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Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar


kathryn
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They were in friends and family previews yesterday....we're pretty much at Ssam Bar all the time and were anxiously awaiting trying Christina Tosi's other creations. They didn't have everything on the menu by the time we'd arrived. I think they're going to make items fresh every day, and then when they run out, they run out. We went pretty late in the afternoon/early evening and didn't get a chance to sample some stuff, but I am certain we'll be back. You can order at the counter/display area, and then take your food to go, or you can enjoy it on site. They have standing level tables like Otto has. It gets a little uncomfortable after a while but I don't think the idea is to really stay there for an hour, like we did. You can also order whole pies, cakes, etc. in advance.

We tried the chocolate cake (delicious, fluffy but moist) and pistachio cake (fantastic crumb). The cake slices are huge! You definitely need to share. They were sweet without being cloying. I was impressed how light and fluffy the cakes were, without being dry, or losing flavor. The pistachio was especially nice, given how unusual it is. Yum!

We also tried crack pie (very rich and buttery but hard to finish), the pumpkin blondie pie (perfect and crave-worthy, really delicious, loved the combination of the two flavors). I really wanted to try the candy bar pie (chocolate, pretzels, caramel) but we were getting a little sugared out by then.

My friend had the salty pistachio caramel soft serve (very salty, she ate only about half) and I spent some time sampling some soft serve toppings. Brown butter solids were awesome! The peanut butter halvah was great, too, nice and big, flaky chunks. I also liked the pretzel crunch and pistachio crunch but I think the brown butter might be my favorite.

We also nibbled on the blue cheese polenta bread (basically what you'd expect), two types of milk (my friends liked cereal milk whereas I loved the Tristar strawberry -- like a high end Quik, I went back for seconds), and our volcano (amazing but steaming hot, quite filling, and hard to split).

The volcano melted our plastic knife! It was delicious though, but I don't see how it could NOT be yummy. I loved the crispness of the carmelized cheese on top and the softness of the inside.

Cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip was kind of unwieldy. It has a peak-like shape so the center stays moist and the edges turn crispy. Mmm, crispy edges! I loved the gooey nature of the marshmallow combined with the crunch of the cornflakes. Strangely addictive. Reminds me of the way I used to eat rice krispie treats a chunk at a time, slowly pulling away the chunks with my fingers into my mouth, if that makes sense. The texture might turn some people off, but it's not a standard cookie. Maybe think of it like more of a delicious cereal bar in a round cookie's disguise.

The corn cookie was like a very nice, moist sugar cookie with a hint of corn flavor that got stronger over time. Subtly salty, too, but quite well done. It's thinner and flatter than a lot of the other cookies and more of a standard (but very well executed) bakery item. If you have someone who is hesitant about trying new things, this might be a good starting point. The salt really brings out the corn flavor after a while.

The peanut butter cookie is also thicker than what I'm used to but there are nice bits of peanut scattered throughout. It had a very intense peanut flavor. It's pretty dense for a peanut butter cookie, which is a little odd at first. But the flavor is excellent. I thought the peanut butter cookie would be a little more crumbly.

The blueberry cream is excellent as well -- it reminds me of blueberry cream cheese tarts that are made using Nilla wafers, but crossed with a muffin. The texture is moist but fluffy. The cream adds a creamy element that contrasts well with the slight tartness of the blueberries. I liked this one a lot but it's probably not everybody's cup of tea. The texture is quite muffin-like.

The compost cookie is also probably not everybody's cup of tea. It's a bit overwhelming but I love the salty pretzel bits on top! I think there are also potato chip bits in there. There's also butterscotch chips (I think) and chocolate chips in the cookie. The saltiness of the cookie contrasts nicely with the chocolate and keeps things interesting. Some might think it's weird but I liked it a lot although I split the cookie with someone. It might get tedious after a while. It's also interesting to eat from a texture standpoint...I'm not sure if I like it right now simply because it's so novel.

Photos:

http://flickr.com/photos/kathryn/sets/72157609034540934/

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Stopped by today. The line was out the door, but only by about 10 people. Little did I know that it would still take an hour to get a couple of ice creams! The service behind the counter needs a little bit of organization on how to handle the tickets. Despite the way, I really enjoyed my salted pistachio caramel ice cream. It was really rich (so rich that my dessert-averse friend couldn't finish her small cup) but I thought nicely tempered by the salt. Peanut butter halvah topping was nice. I got a compost cookie to go and enjoyed that as cookies go--nothing out of the ordinary but a good fresh-baked cookie nonetheless.

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Stopped by last night after dinner at Ssam, very few people there, but the line moves at a truly glacial pace. There was really only one person filling orders, Christina Tosi and the other folks were working more on making sure orders were headed out to the kitchen. They were making new items as the night went on, though - when we showed up, there was no crack pie, but one came out of the over while we were waiting.

The salty pistachio caramel is really good, I didn't find it overly salty, either. The grapefruit was amazing - one of the sourest, best palate cleansers ever. We took a volcano home and ate it later - it is exactly what a hot pocket would be if you made it with good bread, cheese and meat. Very satisfying. The carrot cake probably wouldn't appeal to everyone - my wife found it overly sweet - but it's very dense and the slices are enormous. It's the kind of cake you could eat for a couple of hours and keep going back for a bite every 5 or 10 minutes, not sure anyone would be able to polish it off in one sitting. Finished with the tristar strawberry milk - it's amazing, exactly as Kathryn described it, it's like Quik on steroids. Maybe a little too sweet as well, but delicious.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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In just a couple days I was able to visit Milk Bar twice. As others have mentioned, the line moves very slowly when it's long. If the line is out there dor, expect to wait about 45 minutes to finally order and get your food. I do feel that they'll become more efficient over time, however.

So, with that said, this place is pretty awesome. I'm usually not a big sweets and baked goods guy, though this is starting to change, but Milk Bar has really blown me away. One of my friends mentioned how all their items are simply bursting with flavor. It sounds cliche, but it's a spot on assessment. Things aren't sweet for the sake of being sweet, creamy for the sake of being creamy, the desserts are bold and assertive and unapologetic. With each slice of cake, you know you're going to consuming hundreds upon hundreds of calories, but for some reason they don't seem "empty."

I've had the opportunity to sample a pretty big chunk of the menu have like liked everything. I think that $5 for a slice of cake is a great deal, $5 for a slice of pie a bit worse, and $4 for small cup of soft serve a bit worse than that. The place isn't exactly a deal, but I feel that its offerings are surely unique in the city and thus deserve the premium. I battle with myself over the value proposition presented by the poached egg pork bun, for instance. It's devastatingly delicious but at $9 for a single bun, rather pricey. Considering you can get two normal buns for the same price, they're effectively charging you $4.50 for the single egg. Bring the price down to $6 and I'd eat one every time I'm in the city.

There's no real point in going over each item I've had since they're pretty much all of a very high quality. Portions are quite large, and the items are even more filling than you'd imagine. The savory breads, especially the kimchi foccacia, could easily serve two, if not three. The strawberry milk is really rich and tasty, but my friends were less impressed. Maybe I have simple tastes.

Overall, this place seems to fill a niche. I know some people feel the whole concept is a bit contrived and all, but for me, it's the kind of place I'd go if I wanted, say, breakfast, or a simple, relatively affordable dessert. These are underserved markets, at least in the places I frequent, so I'm happy to have this place around.

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Went back to Milk Bar again. It's like my third visit in five days or something, this time shortly after 11 pm. Again very tasty, all the items are still so dense with flavor. Had the pistachio soft serve--salty!--and grapefruit--sour!--swirl. This was topped with the pistachio crunch topping. Very good. Also had the double chocolate cookie, more cakey than, say, the marshmallow-corn flake one, but still quite enjoyable. Some people will probably like this type more, as it's a bit more traditional.

Two somewhat lame issues, however. They bumped the price on the cinnamon bun to $5. As I wrote yesterday, I thought at $4 this was a great deal. At 25% more expensive, it's obviously not as compelling from a value perspective. Also, it was late so they weren't cutting into any new cakes. Fine, I guess that's understandable. But then a diner after us was able to get a slice of cake from a cake that we had just asked about. Very lame. Booo.

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I went yesterday at about 1pm. There was no line. It nonetheless took an excruciatingly long time to get three slices of cake and a cookie. I actually ordered four slices of cake but it was so exhausting to live through the first three slicing efforts that I opted not to go through with the last slice. That aside, the cake was amazing (banana cake), as was the cookie (my friend just pointed at one so I don't know its official name). It is truly impressive that, in what is one of the world's great pastry cities, there is still room for Momofuku to raise the bar. I look forward to trying everything else when I have a whole lot of time on my hands.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Visited today after dinner at Ssam bar. The display cases were pretty much cleaned out by that time, 3 types of pies left, a couple of abandoned looking cookies alone in a massive display case and presumably soft serve. I was 3rd in line. 20 minutes into watching the counter girl attempt to fold a box for a single slice of pie for the person in front of me, my left eye started to involuntarily twitch. If I had stopped to work through all the intuitive reactions I was going through as a process oriented individual I might not have made it. Instead I switched to art appreciation mode and pretended I was staring at a Cezanne. And it worked, not 10 minutes later, me, my glass of strawberry milk and a slice of crack pie made our way to a largely empty communal table (10 o'clock maybe?). My friend would join me in due time with his pumpkin blondie pie and cereal milk.

10 minutes pass and I totally understand why it's called crack pie. With 1 bite remaining, the psychophysical effects of whatever they put in there kicked in like a swear word. Now I haven't had the pleasure of smoking crack, but I'm certain the effects can't be far off. Severe heart palpitations, a feeling of invincibility ("I'm pretty certain you could slam the back of my head with a 2x4 and I wouldn't feel a thing right now" I professed to my friends), a desire to run through the store window combined with an inability to steer or even move my legs in any direction I desired - it was all there. And it was awesome. The strawberry milk didn't so much gild the sugary lily as it faithfully served it's role in topping my blood sugar level back off to TILT whenever it threatened to dip below max threshold.

The genius is that this is the perfect companion to the cholesterol overdose I had just experienced some 30-60 minutes earlier. An order of pork buns & deep fried pig's head roll left me feeling like I could collect on any circus prize available as my cholesterol meter hit the hammer and rung the bell. And now I was back at it, just with sugar instead.

And honestly, I can't wait to go back!

p.s. When asked about what was available when, we were told tomorrow (Saturday) is Chorizo-Challah day. Yeah.

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The savory breads, especially the kimchi foccacia, could easily serve two, if not three.

ohmygodohmygodohmygod

Kimchi and bread, together at last. Imagine the pork belly sandwiches that could be made with this.

Can someone post a picture of this? Pretty please?

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  • 3 weeks later...
How crowded/busy gets Momo M&B during weekday lunch time?

Was there both Friday and Monday during the day and it was not crowded at all, just a couple of people on line each time. However, as noted above, things take longer than it looks like they should - the people working behind the counter literally have no room to move. Bad design, amazing food. The cornflake/chocolate/marshmellow cookie was awesome - crunchy, sweet, a bit savory. The crack pie was even better.

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There's a new number system in place at Milk Bar that, theoretically, makes the ordering and pick-up process a bit more organized. The issue, however, is that one can take a number, say, 1, and not know what to order. If someone else comes up and grabs 2, knows what to order immediately, and does so, the whole sequential nature of the number system and the accompanying deli-style number counter behind the register goes out the window. Go when it's busy, and I think you'll see what I'm talking about.

Thankfully, the pastries still remain delicious. The brown-butter cinnamon roll no longer has a cream cheese filling, making it less sweet (good) but also less decadent (bad). The egg pork bun has also gone up in size by about 50%. When I had it, it was simply the normal pork bun, with an egg. You were effectively paying a $4.50 premium for a fried, poached egg. This was lame, and I said as much. Now, the thing has more pork and a bigger bun. Not exactly a great value, but better and nearer to a full-sized sandwich.

The new item I had yet to try was the English muffin. A bit too gloppy perhaps but very tasty. The smoke from the bacon permeates the entire sandwich and even into one's fingers.

And no pistachio cake. Sadness.

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  • 6 months later...

I went to the Milk Bar for the first time tonight, with a friend. We shared a slice apiece of the Arnold Palmer and dulce de leche cakes. The Arnold Palmer cake was interesting, with the strong black tea taste, but the dulce de leche cake was absolutely wonderful! And at $5 a slice, the price is right. Now that I've gone once, I'll have to have self-control not to go again too often!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 4 months later...

Went for the first time recently and *loved* the crack pie. I'm definitely going to try making this at home. Cookies were not as compelling as I thought they would be (blueberry, compost and cornflake). They exude an extraordinary amount of grease/butter, too -- soaked through the wrapper and into a paper box nestled nearby. I actually thought some greasy leftovers had spilled, but it turned out to be the cookies, which was oddly disturbing. I'm not a fan of the soft serve (have tried cereal, sweet potato and pie crust). All seem too salty without enough sweet to balance. I regret not trying the candy bar pie and the strawberry milk -- next time!

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