Not long ago, Ma Peche (15 West 56th Street, 212-757-5878), David Chang’s French-Vietnamese inspired Momofuku outpost, axed its 10-course Kappo tasting menu for a new passed plates experience. Diners can now pick and choose small plates of black bass ceviche or pulled lamb noodles or dumplings in bamboo steamers from old-style dim sum trolleys trolleys.
This collaborative effort between Chang and Ma Peche’s executive chef of four years, Paul Carmichael goes far beyond traditional dim sum, Carmichael insists. “I’m not a classic dim sum chef,” he says. “But I like to cook good food. There’s an opportunity to do some of the fun dishes that people can share.” He works to develop tapas-sized dishes that work well on a rolling shuttle. On any given night, diners can experience three different carts — each with its own theme.
The concept also serves as a framework through which Carmichael’s team can test out new dishes. Each day, a sous chef may develop his or her own item; it will run as a special on that day’s cart. “We had a really good gumbo once, and we also had mushroom congee the other day,” Carmichael says. “It really gives my team a lot of creative opportunities.”
We dropped by to taste Ma Peche’s offerings, and we found that Carmichael’s team is well-versed in elevating simple dishes with unexpected pairings. A cool Togarashi-perfumed sesame paste brightens steamed broccoli ($9); an herbaceous guacamole ($12), accented with crab and ginger, serves as a knockout dip for crackers. These crisp crackers, we later learn, are a mix of Cassava and poppy-seed, and they take a full two days to form.
A few dishes are overwrought: A dish of warm blinis ($16) is drowned in trout roe and sour cream, making for a muddled riff on a posh classic. A bowl of puffy shrimp balls ($8) are fragrantly smoky but underseasoned. So, too, is an adaptation of the Momofuku pork bun: a deep-fried fillet of fish wedged between steamed buns ($5) underwhelms, needing more than a few dabs of Sriracha to enliven it.
The best dish on the dim sum menu was originally part of Ma Peche’s old menu: Rice cakes ($9), rolled and cut like plump cigars and reminiscent of the Korean staple dukbokki, are aromatic, fiery, and rich, fortified by a stew of pork ragout and flecked with crisp fried shallots. Carmichael says his favorite is the airy, deep-fried cod fritters ($8), seasoned assertively with Calabrian chiles – it’s a recipe passed down from his grandmother.
Ma Peche serves its dim sum menu for both lunch and dinner, in addition to its regular a la carte menu. Walk-in diners may also order from the new menu from the downstairs bar.
Hit the next page for a few photos.