Rock Out With The Antichef

Where: New York City, U.S.A.

Like everything else in New York, culinary fashions come and go at the speed of light, but few chefs have blazed to stardom quite as quickly as David Chang. In some ways he's the Anti-Chef, still in his 30s with a buzz cut and profane language, committed to keeping his restaurants moderately priced and open to walk-in diners. Born in New Jersey, Chang fell into cooking almost by chance, and his inspirations come not from Escoffier and the great French chefs but from Momofuko Ando, the inventor of the instant ramen noodle. His two main restaurants -- Momofuku Noodle Bar (171 First Ave.) and Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 2nd Ave.), both on the slightly scruffy edge of the East Village -- purport to be simple, earthy noodle shops. But alongside his trademark fare of steamed buns, smoked chicken wings, kimchi stew, and savory bowls of noodles, he also offers divinely nuanced dishes such as rabbit and pork terrine with fennel marmalade, bacon, and mustard; or a Niman Ranch tri-tip steak with nugget potatoes and kimchi butter. Even his beverage lists are contrarian, including more beers and sakes than wines.

For all his democratic impulses, Chang is a gifted chef, and Momofuko Ko is where he can give his avant-garde side free rein. It's basically nothing but a chef's table, an L-shaped blond wood counter with stools for 12 people. The chef -- usually Chang's chef de cuisine Peter Serpico -- cooks right in front of the diners, interacting with them, serving them directly from the stove and counter. There's one menu offering, a succession of small portions based on whatever the chef was inspired to cook that day -- no a la carte, no substitutions, boom that's it. A dinner at Ko is expected to take around 2 hours; lunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday offers a more complex tasting menu that takes 3 hours and costs more. The soundtrack is rock music, played at a fair decibel level. You can only book online 7 days in advance starting at 10am (hope your computer is fast, because they book up in a nanosecond). You're explicitly not allowed to sell your reservation. You have to spell out things like this in New York, where any hot commodity has its buyers.

Every night the menu is wildly different. Chang and Serpico are partial to the smokiness of pork belly, the silkiness of scallops and flaked white fish, the tenderness of sous-vide cookery, the creaminess of custards and foie gras, the tang of pickled vegetables (a nod to Chang's Korean-American heritage). The cooking can be inconsistent, but it's always edgy, exciting, and deeply, deeply hip.

Information: 163 First Ave. (

Nearest Airports: John F. Kennedy International (15 miles/24km); Newark Liberty International (16 miles/27km); LaGuardia (8 miles/13km).

Where to Stay: The Lucerne, 201 W. 79th St. (tel. 800/492-8122 or 212/875-1000; Milburn Hotel, 242 W. 76th St. (tel. 800/833-9622 or 212/362-1006;