20 May The MAPPETITE MILE: DOWNTOWN DOWNSTAIRS?
Cool kid chef David Chang gets a toehold in Midtown environs – a marked departure from his culinary fiefdom in New York’s East Village. Head down 24 steps
and you’re in the cavernous sub-subterranean dining room of MA PECHE, the newest outpost in the MOMOFUKU food franchise.Ahead of that stairwell there’s the neon-clad signage “MILK”. Nothing more than a counter and wall of shelves, it resembles a Hard Rock Cafe souvenir pop-up-shop rather than a space for bakes. Makes sense as the inventive creations from the Momofuku kitchen are more high school bake-off rather than haute bakery. Forge ahead to the restaurant, though not too fast lest you tumble past the host and down that long flight of stairs.
Now your in the defunct restaurant TOWN aka the basement of the Chambers Hotel. Unfortunately for Mr. Chang, his cosmetic update to the contemporary design does not translate to cool and edgy. Backlit peach color (a difficult shade under the most favorable of circumstances) tarps stretched out over the walls and ceiling help with the acoustics but do to help the dull awkward environs. Even the bar area on the entry floor – with its Momofuku design elements- is cold and misplaced.
Luckily, the food is very MOMOFUKU. At MA PECHE Chang’s tradition of sourcing out pedigreed ingredients and creating flavorful and textural combinations takes this meal into his Asian European inflected realm. While its not a cheap dine, it’s the rare Midtown reprieve from budget minded fast food stops the the expensive haute culinary halls.
The Museum goers, shoppers and tourist herds may be fortunate to stumble upon this underground kitchen but, as good as the food may be, it’s out of sync with the MOMOFUKU allure. At MA PECHE downstairs is not downtown. MA PECHE, 15 West 56th Street at the Chambers Hotel, 212-757-5878.