Today for lunch my younger sister and I stopped into the brand new Ma Peche, David Chang's first venture above 14th Street. My all-round favorite restaurant in NYC is probably Momofuku Ssam, and I am truly in love with the Momofuku empire. So, when I found out there would be a branch in the Chambers Hotel on 56th Street, 10 blocks from my apartment, saying I was excited would be an understatement.
The cuisine here is Vietnamese fusion and is a collaboration with executive chef Tien Ho. The space is simple, yet modern and alluring. You walk downstairs into a large room with extremely high ceilings, and a unique and prevalent X-shaped communal table.
Being it is their first week, the place was overstaffed and the service was a bit overbearing (a busser tried to take my sister's plate while she was still eating a mussel on it, etc), but it's ok, for it takes time to get into the flow when you first open up. I'm sure after a few weeks it will be like a "fine-tuned machine". But, I will say that although I love being at restaurants when they first open, hovering staff can make a diner nervous at times, and I prefer less intrusiveness.
Of course, my main concern when I eat is the food. I will tell you that I had pre-conceived notions of the food here, assuming it was going to be mind-blowing, for it is coming from the mind-blowing Davig Chang pedigree.
We started with a wonderful bò tartare ($16); beef tartare, scallions, mint, and shrimp chips. Both my sister and I loved this dish. Putting the tartare on the shrimp chips gave it a great crunch. It was fine start to the lunch.
Moules bouchot au bia ($14);– mussels, crab paste, and beer was just okay. My sister thought it was just "eh" and was not impressed. I thought the flavor was unique, especially the addition of beer, but I must say it was an underwhelming dish. It wasn't bad, just didn't really do anything for us. Soaking up the broth with some nice ciabatta bread was nice, but these mussels were a bore.
Our final dish was bun du riz ($18) – rice noodles, spicy pork, and sawleaf herb. After my first bites I was not impressed, but then taking the advice of my sister, and using a spoon to get all the elements in one bite, the dish evolved into greatness. It was addictive, flavorful, tasty, and had nice texture. This was the kind of dish that is signature to David Chang. In fact, it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite dishes at Momofuku Ssam; the spicy pork sausage and rices cakes with chinese broccoli and shallots. It was very similar, and probably could have used just a touch more kick. But it was a fine dish.
Ma Peche is a baby I am happy for Midtowners to raise. I am excited for people who live and work in Midtown to experience the great cooking from the David Chang empire. Once this restaurant gets it stride, it will definitely be a force to reckon with. There is no other place like it in Midtown.
15 W. 56th St. (bet. 5th and 6th in the Chambers Hotel)
New York, NY 10019