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Momofuku - East Village Noodle Bar New York

Momofuku - East Village Noodle Bar New York
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  • Momofuku - East Village Noodle Bar New York

    Post #1 - January 5th, 2006, 10:39 pm
    Post #1 - January 5th, 2006, 10:39 pm Post #1 - January 5th, 2006, 10:39 pm
    Restaurant 101 New York City Entry #52

    In Adam Platt's list of the 101 Best New York Restaurants 2005 in New York magazine, Momofuku concludes the list. Chef David Chang may well have breathed a sigh of relief that a line cook didn't put a little too much salt in Mr. Platt's ramen. Being #102 counts for nothing (being #97 might be almost as bad).

    In truth, finding additional customers is not Momofuku's problem, indeed a few more customers might bring the entire enterprise to its knees. I had called to inquire when the restaurant begins to fill up, knowing that reservations were not accepted. I was told (correctly) that we should arrive by 6:30. By 7:00 the doorway was filled, by 7:30 there were clumps of diners milling outside. And this was a weeknight in January.

    In the law of supply and demand, a certain equilibrium should develop. At some point these extra customers should decide that the restaurant - as worthy as the food is - is not worth the hassle, and in time, economists suggest - the number of diners should equal the number of seats, unless some queuing system is launched (read: reservations).

    A nouveau noodle bar, Momofuku is translated Lucky Peach, although that the name hints at another expression more widely heard on East Village streets. If some restaurants cater to blue-hairs, this is a restaurant that caters to purple and pink-hairs. We were the most seasoned customers by a generation.

    As we ate - and we wanted to eat deliberately to appreciate Chang's serious cuisine - I was awash in guilt, noticing the starving, if trendoid, young masses hungrily eying my seat. Granted Momofuku has been designed as a neighborhood noodle bar, but Chang is too large for his current space.

    Momofuku may currently be the best value of any restaurant in New York in its ratio of culinary creativity to cost. If the setting lacks the Orientalist fantasy of Spice Market, the cooking at Momofuku transcends their crosstown rival. Despite the conceit of serving original street-food, Chef Chang is ready for a larger canvas. If Chef Chang is still toiling at Momofuku in five years, we will all be the losers. Perhaps his moment is not here yet, but he should be preparing for his culinary bar mitzvah. He should have no reservations about a restaurant with reservations.

    Still, one takes restaurants as one gets them - in the case of Momofuku as a cramped space that makes airline seating seem positively spacious. This is a restaurant that could never hire an overweight server and barely could contain an overweight diner. The setting is striking with white oak walls and tables covered; one feels one is dining in a cross between a submarine and a casket.

    We began with sauteed baby tat-choi, a bok-choy relative. It was presented in a miso broth perfumed with garlic, onions, and dried chili pepper. As a vegetarian soup it was exquisite. Sheer, but with a sharp punch of chili. Seemingly modest, it was highly satisfying.

    We followed this with Momofuku's signature steamed buns with Berkshire pork. As an artistic creation these pork buns outshown any rival in Chinatown; as a matter of taste, they equal the best that Chinatown could offer. My only complaint was an overgenerous smear of its hoisin-like sauce. However, so satisfying was the construction that a chain of bun vendors wandering city streets would surely increase the sum total of the culinary happiness of New Yorkers.

    Through the vagaries of ordering, our three main courses turned out to be more similar than expected - each heavy on salt pork and each built on a poached egg. Had we selected better, the saltiness would have been less noticeable, but it is clear that Chef Chang is having a "fling" with smoked meats. Of the three, the most stellar was Yellow Grits and Ruby Red Shrimp with Bacon, Poached Egg, and Scallions. Chef Chang serves grits that are rather watery by Atlanta standards, something of a breakfast stew - but a dish that can be served throughout the day; it is timeless. Neither Southern nor Asian, these grits are a lucky peach of a dish.

    The Aged Country Ham and Masa Cakes with Red-Eye Gravy, Poached Egg, and Scallions, also works within - and against - a Southern breakfast grammar. We were tempted to label this South Korean Cuisine. Country ham with red-eye gravy (coffee with bacon grease) is not to everyone's taste. I love it in small doses, but it worked less well after tasting the bacon and grits, even if the masa cakes (a slightly heavier blini) and scallion supplies a quite inscrutable quality.

    We selected the Momofuku ramen - noodles, Berkshire pork belly and shoulder, poached egg, and scallions. I admired the broth, although this seemed the least creative of the three dishes. Ramen are such subtle threads that they can be hard to compare. I found these well-made, but not transfomative, and by this time the pork and egg combo was becoming same old, same old. As comfort food, the Momofuku ramen would cure East Village reveling, but I didn't feel that it amounted to destination dining.

    As dessert we ordered Kaffir Angel Food Cupcakes, served with nigori and dried cherry jam (the only dessert offered). The angel food was not as ethereal as some specimens, but the combination was good enough in a restaurant where desserts are an afterthought.

    The bill for these dishes (with barley tea, nigori sake, and tip) was $37/person, less than the cost of many lesser Manhattan entrees. What's not to like? Chef Chang is master of his domain. But he deserves a change to fly or fall in a restaurant that tests his mettle to produce dishes that will amaze and transfix - a restaurant with aisles. His deft touch with tat-choy, grits, and pork pork pork suggests a chef whose time may be near.

    Like the inspired novelist writing successful genre fiction, Chef Chang must decide his next move. Will we look back on these heady Momofuku days as the crucible of a master or a hint of what might
    have been? In the culinary countdown is Chef Chang satisfied at 101 - Adam Platt's worst best chef - or does he dream of an electric life among the single digits?

    Momofuku Noodle Bar
    163 First Avenue (at 10th Street)
    Manhattan (East Village)
  • Post #2 - May 1st, 2006, 5:55 pm
    Post #2 - May 1st, 2006, 5:55 pm Post #2 - May 1st, 2006, 5:55 pm

    Several years ago, about the time I was doing the robot, my parents treated us to the newly opened Le Francais in nearby Wheeling. I don’t recall the details of the meal but I do remember all the “oohs” and “aahs” after every dish. At the end of the meal, the impressive and physically imposing chef, Jean Banchet, approached our table and with his rich French accent asked “Was everything to your liking?” of which my father enthusiastically answered “amazing, AMAZING!!....except for just one small thing: the soup…it was too salty.” I’m not quite sure anybody else has ever been in the unwelcome situation where you had to wonder whether one of your parents was about to get their head cut off with a sword, but at that moment, death seemed like a real possibility..

    On our recent New York culinary trip, trixie, pdaane and I made sure to be the first in line for the highly touted noodle bar, Momofuku, since space there is like much of New York— highly limited. From the moment we walked in, we were mesmerized by the whirlwind of synchronized energy. The minimalist space (clean lines, natural wood counters, stainless steel) had an overall therapeutic feel despite its claustrophobic size.
    We ordered a wonderful bottle of junmai ginjo sake, shut up, and watched the entire staff execute their magic in front of us. Everybody knew their job well and that was obvious after watching the show for just a few minutes. We were lucky enough to be situated right in front of the assembler, who was responsible for such things as cooking the homemade noodles, poaching eggs, and the overall assembly of dishes. Watching the construction of the ramen dish was a thing of beauty. The attention to detail for each component of the soup was surgically applied to the bowl.
    As someone who has never been blown away by a steamed bun, I had to be convinced by my server not to let this opportunity pass me by and try the best one in town. With an endorsement like that, I couldn’t let it slide. Thank god, I didn’t! These things were incredible. We savored each and every bite of the wonderfully enticing sweet bun topped with Berkshire pork, sliced cucumber, and hoisin sauce.
    The ramen was also made with Berkshire pork, as well as fresh peas, bamboo shoots, chopped scallion, nori, and a perfectly undercooked poached egg with the deepest colored yoke imaginable. Their heavily reduced broth is made from roasted pork bones, shiitake mushrooms and dried bonito— unctuous, slightly but pleasantly fatty and rich. It was obvious that each element of this bowl of soup was made from the highest quality products. If you’ve never tried Berkshire pork, its richness is surprising compared to most other pork available on the market.
    Initially trying the ramen, I was in culinary heaven, enjoying each and every bite. As time went on though, the broth’s salt started to rear its ugly head, making each successive ladleful more and more of a chore despite its beautiful brothy undertones. I was still easily able to finish my bowl but noticed that both pdaane and trix’ just couldn’t finish their bowls. The saltiness was just too much for them to tolerate.
    After leaving, I kept thinking about how much this place reminded me of the movie “Tampopo”, where its theme is the pursuit of making the perfect bowl of noodle soup. With Momofuku and its apparently similar objective, how could they allow something so basic as overly salty broth to spoil their noble pursuit?
    Momofuku does a number of things well; a wonderfully stylish and warm setting, serves classic Asian dishes such as homemade noodle soups and steamed buns using great ingredients, friendly service, and a kitchen equipped with chefs that are highly concerned about each and every detail.

    After leaving, there was no doubt that this restaurant was fantastic….except the salt. It’s a mystery to me how this place could allow this blemish to virtually ruin our entire experience.

    At least this time, I didn’t have to endure a chef defending his broth basically at knife point.
    Last edited by PIGMON on May 16th, 2006, 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #3 - May 2nd, 2006, 2:31 pm
    Post #3 - May 2nd, 2006, 2:31 pm Post #3 - May 2nd, 2006, 2:31 pm
    I understand that David Chang is a nominee for James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year 2006. David deserves the honor - but so does his publicist. :lol:
  • Post #4 - May 3rd, 2006, 7:34 am
    Post #4 - May 3rd, 2006, 7:34 am Post #4 - May 3rd, 2006, 7:34 am
    Last time I was at Schwa, Chef Carlson came over and sat down with us for a few minutes at the end of the night. We were talking about the photo shoot him and Sous Chef Klignbail took part in for the Food & Wine best new chef article. He mentioned that they met the chef from Momofuku, who was also being honored by F&W, and he invited them to dine at the restaurant. He said he absolutely loved it and it was probably one of the best meals he has had in the last five years.

    So, I guess this place is a "must-do" on our next trip to New York.
  • Post #5 - May 5th, 2006, 11:47 am
    Post #5 - May 5th, 2006, 11:47 am Post #5 - May 5th, 2006, 11:47 am
    I heard about Momofuku after seeing a recent article about one of their egg dishes in the New York Times.

    My boyfriend are going to NYC for a few days later this month and naturally I'm planning the trip around the meals.

    After doing some more digging, though, I found there seemed to be a lot of mixed reviews from the locals about Momofuku. The salty broth was one particularly frequent complaint. Their buns, though, seem to definitely be a real hit.

    I also found great "underground" reviews, though, for two smaller noodle establishments in the same neighborhood: Rai Rai Ken (214 E. 10th St) and Men Kui Tei (63 Cooper Square). Definitely more "hole in the wall" type atmospheres, but their soups were rated highly and they're cheap to boot. (I think one of them only has like 10 items on the menu that all revolve around ramen soup).

    I plan to check out at least one of the two places and will try to remember to report on it when we get back.
    "I don't like the whole mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables thing. Too much texture: One is really smooth and the other is really hard." - from an overheard conversation
  • Post #6 - March 10th, 2008, 11:21 am
    Post #6 - March 10th, 2008, 11:21 am Post #6 - March 10th, 2008, 11:21 am
    My latest trip to NYC had a completely different m. o. from my last one. Borough trekking authenticity seeking this was not. The more social nature of the trip led me through higher end trendoid spots and by day two I was sick to death of over-priced, over-meaty, hipster comfort food. (We are incredibly blessed here in the Chi to have unpretentious, authentic, affordable, and serious chef- helmed American grub at spots like Kuma's and the Depot) And an anticipated trip to Les Halles had lackluster results. The one meal that really delivered was a lunch at the much hyped Momofuku Noodle Bar. The interior was classy blond wood sushi bar-like with a clean and modern edge with Avec- like communal seating. Interestingly, there was a huge framed photo from The Band's iconic "Music From the Big Pink" photo shoot in the entryway with Pink Floyd's "Meddle" playing through the duration of our lunch. This wasn't the first encounter with sixties retro motifs at hip NY eateries of the trip. Our server was appropriately kind of stoner-y in a slightly too informal way- what is it with wait staff in NY? Bread and butter for struggling creative types with their minds on loftier aspirations is my theory. But anyhoo, the chow rocked, hard. The menu had four sections- cold and hot apps., noodles, and mains. Korean and Japanese tradition was weighted most heavily, while haute cuisine signifiers of foie gras and sweetbreads were sprinkled among the dishes. There were also some southern notes, like grits and country ham here and there as well- Southern is so hot on menus everywhere around town. Feeling a bit depleted form the previous evening's debauchery we ordered heavy on the protein side while feeling too delicate to hit the seafood that early in the day. Starting with the signature ssam, pork buns, we dug in happily to sticky caramelized Berkshire pork belly, topped with sweet hoisin-like sauce and cucumber, enveloped in a pillowy rice bun. Kinda tricky splitting two buns three ways, but we managed.
    Next up was smoked duck with cinnamon tofu cream and whole grain mustard. Succulent med. rare smoky duck breast happily paired with the silky tofu "sauce" with deep complex notes of cassia. This dish may have turned around my skepticism of using silken tofu as a dairy replacement for vegan sauces. Large whole grain mustard and bright dandelion greens made this dish a vibrant salad of sorts and a highly memorable dish. The money shot:
    I ordered Momofuku ramen with yes, more Berkshire pork belly and roasted "pulled" pork shoulder with poached egg. Not advertised were the additions of collard greens, fish cake, and pretty nori garnish. The noodles themselves were fantastic and hand made. The broth was deeply rich, the perfect vehicle for the abundant and unctuously lovely heirloom pork.
    Companion one had the pork neck ramen, very similar to mine with stringy
    and tender slowed braised pork. Companion two had an incredibly earthy and very authentically Korean Kimchee stew with rice cakes and yup, more braised pork. Maybe the slow cooked pork meat made this a different bowl of Dwaejigogi Kimchijjigae, which in my experience has been made with quick cooked chewy chunks of pork. It was a soul satisfying dish for sure, if not so photogenic.
    Loved this place, with beer we escaped for around thirty five per person, stuffed with natural, slow cooked pork products made with love in a soulful, fused in the right places, contemporary Asian cuisine.

    Momofuku Noodle Bar
    163 1st ave, NY NY 10003
  • Post #7 - March 12th, 2008, 11:22 am
    Post #7 - March 12th, 2008, 11:22 am Post #7 - March 12th, 2008, 11:22 am
    Recently returned from N.Y. on another eating trip, which I will post about later-hit both Momofuku Noodle and Momofuku Ssam. Anyway-my experience with service for my last 2 trips to N.Y, couldn't have been better. Far from encountering the hipster attitude- across the board I experienced servers very dedicated to the cause of a good dining experience. On the other hand-most of my experiences in Chicago at the moderate-to-high end places continue to be fairly dismal. Lack of knowledge, condescending comments and overall ennui seem to prevail. I'm surprised at your bad luck, and have to think it was a bit of a fluke. Between the 2 trips, I hit about 20 places, and even the weak servers were better than what I have become used to in Chicago. Anyway, more on all this later...
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #8 - March 13th, 2008, 2:20 pm
    Post #8 - March 13th, 2008, 2:20 pm Post #8 - March 13th, 2008, 2:20 pm
    Having been to Momofuku two weeks ago, I will admit that the slices of pork belly were delightful to eat and worth a premium but for $15, double compared to a standard bowl of Ramen at other great ramen places in NYC they really have customers fooled. I don't know much about David Chang's culinary feats besides his James Beard award, which I will admit is worth something, but as a businessman I would say he's a genius: leveraging his brand as a James Beard award winner, appealing to customers by slapping a nice zen-like interior in, and throwing in some pseudo-exotic Asian dishes at his restaurant and charging double the price. If David Chang continues his move forward in the culinary arena, diners best beware lest we end up paying $30 for Beef and Brocolli or what will likely be named Wok-Seared Fillets of Tender Free-Range Ribeye with Medley of Organic Broccoli. Maybe David Chang is a direct relative of the co-developer of PF Chang's cause the resemblance of their business models is uncanny.

    Although this isn't a strict rule, if you're serving purported ethnic food and giving the impression of authenticity the first thing I look at is the proportion of individuals of such ethnicity that dine at the location and the number of individuals of such ethnicity that work in the Kitchen: Number of such ethnics at Momofuku during my experience was 0 and Number of such ethnics dining there were 4 (that's including all Asians including my friend and me). To their defense they're not going straight authentic and the target consumer is clearly not Japanese or Asians.

    If you want a straight opinion on just the food, the main components of the factors by which noodle soup should be judged are 1) the soup and 2) the noodles, the two words that make up the name. The soup was bland: it lacked body and flavor. It seemed that by adding in shitake, seaweed and all the other garnishes Momofuku's guests were trying to mask this fact. As for the noodles, they were extremely disappointing given that they that the crucial "Al Dente" crunch that noodle fans look for was absent; I think they're supposedly fresh but they reminded me of rehydrated Chinese dried noodles and not Ramen. Ichiban Instant Ramen came closer to what I consider real ramen than Momofuku's variant. With all this negativity, I do almost feel obligated to note somethign positive about the place. The appetizer we ordered, grilled beef tongue, was excellently executed- braised beautifully and delicately and melted in our mouthes.

    This post is not posed to be personally offensive or mocking in any way so I hope the previous posters don't take it personally. I'm simply expressing my personal opinions as others have theirs.
  • Post #9 - March 13th, 2008, 3:02 pm
    Post #9 - March 13th, 2008, 3:02 pm Post #9 - March 13th, 2008, 3:02 pm
    I don't know how "ethnicly" correct the chef is trying to be, but I can say that the smoked duck breast, the deep-fried sweetbread nuggets, grilled beef tongue and the chicken wings were all killer-good. After reading the above, I am glad we cancelled an order of ramen.
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #10 - March 13th, 2008, 3:49 pm
    Post #10 - March 13th, 2008, 3:49 pm Post #10 - March 13th, 2008, 3:49 pm
    sinos wrote:Although this isn't a strict rule, if you're serving purported ethnic food and giving the impression of authenticity the first thing I look at is the proportion of individuals of such ethnicity that dine at the location and the number of individuals of such ethnicity that work in the Kitchen: Number of such ethnics at Momofuku during my experience was 0 and Number of such ethnics dining there were 4 (that's including all Asians including my friend and me). To their defense they're not going straight authentic and the target consumer is clearly not Japanese or Asians.


    I appreciate that you gave a quite detailed and serious review of the food. But come on. It should be obvious that Momofuku isn't going for "authenticity" alone anymore than, say, Salpicon is here in Chicago. Looking for the number of co-ethics in this context is just plain silly. Once you got to the last statement in the bit I quoted above, you should have realized that everything that came before it was just plain silly and should be directed at a different restaurant.

    sinos wrote:Maybe David Chang is a direct relative of the co-developer of PF Chang's cause the resemblance of their business models is uncanny.

    This is even more outrageous.
  • Post #11 - March 21st, 2008, 10:16 pm
    Post #11 - March 21st, 2008, 10:16 pm Post #11 - March 21st, 2008, 10:16 pm
    I am Asian, and I love, love Momofuku and admire David Chang greatly. Momofuku is always a stop during my Manhattan trips. I think David's target audience is not Asians, or non-Asians, or anything as divisive in nature as your perspective seems to be permeated with, but rather, anyone who loves good food and heartfelt cooking. I don't really think he was aiming for authenticity...I read an article on him once that Momofuku was inspired by the noodle shops he visited when he lived in Japan. Inspiration is the operative word.

    And to equate Momofuku to PF Changs I agree is outrageous, but more so, to me, it indicates a sad lack of sophisticated understanding of what exceptional, nuanced cooking truly is.
  • Post #12 - December 26th, 2009, 9:58 pm
    Post #12 - December 26th, 2009, 9:58 pm Post #12 - December 26th, 2009, 9:58 pm
    fusionfan wrote: of what exceptional, nuanced cooking truly is.

    It's funny: we went into Ssam Bar this past Wednesday expecting the brash flavors of a young Mozart, and instead got the most refined, the most mature set of flavors experienced since meals at Avenues and Bonsoiree earlier this year.

    And that was, shockingly, rather disappointing.

    Now, the meal was pretty darn good, and our expectations were not particularly unreasonable--at least, I didn't think so. What we wanted was the sort of playful exuberance Chang has, at the very least in his public persona, cultivated; what we wanted was out-and-out deliciousness. What we got was what were were definitely not expecting: nuance.

    There it was in an opener of uni, laid in a soup of tiger's milk and nori, with bits of fennel: subtle, enveloping, a sustained note of brine giving way to a late punch of citrus and heat. If you've had Avenues's crab-roe-calamansi construction, this is a logical complement. Best dish of the night.

    And again in a set of kimchi-rubbed honeycrisp apple matchsticks, the mountain topped with guanciale and cilantro and set against a smear of maple aioli. Again, a well thought-out progression: the crisp notes of the apple, the herbal notes of the cilanto and kimchi, the smoke and fat of the bacon and the mayo. A surprisingly orchestrated vision; a perfectly pleasant bite. Polite, even.

    Even the buns were tame: the pork belly was not particularly fatty, the hoisin was minimal, and the cucumbers faint (though excellent). My standard-bearer here are the pork belly sammies at the late KS Seafood (RIP), and I must confess Chang isn't even close--the pork needs more fat, and he needs something like the ground peanuts that KS provided to enhance the richness of the meat and sauce.

    We finished polite, too: the fried brussel sprouts were a two-chord riff(Eb5 and Bb5, I figure) of crunch (the addition of Indian-style fried rice puffs was clever though superfluous) and tart (fish sauce vinaigrette and mint); the pig's head croquettes were a gentle expression of gelatinous flavor, with a pear mostarda that was shockingly--wait for it--elegant. Neither was a flavor bomb; both were surprisingly quiet, as was our enjoyment of them.

    Refined cooking. Here. We were--well, we were stumped. Because in our minds we had anticipated culinary rebellion of a delicious sort, and because we walked away from Momofuku without eating a truly memorable dish.

    Well, scratch that: we went and got some Crack Pie at Milk Bar afterward. Lots of butter, lard, powdered sugar--very hard to forget. Ridiculous. Tooth aching. And pretty tasty.
  • Post #13 - March 8th, 2011, 11:36 pm
    Post #13 - March 8th, 2011, 11:36 pm Post #13 - March 8th, 2011, 11:36 pm
    Four weeks prior to my trip, I followed the rules of logging in right at 9am CST and secured reservations for the fried chicken lunch this past Friday. I am pretty sure we were the one and only (fried chicken) reservation for noon. It was my dining companions' first time to Momofuku, so we ordered the pork belly buns. As you can see in my picture below, my pork belly was pure fat and the hoisin was heavy handed. I've had these on three separate occasions now, and the best ones were from Ssam bar. The other two times were a disappointment at the Noodle Bar.

    The fried chicken meal came with a lot more chicken than we expected. The Korean fried chicken is double fried in a spicy glaze, and the Southern fried chicken is fried in a buttermilk batter. Both types were perfectly fried - crispy, not greasy, cooked evenly and thoroughly. I loved the texture on the Korean fried chicken - it was light and crispy. The Korean fried chicken was mostly dark meat except for some wings and had plenty of flavor on their own. The Southern fried chicken was mostly white meat that was very moist and some drumsticks. It lended itself well for us to try the four different dipping sauces: garlic-jalapeno, hoisin, ginger scallion and sambal oelek (IIRC). For me, the Korean fried chicken was all about the skin, and the Southern fried chicken was all about the meat itself.

    The chicken also came with mu shu pancakes and some veggies. I've never been a fan of mu shu pancakes, and these were no exception - they were very thick. There was also a basket of mint leaves, carrots, radishes, and butter lettuce.

    Given the difficulty of getting reservations and having a big enough group, I probably wouldn't do it again. I'll stick to the ramen and chilled spicy noodles I had last time.

    To avoid the long wait for dinner, I would recommend trying them at lunch and arriving right at noon when they open the doors.
  • Post #14 - March 10th, 2011, 2:26 pm
    Post #14 - March 10th, 2011, 2:26 pm Post #14 - March 10th, 2011, 2:26 pm
    That pork belly has crossed over the line
    from unctuous to disgusting, IMO.
  • Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 6:34 pm
    Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 6:34 pm Post #15 - April 5th, 2011, 6:34 pm
    We had a late lunch at Ssam bar and a late dessert after theater at Milk Bar - we liked both.

    Ssam bar was probably the best meal of our trip to NY - just really nice, relaxed. Thursday afternoon after we had checked into our hotel, this had to be dinner and lunch and enough sustenance to take us through over 3 hours of theater that evening. We ordered (and shared) the Pork buns (as good as everyone says), some swiss chard with a lot of savory pork (it was really just a vehicle for the pork bits), Apple Kimchi (so good! the contrast of the sweet crisp apples and the salty tart spicy kimchi... ) and a short rib sandwich (probably more food than I needed at that point, but also very tasty). The place was nearly deserted, and it was very nice to just sit and eat and breathe. I would definitely go back.

    We went to Milk bar Friday night after theater, we arrived around 11:30 pm or so. There was a line, but it kept moving, and wasn't too bad - but the small space was overcrowded with people who had finished their desserts and were just hanging around the tables talking. And it was HOT - with a big strong space heater roaring overhead. I am glad that I have tried Crack pie, but man, it was tooth-achingly sweet! My plain milk was quite refreshing with it. Next time I think I'd get a milkshake. They have regular milkshakes and "fancy" ones with some alcohol in them. They are all supposed to be variations on the desserts, so you can get a Crack pie milkshake.

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  • Post #16 - December 28th, 2012, 10:52 am
    Post #16 - December 28th, 2012, 10:52 am Post #16 - December 28th, 2012, 10:52 am
    I don't have much to add to all the praise for Momofuku Ssam Bar. We made it there over the holiday and it was probably the best meal I've ever had in New York. I went with a group of 5 and we pre-ordered the duck special. Before the duck we ordered some items from the raw bar, the grilled octopus, the sausage with rice cake, and the deservedly famous pork buns. Everything was top notch. David Chang has a knack for contrasting texture and combining flavors such that all the dishes really pop.

    The duck itself comes with with two sides. We ordered the broccoli in a smoked blue fish vinaigrette and the selection of pickles.


    The pickles were all crunchy and well balanced. No funny spicing or off-putting sweetness that ruins so many house-made pickles, these were an ideal counter-punch to the rich and fatty duck.


    They top the broccoli with crispy duck skin and the vinaigrette plays a role similar to fish sauce bringing funky umami to contrast the bitterness of the vegetable. I think the broccoli could have used some wok hei, but the texture was perfect and the crispy duck skin was truly gilding the lily.


    This is what really stood out to me about this duck preparation. It took elements of different Asian cuisines and allowed you to choose your own adventure. You could wrap the duck in lettuce with a dollop of gochucang and some kimchi (Korean), you could wrap the duck in lettuce with a dollop of hoisin and some crunchy fresh herbs (Vietnamese), or you could wrap the duck in chive pancake with a dollop of ginger scallion sauce (Chinese).


    The duck itself was out of this world. They stuffed it with sausage which made everything moist and imparted the sausage with duck flavor (duck-flavored sausage, what a time we live in!). They even wrapped duck skin around the pieces of sausage on the plate (the pieces more or less alternated between sausage and duck) making each bite decadent and delicious. As we were losing our will to eat any more, they brought out the duck carcass, which still had plenty of meat on it, for us to chew on. We took that (and plenty of the duck) home which made for a kick ass breakfast the next day.

    Ssam Bar really brought it that night. All the preparations were aggressively flavorful and expertly prepared. I've got to a get a team together to take on the pork shoulder next time.