Let’s face it, David Chang is one brilliant restaurateur. He has extended his reach of the Momofuku empire, from Ssam Bar to Momofuku Ko to the Momofuku Milk Bars and more recently, the launch of his Lucky Peach magazine.
When I visited New York back in December 2010 (Yes…. I know that it’s been………. a while!), I made a trip down to the one of his outposts, the Momofuku Noodle Bar on First Avenue (Cross St of 11th Street), to try out his famous pork buns and the Momofuku ramen.
Steamed Buns – Pork
US$9 each serving of 2 buns
While I didn’t quite like the ramen at Momofuku, I liked the steamed pork buns – Then again, “liked” is quite an understatement. I loved them. It was really, really good. It was how it was pork buns were meant to be. Sure, it was decadent but it was soooooooooo good. Think pork belly braised in a fragrant, slightly sweet hoisin sauce accompanied with scallions served within a freshly steamed white mantou.
You get 2 buns per serving, but they’re so petite that I could have easily downed 4 at one go, and for someone with a small appetite like myself, that says a lot.
That said, I never expected to see a dish like this at a Japanese, or at the very least, a pseudo-Japanese outlet. More likely than not, a dish like this would have been spotted on the menus of a Chinese restaurant instead (Perhaps Westlake Restaurant on Farrer Park/Queen’s Road in Singapore?)
Momofuku Ramen – Pork Strap, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg
US$16 a bowl
The pork buns, I loved; The ramen, unfortunately, not so.
Perhaps, I’ve been spoilt by the likes of Miharu Ramen (Gallery Hotel), Ramen Santouka (Central) and Ippudo Ramen in Singapore that I’ve already an idea of what the perfect bowl of ramen is (to me) that the Momofuku Ramen felt rather lacklustre. No offence here – I think the cliché, “to each his own” holds some truth here.
The egg was poached beautifully and the pork was cooked beautifully tender, but for a bowl of ramen, the soup just did not cut it for me. A 2008 review in the New York Times best put to word what my impression of the ramen was, “Although the noodles in the ramen dishes ($9 to $15) had a terrific mouth feel, the broth on occasion lacked spirit. ”
Perhaps, on hindsight, I’ve been accustomed to the richer, more sodium filled soup bases that the other Japanese ramen restaurants that the admittedly-healthier Momofuku Ramen tasted a little mild, too mild, for me.
Softserve – Gingerbread
Desserts aren’t a key element in the Momofuku Noodle Bar menu. But hey, who are you kidding? It’s a Noodle Bar. They did, however, have a choice of 2 soft serve flavours and while I could not remember exactly what the other flavour was, I remember it being somewhat less seasonal.
So which flavour did I go for? It was December 2010, Christmas; And what better flavour then, to have than Gingerbread?
Let’s say ever since I’ve tried Momofuku Soft Serves, I’ve been a convert.
Add On, I was asked on Twitter if I had thought that Momofuku Noodle Bar is over-rated to which I replied, ‘I think it is a bit (over-rated). I didn’t like the Ramen one bit. The pork buns well, were good. But I could have probably found (equally good ones) elsewhere.”
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue (11th Street)
East Village; New York
Telephone: (212) 777-7773
Glenn Lee first published his first blog entry as HungryEpicurean in December 2009. Glenn is currently an accounting and finance undergraduate in the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Born and raised in the sunny island of Singapore, he is by and large, a foodie. Like his fellow Singaporeans, he loves to explore and savour the magnitude of flavours that the many different cuisines offer. He can be contacted at email@example.com.