Hello again everyone! It’s been a while! Apologies for the long gap in between posts (again). It’s been what, three months since our last write-up but it feels good to finally be back in action. Winter always seems like a tough time to get things done (at least it does for me) and this winter was no different. Every time Marion and I tried to get together to go on another ramen quest something always seemed to come up: one of us would get sick, we’d double-book, someone would be on vacation, etc. However, we finally managed to eat at Momofuku Noodle Bar the other day and now here we are sharing our experience with you all.
If you’ve never heard of David Chang, I recommend you look him up immediately. He is a world-famous chef who seemingly came out of nowhere to alter New York’s eating landscape. His restaurants and the food he cooks have received widespread acclaim over the years and as a result, his star has gotten brighter and brighter. He has written cookbooks and has his own PBS show, called the Mind of a Chef produced by Anthony Bourdain, where he and other chefs explore various aspects of cooking and culture. He also seems like a jovial, down to earth guy based his interviews and TV appearances. Many of my friends and I are his big fans.
Which is why Marion and I were disappointed by our experience at Momofuku Noodle Bar. We split an order of the shrimp buns, which was the best thing that we had. What I liked about it was how they chop up the shrimp and then fry the pieces together so it forms a patty. I was impressed at how it retained the nice chewy texture and flavor of the shrimp while not being overly greasy. Cooking it like this also makes it a little easier to eat than if they just put one or two whole shrimp in the bun. This dish is very delicious – Momofuku is known for its buns – but at $12 it is a little pricey.
The ramen, sad to say, was a bit of a letdown. I had the spicy miso and Marion ordered the namesake Momofuku ramen. While my soup had a nice kick to it, I did not really detect much of a miso flavor, which I though was sort of odd. The smoked chicken that came inside was good, but nothing to write home about. I also was not a huge fan of the poached egg that adorned the center of the bowl, although that is more of a personal taste preference – I tend to like soft-boiled eggs in ramen more than poached ones. Marion’s bowl was also pretty mediocre. It came with pork that was smoky and simple, the egg a bit too runny for my liking. We disagreed on the actual broth. She liked it better because it was more balanced than she remembered from other times coming here whereas I thought it wasn’t salty or flavorful enough. The noodles, in both cases, held up over the course of eating but were not that spectacular. The one thing that I like about the Momofuku bowl over the one that I got is how the pork shoulder incorporates itself into the soup as you eat it. By the end, you are left with this nice, thick medley of broth, noodles, and tiny shreds of pork, which tastes very good as you slurp it down.
Spicy Miso Ramen
The service and atmosphere were good, if not great. The staff was attentive and friendly and definitely enhanced the meal. The interior is really pretty – all the walls, counters and seats are made of wood which gives the noodle house a natural and aesthetically pleasing look. However, I think that whoever designed it tried to squeeze too many seats in without thinking about the ramifications. The restaurant feels a bit overcrowded as a result, like they could eliminate about ten seats and give people a more comfortable experience.
Momofuku Noodle Bar has a lot to offer – a nice atmosphere, open kitchen, a palpable air of trendiness, and some really incredible dishes. I am sure that many people who go there walk out satisfied. However, as a pure ramen house, you can afford to skip it. The ramen there feels much more like someone’s personal “take” on it, which it is supposed to be. It did not resonate with Marion and myself, but that is simply due to personal taste and opinion. If you are in the East Village and willing to brave a long line, you should definitely stop in and see what you think.
Final grade: three stars out of five.