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Momofuku Noodle Bar (2009– )


Fat Guy
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Moderator's Note: This topic is a continuation of the Noodle Bar 2004 - 2009 topic, which may be found by clicking here.

I've now been to Noodle Bar twice since the late-summer back-kitchen hiatus.

Just to catch up on what happened, as best as I can piece things together, David Chang was not satisfied with the operation of the back kitchen at Noodle Bar -- that's the part of the kitchen from which most of the specials and more elaborate plated dishes emanate, as opposed to the buns, wings and such -- so he shut it down in order to revamp, retrain, etc. Over the past few months the back kitchen has been increasing its load, first with the new blackboard concept and now with a $45 prix-fixe menu (three courses plus dessert). There have also been some other changes, such as the switch to jars of pickles.

I wish I could say I was happy with the changes. I'm not. Noodle Bar remains a terrific restaurant, and perhaps over the course of many visits I'll be convinced that the new system provides for more even performance, but there's pretty much nothing about the new system that I prefer to the old.

The pickles in a jar are a major step down from the plated presentation. I can understand the efficiency of serving jars of mixed pickles rather than going to all that trouble to plate several different kinds of pickles over and over again throughout the service. But that's the whole point of the garde manger in a restaurant: to plate cold food to order. The pickles in a jar are less vibrant, the flavors less (nay, barely) distinct, and the texture not sufficiently crunchy.

The food on the tasting menu is excellent -- it is the Noodle Bar version of Ssam Bar food -- but several of the best dishes in the house are available only in the $45 tasting menu format. So if you want the hamachi or the oxtail you have no choice but to order the $45 menu, which includes three savory courses plus ice cream. To me, locking customers into that format is exactly the antithesis of the Momofuku style. I suppose there's some way in which it makes prep, inventory and expediting easier, but I don't care. From a consumer perspective, it's far preferable to be able to order the best dishes a la carte. And when you look at the menu minus the tasting menu, the offerings are sparse.

For its part, the blackboard just seems silly. The times I've done the comparison, it has simply been a restatement of the printed menu. If that is the case, then it's nothing more than a gimmick.

This all makes me sad because I felt there was a moment, basically for the middle quarters of 2008, when Noodle Bar was outperforming Ssam Bar on both the food and service sides. Noodle Bar is still excellent, but it has lost a bit of its appeal for me. The center of gravity of my Momofuku preferences has for the time being shifted back to Ssam Bar.

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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The chicken is back. That is enough reason by itself to be happy...

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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  • 2 months later...

RE: Momofuku and Foie Gras....I'm sure most of you have seen David Chang's recent post on Eater. In case you didn't here's the link, a quote, and a brief summary:

http://eater.com/archives/2009/03/on_the_house_4.php

...as of today we'll be adding at least one foie gras dish to each of our menus, and we’ll work to keep the prices of the dishes low, and we'll donate any proceeds from those dishes to charity, including City Harvest and The Foodbank NYC – both of which are in dire need of money and support to help feed our city’s poorest and hungriest citizens.

Summary: basically an anti-foie gras activist walked into Ko and threatened to demonstrate outside the restaurant in an effort to generate negative publicity for ko and the other momofukus'. Chang did some research about other such campaigns and felt threatened. So, confident in his intention and ability to source humanely treated animals, espically his foie gras (hudson valley foie gras) he decided to address the issue head on.

You can obviously see how he's decided to do that, which I think is pretty badass.

Tonight at noodle they were serving a roasted foie gras with ramps, sherry vinegar, and burnt honey. . . . for $16. It was delicious.

On another note I noticed a lot of new dishes on the menu. A roasted beet salad with sesame yogurt, benton's ham, chive oil. The ham looks to be shaved a la the ko foie dish on top of the sesame yogurt. The dish was amazing. Another winner was the roasted rice cakes with roasted onions, garlic, scallions. If anyone remembers the roasted rish cake dish with sweet maine shrimp that used to be on the menu this is the exact same thing without the shrimp or the nuts. It's just a nice mound of delicious rich cakes prepared the same way.

There are also an assortment of new noodle dishes, a chicken and egg dish (smoked chicken, rice, poached egg). . . . and not a thing is over 16 bucks.

Edited by Scotttos (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Went Noodle Bar after hitting Ssam on Sunday for lunch. In addition to momofuku ramen and pork buns, we had asparagus and foie gras dishes.

Cherry Lane Farms Asparagus – miso butter, pine nut, egg. I had high expectations for this dish as this being my first in-season asparagus dish but ended up with some disappointment. Asparagus wasn't of great quality, the only interesting thing was the miso butter.

Roasted Hudson Valley Foie Gras – sautéed ramps, burnt honey, brisee` - the best dish of the lunch. Burnt honey complemented the fatness of brown foie gras nicely and sauteed ramps enhanced this dish immensely.

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  • 8 months later...

Started off the new year with a visit to an old fave...

Confession...my Momofuku mojo was, is and will probably always be for Noodle Bar.

Back in 2004, eGulleteers (including me) were mostly ecstatic over the new ramen joint in the Eat Village. I've remained so, even as Ssam, Ko and Milk Bar haven joined the Changpire and been raved about. Back in the day, Chang may have cooked for us...I definitely recall him berating some unlucky newbie cook or waitperson every now and then. Significant Eater and I spent many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon lunch sitting at the counter, watching the cooks and enjoying our noodles, buns, and as time went on, various other wondrous dishes that appeared from out of the small (and then bigger) kitchen.

So, SE and I decided, what better way to start the new year then to check out Noodle Bar for a Saturday lunch? Especially since noodles signify longevity in many Asian cultures. Noodles and sodium, I think. By the way, if you're gonna go to lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, go early or be prepared to wait. While we were seated instantly, by the time we left, the crush was in full throttle at the "host's stand."

This particular Saturday (the first one of the year), SE and I lucked into a fine prix fixe menu.

momo prix fixe.JPG

It might be a little hard to read, but the special consisted of 3 courses for $20. Now, when the first course is a Momo bun, and the second is a Momo ramen, and then they're throwing in dessert (ice cream), that's pretty much what we ordered. Oh, we also ordered 3 tamales, because we noticed them on the blackboard menu after we had ordered, and when Noodle Bar is making tamales, guess what? Order them...they were great (pork kimchi, Sichuan sausage and jalapeno queso), for those who need to know.

So, the prix fixe actually started off with a bit of an amuse. So small, a tiny piece of apple topped with something I can't remember - perhaps some dried bonito shavings? Then, the bun. This day it was a pan fried skate bun - and who would've guessed that it would be almost as good as the seminal pork bun - almost...

CIMG0232.jpg

And the ramen? This was a ramen we hadn't had before; it was clam ramen, and you don't see that too often on a menu. The clams, shucked right before our eyes, were just heated by the miso broth. The miso broth, slightly clammy (in a good way), was one of the best I've tasted in a long while. A great way to start off the new year, indeed.

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Add some ice cream, and then a fifth course (!), a little dessert to take home - carrot cake truffle, and Significant Eater and I walked the mile and a half back to our apartment, a little bit full and a lotta bit happy. Longevity indeed - thanks, Noodle Bar. You'll always be our No. 1.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Started off the new year with a visit to an old fave...

Confession...my Momofuku mojo was, is and will probably always be for Noodle Bar.

This made me a bit wistful. I used to be firmly in the Noodle Bar camp - I recall describing it as the more craveable of the two spots (between it and Ssam) and it was my go to. When they edited the menu down massively, I stopped seeing my favorites on it entirely: kimchi stew, asparagus with miso butter & poached egg, sugar snap peas, shrimp/corn/bacon/miso butter, brussels sprouts - and so I haven't been there in many many months. I can't argue with switching the menu up once in a while, but when they removed all of my favorite dishes (not at once of course) - eh, I just stopped going. Ssam's my top pick now.

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When they edited the menu down massively, I stopped seeing my favorites on it entirely: kimchi stew, asparagus with miso butter & poached egg, sugar snap peas, shrimp/corn/bacon/miso butter, brussels sprouts - and so I haven't been there in many many months.

Having stopped in somewhat randomly Saturday afternoon, some items to report:

1) Kimchi stew is available on request. Of the rest of your list, the corn and asparagus were always seasonal items (some winters they subbed grits for corn in the shrimp dish--not a favorable trade IMO), so they seem likely to make an appearance in one form or another in summer and spring, respectively. As for the stew, which I had not had in quite some time, I'll admit it didn't wow me quite as in years past. Could be related to its unofficial spot on the menu, or could be because it was preceded by:

2) The braised kale (in pork broth with pickled crosnes) and tokyo turnip (glazed in miso butter with pearl onions) dishes are stupendous. Nothing out of keeping with great Momofuku dishes past, but easily in their company. I'm at Noodle Bar pretty rarely these days, so I don't know how new these are, but it was a nice change of pace from the stagnant menu at Ssam Bar in the wake of its recent (ongoing??) lack of a head chef. Given the daily-changing $20 menu of new dishes, I might even posit that we're in one of those uncommon periods where Noodle Bar is more interesting for repeat visits than Ssam.

3) You must be a moron to try to go here on a Saturday night. My friend and I, in the mood for a late afternoon snack, rolled up at 5:25 to find a large crowd gathered on the sidewalk awaiting the 5:30 reopening time. Felt a bit awkward to be standing outside with the tourists waiting for Disneyworld to unlock the gates, but we managed to get seated in the first wave with no problems. By the time we left an hour later it was a madhouse. Obviously I recognize how silly it is to report "Momofuku Noodle Bar crowded on Saturday night", but we're talking a line 100 people deep to give their name to the hostess. At 6:30. Sad thing is, you'd probably cut out two thirds of that line if they started selling pork buns from a food truck parked outside.

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Obviously I recognize how silly it is to report "Momofuku Noodle Bar crowded on Saturday night", but we're talking a line 100 people deep to give their name to the hostess. At 6:30.

With many really good alternatives in the EV, why would so many people be willing to do that?

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  • 6 months later...

In news affecting the whole Momopire, Eater reports that:

...now comes word that Cory Lane, the front of the house man at all Momofukus but lately at Ma Peche is decamping for California as well. Both Lane and Momofuku's David Chang tell Eater that the split is amicable and has been in the works for a long time.

And in news just affecting my favorite of the Momo's:

Meanwhile, Noodle Bar chef de cuisine Kevin Pemoulie is leaving for New Jersey at the end of September and will be handing the reins over to sous chefs Ty Hatfield and Sean Heller.

Full story here.

I don't really think this is a good thing.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 2 months later...

I went back to Noodle bar on Saturday for the first time in a while and I was really blown away by the food. I had the special ham buns which were excellent and a great change up to their traditional steamed buns, the roasted corn which might have been the best corn I've ever eaten and I'm still thinking about it, and the pork scrap(?) ramen which was terrific. All in all this was one of my favorite meals that I've had in the Momo franchise and I can't wait to go back again.

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I went back to Noodle bar on Saturday for the first time in a while and I was really blown away by the food. I had the special ham buns which were excellent and a great change up to their traditional steamed buns, the roasted corn which might have been the best corn I've ever eaten and I'm still thinking about it, and the pork scrap(?) ramen which was terrific. All in all this was one of my favorite meals that I've had in the Momo franchise and I can't wait to go back again.

The miso corn with fingerlings? I went back for that dish repeatedly this summer. I don't recommend sitting at the counter watching them cook it though. There must be a stick of butter in that small dish. Also, I love the brisket.

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Based on a meal last Spring the fried chicken is still the bomb. I was luck to have a (non-working stiff) friend who hit the reload button on her computer each morning for 2 weeks running to get the reservation.

Had another great dinner art Ssam bar a week ago, and tried the excellent deal of the price fix lunch at Ma Peche in September. As far as I can tell all is well in the Empire of Chang.

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  • 10 months later...

Has anyone been here lately? My wife's latest pregnancy craving is anything SE Asian, especially noodles. Do they have a vegetarian noodle bowl? I wasn't sure what type of broth they used... Probably pork. Finally, what is the wait time on Sunday for an early lunch?

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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We recently had dinner here after a nearby show...it was our first visit in quite a while, since we usually go to Ssam Bar for the amazing duck at lunch. We didn't know what we were missing, as a top-notch ramen made us wonder why it had been so long since we'd been.

A fresh corn saute, always a Momo summer highlight was good, but the shocker were the amazing (new to us) shrimp buns. I don't know what went on with the shrimp, but the buns were perfect. They carry on the torch of the great pork bun, which of course made its debut at the original Noodle Bar.

As far as vegetarian options, there are some salads which will work; the cold ginger scallions noodles are, iirc, veg also. Early or late lunch on a Sunday shouldn't be a problem.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 4 months later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Lunch here just the other day on our anniversary. We started with a nice "pot" of kimchi...

2012_02_09 Momo KimChee Pot.jpg

One of the earliest dishes to grab attention for David Chang - the pork buns. Yesterday, a special bun made an appearance - this time it was brisket. With horseradish, pickled red onion and cucumber, it was maybe even more delicious than the original...

2012_02_09 Momo Bun 2.jpg

Since we always try to get our veggies, we had to have the baby greens salad, with apple, radish, chestnut and yes, duck proscuitto...

2012_02_09 Momo Salad.jpg

One of Sig Eater's old faves, roasted rice cakes, was on the daily blackboard menu, so...

2012_02_09 Momo Roasted Rice Cakes.jpg

To top it all off, another of the daily specials, showcasing duck, this time the leg/thigh meat cooked into a ragu with poblanos, cilantro and a fried egg to top it all off...

2012_02_09 Momo Duck Ragu.jpg

With only minimal pouting, we passed on dessert. After all, dinner at Acme was a mere 5 hours away.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 1 month later...

We ate there last Thursday, happy to have got the chicken dinner reservation for 5:30pm. Restaurant was empty (as expected) and we started with the pork buns (kind of tough to split, but we had a ton of chicken coming so had to pace ourselves). Sorry for the fuzzy pork bun photo!!

P1020044.jpg

About 20 minutes later the GIANT platter of chicken showed up. Wow. Was way bigger than I expected. Too much food for the 4 of us. Much better suited for 6 people, but could feed 8 guests with moderate appetites.

P1020046.jpg

My favorite one was the southern style. Then it was the Korean style. Then it went back to the southern style. Actually, the favorite one happened to be the piece of chicken I was holding at the time.

I was a bit confused as to what to do with the dipping sauces and veggies. Sauces tasted really good (hoisin was the favorite) but they were tough to put on top of the chicken. Not sure what to do with the lettuce (wraps?) and the radishes & carrots (eat 'em as crudite?). The veggies gave a nice counterbalance after eating lots of fried food but it wasn't simple to put them together with the chicken.

P1020045.jpg

The basil and mint were weird additions to the veggie tray. Again, not sure what to do with them and they didn't seem to fit with what I was eating.

My overall impression was good. Chicken was super delicious. Service was attentive, friendly, and fun. Veggies were odd. Sauces were tasty, but not easy to put on top of the chicken. Happy to score a tough reservation at a popular restaurant.

If you get lucky to get a fried chicken dinner reservation - I suggest you go hungry, really hungry.

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I guess you could "carve" some of the chicken meat (or simple pull it off the bone) and make wraps with it. Then the basil and mint, and what looks like cilantro, don't seem so out of place.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick note - went there the other day, had the ham buns, ramen and lime, beet and yoghurt dessert. In short, awesome - but I'm no expert on noodles

DSCF0554.jpg

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With regards to the chicken dinner - yeah, it's big. I can imagine for 4 people it's quite a struggle. Turning up at lunch on Friday I didn't expect to see a couple trying to put the whole thing away though between the two of them.

It was ridiculous. There's food challenges, and there's ordering way more food than you are ever going to manage. They looked about done when we left and they had barely touched half.

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