Despite my love of eating out, and my love of doing it here in New York, I feel that in comparison to what I read on blogs or see on Instagram or hear from friends, I really don’t do it all that often. When I do eat out, it’s a little bit of an event for me, even if it’s not expensive. I don’t see it as just getting food. It’s a treat beyond the bowl of oatmeal I find perfectly acceptable eating at home in my sweats. I’m fortunate enough that every month or so, I can be splurge-y and not blink when the credit card receipt shows a number in the $100 region. Anything more than that takes planning and saving. I don’t have a piggy bank for down payments, I have one for restaurant meals. And with family drama, no significant other, and no children, I don’t have many intimate events to celebrate, so I try to make the few I do have special with fancy dinners.
Beyond my birthday, I’ve been celebrating the anniversary of the day that I landed in New York for my move here. March 28, 2012. It is still hard for me to believe that a childhood dream came true, so I try to keep the wonder of it all alive despite the many daily frustrations and challenges of living here. Saving for an expensive meal has sufficed. The first year, I went to Per Se; last year, I went to Jean-Georges; and this year, I scored a reservation at the revamped Momofuku Ko. For the first time I was joined by a friend, making it the best one so far.
I don’t like to think of what I spend on these meals because I know I could be putting that money to much better use. Yet, I never regret money I spend on vacations, and such meals can serve as similar experiences. For a period of time, you are somewhere else, somewhere new and exciting, where, when done well, your senses are in overdrive and a picture does no justice to the evening. Even when experienced alone, the memories of such meals are vivid and fond. There is always someone at a nearby table for whom the experience is just a dinner, one that can be expensed, or maybe paid for by mom and dad, not one that required the six-month plan I had in place. Which is fine, because that is who keeps such places alive. It is hard for me to think that I will return to these places given the expense and hassle it can be to sometimes get a table. They are like cities I have visited; I always want to return, but new adventures end up being more enticing.
I am not going to get into any details because I’d love to be able to discuss your experience there one day. And because I like to treat these dinners a bit preciously. Coming off of food poisoning, I decided to not do the full beverage pairing in case the volume and pacing was too much. I let the sommelier choose what he wanted for me as my glass would empty, and I was very happy. I probably drank as much as the pairing in the end, but my cost was not quite as high. I was impressed with all the courses, around 15 in total, with some of my favourites pictured below. The service level is high, but quiet, and any interaction came from us interrupting the theatre of chefs cooking before us. Which was fun when time or circumstance allowed. I think one thing that set this apart from similarly priced dinners I’ve had is that the atmosphere of Ko makes it feel like you could return again and again. It was refreshing, but somewhat dangerous given the price.
So, who has an expense account? And where should I plan for next year?