November 3, 2009



Don't forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code "tablehopper" at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

Cookbooks consider several potential audiences, it seems to me: basic home cooks looking for some new dishes and inspiration, advanced home cooks refining technique and broadening their horizons, and the professional. The best have something for all three, like Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food. Momofuku is mostly for the latter two audiences, I think.

Momofuku (Japanese for "lucky peach") is a small restaurant group in New York's East Village started by David Chang (who already has three James Beard awards at a pretty young age). And their new book feels like an only-in-New-York kind of thing. Like the $85 tasting menu starting with a chicharron. Or standing room only at a ramen shop. And judging by the sheer number of F bombs in the introduction alone, there's some serious attitude.

But people swear by the places, and each restaurant evolved uniquely, so there's certainly much there beyond the hype. In fact, the stories of each space's evolution make for some interesting reading, like how the "Korean burrito" joint with no servers morphed into Ko, featuring "kaiseki cuisine through an American lens."

As for recipes, Momofuku offers many in variable degrees of complexity, from simple pickling recipes to a Fuji apple salad with kimchi, smoked jowl, and maple labne. Perhaps too much sourcing for the home cook or anyone too impatient to make their own kimchi, but inspiring, gorgeous, and mouthwateringly tempting.

Like any cookbook that demands $40, the production value is high, with lush photography, notes on sources, an index, etc. It's one of those cookbooks that you probably won't use day in and day out, but it'll inspire you when you have the time and it might teach you how NOT to open a restaurant.

The only other things I can say about Momofuku is that it was surprisingly challenging to review—it doesn't fit neatly into most cookbook categories. And that's probably a perfect match for the eclectic cuisine of Momofuku.

Thanks for reading.