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iNG 2011-05-14

by Foodbitch 14. May 2011 19:38

I rank communal restaurant seating very high on the scale of annoyance. Higher than men who wear jewelry but lower than Bethenny Frankel. And yet iNG so overwhelmed me with its excellence that I would have sat cheek-to-massive-jowl with Ms. Frankel – while on a date with Mr. T..

iNG’s prices are unbelievably low. The most expensive item on the menu is the delicious shortrib at a no-brainer $24 and it’s HUGE! Think American steakhouse versus Euro-Bistro. For sure 5x the size any other item ever found on a “tasting” menu. I just don’t know how a normal eater can put down this along with 3-4 other dishes so consider yourself warned. Luckily, the gulf between “normal” and the portions I consume is fairly vast. Anyway, most other items hover around $10 but for $45, the party can sample a selection with the quite-gimmicky “tasting by the hour.” Why not just call it a four-course dinner and be done with it? Services are denominated in units of time. Goods are denominated in integers. Massage and lapdance – time. Bag of chips – integer. Dear Management: quit mucking with commonly accepted economic principles. Read other reviews. You’re only hurting yourself.

Now that the complaining is over, let us march onward to the food. The menu itself is folded into origami with a dropper full of miso broth impaled through its center the dropper tip plunged through a square of tofu. Delish. But we expected nothing less from the Chef of Moto and his magnetic flatware. Once the menu is unfolded, the diners can order one of 12 items grouped into four sections of matter's temperature transitions. But we decided on the tasting menu when the server enthusiastically offered to substitute all land-based flesh with the swimming kind on the woman’s portion. Not hard but you’d be surprised how much friction one can get.

First came a tomagoyaki omelet which is basically rolled egg over seaweed but for some reason the red-pepper infused fish eggs made the dish. Not as brutal as the wasabi-infused roe but still spicy enough to make an otherwise bland egg pop. Pun intended. I so do enjoy the popping of all the little fishy embryos with my tongue against my teeth. It makes me feel powerful – in an Idi Amin sort of way. After all, part of His Excellency’s lengthy title was “Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea” and each time I eat roe I can’t help but think of the genocide I am committing against the unborn swimmers. And isn’t mixing eggs across animal classes bestiality? Wow, Asian dinners can sure be sinful. Which brings us to the most interesting taste of the evening: konbu which was kale and shrooms in a kimchi broth with a poached egg that you’re supposed to “integrate” into the liquid. “Integrate” is the fancy way of saying: mix it in the broth but “Café Latte” means coffee with milk so get off it. I wonder how much trial versus error goes into dishes such as these? Whodathunk that mixing a poached egg into kimchi and broth would taste this good? Clearly Thomas Bowman did. There was an episode of House a few years back when the character began cooking and turned out to be astoundingly good – mainly due to scientific knowledge of human taste and molecular interactions with the tastebuds. Clearly Mr. Bowman is of the school along with Grant Achatz and a few others. Does anyone remember Eric Aubriot of his namesake in Lincoln Park circa 1998? He was the first I’ve tasted of “deconstructions” even though they weren't called that. Weren’t called anything back then –like a coffee with milk until someone wanted to charge more for it. Mr. Aubriot apprenticed with some heavyweights so I’m sure this goes WAY back but to where? And where is he these days?

In any case, back to iNG. The “Japanese barbeque” was the before-mentioned shortribs served with delicious purple yam mash and some very superfluous corn muffins. I know why they were there but cornbread needs to be much sweeter if being served with something this salty. But whadoiknow. I’m no molecular gastro-gnome. I don’t even believe in gnomes or elves or molecules. I do, however, have a cargo-ship’s worth of faith in dessert. And this one didn’t disappoint. We had the waffle which was actually a Boston crème doughnut shaped to look like a waffle and a drizzle of chocolate and banana puree. We wondered why they gave us both the same dessert since usually they let a party sample. Until we tasted it. They gave us two to prevent a certain fight over not sharing. We thank them.

I saw that previous reviews seem to rank iNG lower. I don’t know why. This was, without question, my favorite meal in a long time. Right up there with L2O and before that – the best in ages. It was as though all the flavor and complexity of Moto was made super-duper cheap. After eating as much as we did and as delicious as it was, getting a bill for about 80$/pp felt like stealing it. Remember that the bill included alcohol and we sure do enjoy our liquid course. So – communal tables and delayed seating be damned. This is the best meal for its price you will ever eat.






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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me: mealschpeal@gmail.com.

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