I finally paid a visit to a New York City restaurant that has been on the “it” list for a while. Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village has become a buzzworthy restaurant scene. They are known for their ramen bowls and however; some may confuse this establishment with David Chang’s other renowned restaurant, Momofuku Milk Bar which serves up an array of inspired desserts. My visit to the noddle bar entity was in efforts to finally get my hands on a bowl of ramen (I felt like the only person left in the world who had not yet tried this dish!). I was tired of scrolling through Instagram with repeated foodporn photos of the trendy “soup” so I was determined to finally have a tasting.
For those of you not familiar with Momofuku it was started more than 10 years ago and still run by celebrity Korean-American chef David Chang. You may have seen him on Top Chef All-Stars or been to one of his 10 restaurants in New York. When I was going into this dining experience, I made a small assumption that Momofuku would somehow be one of those “factory” type restaurants. You know the ones that pump out meals to the fanfare once a restaurant goes viral. While there was certainly a small crowd for a Tuesday afternoon, the restaurant was very quaint (it’s a small dining room and feels very snug). It had a personalized feel and was not commercialized in the way I expected it might be.
Whenever I dine at a restaurant with a reputation I try to make it a rule to order their specialty. This also goes for trying new international cuisines. In this case it was both. So with that thought in mind we ordered kimchi and pork belly pork buns for the table. We also threw in some smoked chicken wings. Kimchi is another trendy dish that I had yet to try so I was excited at the prospect. I had heard varying descriptions and opinions on the Korean specialty. I was ready to make a stand for myself on the controversial kimchi. While I expected pickled cabbage I was surprised that it was a bit less acidic than I thought it would be. It also had an underlying fish flavor. I couldn’t quite pinpoint if I liked it or not yet I kept putting my fork to my mouth over and over until about half the bowl was gone. As for the pork buns I had to forgo my portion as I was unaware that they had aioli on them. My one small qualm on the aioli would be that other items listed on the menu had identified that this condiment would be present on the plate so I was just slightly put off by the fact that it wasn’t clearly outlined for all the dishes, only some. If you say it on one…why not all? The chicken wings were sticky and sweet with a hint of heat.
The main course was the star. I’m still drooling thinking about the smoky, salty, and silky broth filled with noodles (perfectly al dente), pork, vegetables and of course the poached egg. I opted for the Momofuku ramen which is the house dish. It was everything and more that it had lived up to in my mind. As I polished off my bowl I wondered why I hadn’t tried it before and already thinking ahead to when I could possibly have it again. Now, I will admit that I have not tried ramen before so my love for this particular bowl (at a much hyped restaurant) is hard to compare to. There is no denying that this was a delicious meal but in terms of the ramen world I have no level of experience to say that this was an outstanding bowl. Regardless, I think it’s worth the visit to make the decision for yourself.
Our stomachs were still warm, happy and full after our bowls of ramen but we did decide to split some desserts. We went with the chocolate pretzel truffles and a Ritz cracker cookie. The chocolate pretzel truffles were abominable (Sorry for the harsh words!) They were too salty and chocolate was almost unrecognizable in the truffle because the salt cut through everything. The Ritz cracker cookie saved this course of the meal with a much more palatable balance of sweet and salty.
David Chang and his restaurants have revolutionized the Korean American food scene in New York. If for no other reason but to check out the propaganda surrounding his work I encourage you to get out and try Momofuku Noodle Bar. The link for this spot and all of his others can be found here: http://momofuku.com/
…all for the love of the dish