’d want to pull out of your fridge after a very long night. A rich and flaky duck pot pie is another regular on the menu, and you might also find some tender pork rib tips that come with a side of gloves (for pulling the meat apart). If you see either of those things, order them with confidence, especially if you can split them with one other person.
When it comes to the rest of the menu, though, it can be a mixed bag. You might eat some excellent scallop crudo, but you could also end up with a boring plate of sashimi or a pork loin dish that’s just a large serving of dry meat with some not-very-flavorful glass noodles on the side. Fortunately, these things tend to be outliers - for the most part, the food here is excellent.
As upscale and experimental as the food here can be, the space is surprisingly casual. Ko Bar is walk-in only, and it’s just one small room about the size of a hotel suite, with black walls, dim lights, and a few tables. Despite the small size, you can usually get seated immediately, and you should try your best for a spot at the bar, where you’ll look directly onto the kitchen and the chefs will serve you themselves.
Unlike at Ko next door, the amount of money you spend on a dinner here is entirely up to you. You can split a pot pie with someone, order a caviar supplement, and drink a $300 bottle of wine - or you can have a cocktail and a few small plates and get out for under $50. While there are occasionally some misses on the menu, if you order correctly, Ko Bar can be just as impressive as a place where you have to book a month in advance and mortgage your record collection. So if you’re feeling lucky, we highly suggest you go for it.
This is served cold, and it tastes exactly like a lazy late-night snack that happened to work out extremely well. It’s fried four times, so it stays a little bit crispy, and there’s a sweet glaze covering the whole thing. You’ll want one piece per person, and probably seconds.
Duck Pot Pie
We’ve tried to eat this solo, and it just doesn’t work out very well. You should still absolutely order it - just know that it’s incredibly rich, with a thick, flaky crust filled with big chunks of duck. So it’s best to split it with someone.
Hamburger W/Foie Gras
Per square inch, this is one of the richest burgers you’ll find in NYC. It’s about the size of a Twinkie, and you should add the optional foie gras. Will you feel good after eating this? No. But as long as you’re all right with that, it should be on your table.
Tangy, warm, buttery - this crepe is all of those things, and it’s a great little snack. If you have an extra $100, there’s also an optional caviar supplement.
A tiny pickle sandwich we could imagine someone eating at noon with a cup of tea in a room with several chandeliers and a very small dog. Do you need this? Not really. But you won’t be upset if it winds up in front of you.
Pork Rib Tips
These big, charred pork rib tips come with a side of gloves for pulling the meat off the bone. You don’t necessarily have to use those gloves, but it’s kind of fun, and you can always pretend that the people laughing at you while you put the gloves on are actually laughing “with you.” Whether or not you decide to glove up, you should still order these.
There will probably only be one dessert option on the menu when you come here, and there’s a good chance it’ll be this fluffy Japanese cheesecake covered in sea salt and maple syrup. Get it.