This didn’t take long: Just over halfway through his first year as a California restaurateur, David Chang’s Los Angeles restaurant is serving a fruit plate for dessert. At Majordomo, Momofuku’s blockbuster West Coast debut, the dessert menu now offers:
grapes, melon, nuts
Currently, the dish features sugar cube melon from Weiser Family Farms in Tehachapi, California, dressed with a sprinkle of salt. Two types of grapes from Murray Family Farm in Bakersfield are served frozen: Type 37 and a finger grape, type 38. (Majordomo also has type 33 in house.) The three portions of fruit are served over ice, and on the side, a small bowl of nuts.
Longtime Momofans will recall the shitstorm Chang started in 2009 when he claimed on stage at a food event that Bay Area chefs didn’t manipulate their food enough: “Fuckin’ every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate. Do something with your food,” he said, kicking off a wave of blog responses, general handwringing, and fig-on-a-plate recipes included with winks in Bay Area cookbooks. While taken by many as an indictment of California creativity, in practice, it was as much a slam of NYC’s produce: Chang and his peers had to manipulate their produce. It simply wasn’t as good.
Now, nearly 10 years later, a Chez Panisse alum named Marc Johnson is the chef de cuisine at Majordomo. And he wanted to put a fruit plate on the menu. “It’s been so hot,” Johnson said. “When it’s this hot, all I want is cold fruit. We get beautiful fruit and experiment.” (Important backstory here: Chez Panisse serves the most famous just-fruit dessert in all of restaurant lore, whether it’s a perfect peach at the end of the meal or naked tangerine wedges and dates, as it was when I went in April.)
And so Johnson told Chang his plan: He would add a fruit plate to the dessert menu. “It was kind of me jabbing him,” he said. The first night the restaurant ran the fruit plate, only one sold. But then Johnson decided to freeze the grapes, and make the dish look more Japanese. In its current iteration, it looks like the fruits served at the end of a kaiseki menu, and is also reminiscent of the ceremonial fruits on display at specialty vendors. It’s selling better now: As Johnson relays it, “Dave said, ‘Marc, you won.’”
UPDATE 8/15/18 4:30 PM: David Chang weighs in.
We at least cut it with a knife— Dave Chang (@davidchang) August 15, 2018
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater’s restaurant editor.