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Momofuku Noodle Bar (2004–2009)


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Jason already provided the food porn quite completely, but, well, is there ever enough?

Berkshire Pork Buns:

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gratuitous wide-open shot (insert your own porn joke here)

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Sugar Snap Peas with radish and horseradish

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Momofuku Ramen

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Pork Neck Ramen

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In retrospect, a hot, humid day might not have been the ideal time for steamy bowls of ramen: between the tight configuration of the restaurant, the open kitchen, and the continually opening door, it got pretty sticky in there. But the food made it worth it.

The pork buns are just crazy good, the snap peas allowed me to pretend that my dietary habits weren't completely depraved as I set about consuming what seemed to be an entire Berkshire hog. The peas had the additional benefit of being quite delicious, their sweetness offset by the bite of the radish and shaved horseradish.

Both soups were excellent, and fairly similar, although the pork neck soup had a more intensely-flavored broth, and about a ton of shredded meat, rather than a few slices of pork belly. I liked the thicker, chewier noodles in the pork neck version, but the thinner ones in the signature ramen had a nice spring and chew to them as well.

As has been noted in other posts, both broths are pretty salty. We didn't find them TOO salty while eating them, but about a half hour later, while perusing obscure used electronica CDs at Mondo Kim's, both my buddy and I developed desperate desires for bottles of water!

I think I'll risk that again, I really liked everything we ordered. The folks sitting across from us at the rather cozy counter ordered the sweetbreads, which looked great. Judging from the sudden cutthroat competition that developed between the gentleman, his mother and his girlfriend over who got the next deep-fried nugget, it appear that they liked them. Next time...

While not a bargain, I thought the prices were fair for what we got.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally tricked my wife who is from ramen country(kyushu) and her friend to try momofuku.

What we tried

Pork Buns - excellent

Chicken Wings - alright, good searing, but not much flavor, a surprisingly large order

Shrimp and Corn in Miso Butter - a little too much miso, perhaps one less tablespoon would have made this great.

Tsukemen - ughhhhhh, disgusting, tsukemen dipping broth traditionally is made from ramen broth that is cooked longer so that it is thicker and more concentrated in flavor. This broth tasted like 1 cup of instant wonton soup mix, cup of salt, shoyu, dashi and more salt. Noodles were gummy. Nissin makes better stuff in the 1.99-3.99 price range.

Somen - I've eaten somen for many years now, usually the cheaper mass produced shirakiku kind. The stuff served was either left out of the package and never resealed for years, or there must be even cheaper stuff out there, like the stuff sold at 100 yen stores. Somen also should be served in a bowl with ice\water. The broth was somewhat better than the tsukemen's it was alot less salty, tasted like bottled somen tsuyu mixed with rice vinegar.

Ramen - Noodles were one sloppy mess of goop. broth tasted like it took an hour of cooking and a tub of salt to make.

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Went to Momofuku last Monday for their kimchi stew. The last time I had this dish there it was so incredibly good that I think I may have built up unrealistic expectations for my follow up visit. We started with the pickled vegetables and they were terrific. Nice bold flavors, the mushrooms in particular were very tangy.

The kimchi stew was svery good but it seemed thinner and less spicy than the last time. It had been about two months since I'd tried it so maybe I had revised the dish in my mind but it was definitely not of the same calibre I had the first time.

Place was jam packed for a Monday in the summer.

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  • 1 month later...

A friend and I ate a Momofuko last night, there was a line out the door, but fortunatly she was able to snag us some stools. The waitstaff despite it being extremly packed, with little to no room to move, did a great job. My water was never empty, and we were taken care of.

However our food took a little longer then i would have liked to wait for noodles... But it tasted great.... at first. The temp of the food was warm, but not hot, as it should have been. As i mentioned before the food was delicious, at the beginning. And slowly as i passed about the halfway mark, my tastebuds honed into the flavor, and the dish begun to loose its flavor. I had the MoMofuko ramen, the pork one..... and she had the porkneck ramen. Mine was better.

Also the price was a bit high, for noodles. Yea yea i know Berkshire pork, blah blah blah.

So, the food was good, but I think it could have been a bit reduced in price/portion. So people might be more inclined to purchase an apptizer. So by the time you finish your noodles you could still be ravin....

Sorry if this seems a bit jumpy my mind is lost right now, and i cant concentrate....

**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went to Momofuku last Tuesday for a fantastic meal with my boyfriend and man did we chow down! We've been to Momofuku before but only for the ramen. Since we thought it was too warm to have ramen, we thought we'd get the food. Here are photos of our meal, I apologize for the low picture quality, I took these with my camera phone.

Kitchen Staff

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Baby Octopus Salad

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Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings with pickled chilli peppers and scallions

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Deep Fried Veal Sweatbreads Sweet Spicy Dipping Sauce

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Grilled Gulf Shrimp with Fresh Roasted Corn

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And...Momofuku's Famous Steamed Berkshire Pork Buns

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  • 6 months later...

Passing by yesterday at 1:30, poked our heads in and had two seats within 5 minutes - timing is everything, as immediately there was a crowd of about 15 waiting for lunch.

Pickle plate was packed with at least 10, if not 15, different, delicious pickly things. This plate has grown larger since our last visit, or they really like us.

Smoked chicken wings were tender, smoky and great.

We passed on the crispy pig tail, but it looked awesome as the two people next to us scarfed theirs.

I had the berkeshire pork ramen - as always, luscious, salty, and wonderful.

And the wife had a "local" dish, sauteed savoy cabbage, rice cakes and house made pork sausage - the standout of the afternoon...slighty blurry, sorry as her chopsticks were already finding their way in!!

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As always, a delicious lunch!!

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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An neither Momofuku Noodle Bar nor Momofuku Ssam Bar is the headline dish the star of the show. Yes, the noodles at Noodle Bar are good. Yes, the ssam at Ssam Bar are good. But the best dishes are elsewhere on both menus. Once you get that sorted out, it becomes a lot easier to order well at both places.

We were at Noodle Bar tonight and avoided noodles entirely, unless you count the rice cakes as noodles (and they were the only not-excellent dish we tried -- sauce way to sticky, sweet, ketchupy). The seasonal pickles are a wonder -- it's the kind of dish you'll never connect with unless you take the leap of faith and order it. The colors, the variety, the different pickling styles -- there's a lot going on in that bowl. The steamed buns are also terrific, and it's not insane to order the shiitake or chicken instead of the pork. The shiitakes are deeply flavorful, and the smoked-and-griddled chicken is one of the best ingredients on the menu (it also appears in the terrific "chicken and egg" dish over rice).

The seafood dishes are great. The shrimp and grits, with a coddled (cooked in a water bath in shell) egg and big chunks of Momofuku's inimitable bacon, deserves the great PR it has received. Seared mackerel with spicy kimchi strikes the right balance between mackerel's distinctive flavor and the heat of the kimchi. The first-rate hamachi, served raw, with little roasted citrus slices and shredded nori, is something you want to sequence early in your meal, because once you blow out your palate with the spicy stuff it's hard to dial it down. Cuttlefish braised in a vinegar-spiked broth is a great compromise: not too chewy, not too mushy.

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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Nice meal, Fat Guy. And I agree with the fact that the eponymous dishes at each of the Momo restaurants are not the real reason to go to either - although when I'm jonesing for noodles, if I can get into Noodle Bar, i usually order them along with some other dishes.

I'm wondering what your feelings are for Noodle Bar in essence being the genesis for Ssam bar, in that a lot of those haute types of dishes could always be had at Noodle Bar as well (seared mackeral, hamachi, braised cuttlefish).

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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I think the best Noodle Bar items are a little more rustic, a little less elegant and sophisticated, than the best Ssam Bar items. Delicious, but not quite at the same level. Maybe that's by design, or maybe it has more to do with the constraints of the tiny kitchen (certainly when you watch the two kitchens, the Ssam Bar kitchen seems to be able to do more heavy lifting). The guy who was handling most of the cooking at Noodle -- I didn't get his name -- said he splits his time between the two kitchens, so I doubt there's a disparity in skills. Discussion with the people seated to the left and to the right yielded differing opinions about whether Noodle or Ssam is better, but while both are great for me it's no contest: Ssam operates on a different, higher, more refined level.

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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agree. certainly Momofuku proper was the genesis of the cooking at Ssam Bar, but as you noted, the kitchens make a difference.

though it might be fun to do a back-to-back same evening comparison.

hmm...maybe I'll try that tonight.

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..while both are great for me it's no contest: Ssam operates on a different, higher, more refined level.

That's a great way to put it. Physical kitchen wise, and staff size wise, they have to be able to do more at Ssam Bar.

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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For back to back tastings, can do the brussel sprouts (if they are still on the menus - it's so late in the season) and the hamachi. My 2 cents: brussel sprouts are uniquely and equally delicious at both places. At noodle bar, the sprouts are a little bit heavier, more filling, but still yummy. Hamachi is great at both places, but I prefer it at ssam bar - the fried seaweed and the spicyness of the edamame puree (are they using wasabi?) really elevate that dish. That said, I do enjoy the hamachi at noodle bar - love the use of olive oil and blood oranges. At noodle bar there is a dish that is at the ssam bar level: the kampachi. I haven't seen it on the menu for a while though.

From frequently enjoying dinners at both spots, I've noticed two cooks who split their time in both kitchens. I've seen both cooks manage the kitchen at noodle bar and the food has been consistent and yummy. I think there also used to be a woman who was in both kitchens, but I haven't seen her for maybe a month or two.

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When Ssam first introduced its late-night menu, my initial impression was, "What's the big deal? This is just the equivalent of the non-noodle stuff at Noodle Bar."

In time, though, it became clear to me that Ssam was moving far beyond Noodle in terms of both ambition and execution.

I think Fat Guy got it right.

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The seasonal pickles are a wonder -- it's the kind of dish you'll never connect with unless you take the leap of faith and order it. The colors, the variety, the different pickling styles -- there's a lot going on in that bowl.

I've noticed a HUGE increase in the number of places offering pickled vegetables to begin and I've taken to ordering them every time I see them on the menu. The Spotted Pig does an excellent rendition as well.

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  • 2 months later...

On the Momofuku Ssam vs. Noodle Bar topic, I mentioned:

Having been to both places several times recently, my opinion is that we're seeing a lot of convergence. Noodle Bar has a lot more haute items than it used to, and has generally improved so much that I know a couple of very knowledgeable people with good taste who like it better than Ssam now.

I still think that, as I said up-topic, "the best Noodle Bar items are a little more rustic, a little less elegant and sophisticated, than the best Ssam Bar items," however the last couple of visits I've had to Noodle Bar have been incredibly successful. Two dishes on the current menu that I think are dynamite are:

Louisiana crawfish with garlic sausage, rice cakes and ramps. These are huge whole crawfish that you have to dissect on your own. They're sauteed with little patties of garlicky pork sausage, glutinous rice cakes and pickled ramps. As the cook builds the dish in the skillet, adding the various ingredients, it creates a broth-like sauce (this is aided by the addition of various squeeze-bottle items that I couldn't identify). It's served in a big soup bowl with a side plate for the shells. Best to remove the crawfish and let them cool a bit while you nibble on rice cakes, sausages and ramps. Then take apart the crawfish tails and remove the meat, and dip it in the sauce/broth with your chopsticks. Fantastic, and at $18 a very good deal for the portion size and quality of product.

Pan-roasted soft-shell crabs with pickled cherries. Fat, excellent soft-shells cooked so crispy you'd almost think they were fried, but with none of the heaviness of frying. They're served over a small pile of fried rice, ramps make another appearance here, and the whole plate is topped with pickled cherries. Beautiful contrasts. Borderline pricey at $24, but you don't get soft-shells like this from Sysco.

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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  • 4 weeks later...

Went to lunch yesterday to try a couple of the new menu items and they were outstanding...

Started with pork buns and pickles...I just love the variety and deliciousness of the pickle plate - everything from 10 minute pickles (cucumbers pickled with salt & sugar) to green (unripe) mango, baby turnips (which take a few weeks, according to chef), watermelon, carrots and the outstanding kimchee.

Then we were offered the rainbow swiss chard with Benton's bacon broth. As fat guy mentioned in the ssam bar thread, very similar to the sugar snap peas in ham broth; not necessarily a main course, but a great plate to share - although I don't always want to "share" Benton's bacon! And that gorgeous rainbow swiss chard is so nice.

We moved into the fried green tomato salad with anchovies, chervil over kimchee. What can I say - this dish was great! Perfectly fried quarters of green tomato (dredged in kimchee puree and then wondra before frying) with a funky mix of fresh anchovies and chervil, all atop a bed of spicy kimchee - wow, what a dish!

We finished with a shared bowl of chicken ramen - noodles perfectly cooked, great heap of fresh peas - we thought we were full, but we managed to put this bowl away no problemo.

What was really nice about yesterday's lunch was that when we walked in, the place was only about 1/2 full - quite surprising for a Saturday lunch at 1 - ish (maybe the new ramen place 2 blocks away is relieving some of the overcrowding?). And, sitting where we like to sit (directly in front of the "pass," if you will), the meal was paced like a tasting menu - not necessarily possible when the place is packed and people are waiting around the front door.

All in all, a great Saturday lunch - thanks, Momo!

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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It appears that the new Ramen place up the street might also be adding some unwanted competition - since the opening I have noticed non-stop line-ups out the door and now, in place of their menu, Momofuko has a little notice posted about the quality and source of the ingredients that go into their Ramen. As I live around the corner, it has been rather unusual to see several empty seats and no individuals waiting in anticipation outside Momofuko's door....not sure how the new place compares, because you can't get anywhere near it for the crowds!

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Ramen Setagaya?

I have to check it out personally, I've heard some great things about it. But ramen comes down to a matter of personal preference. Unfortunately in NY, there aren't enough strong places to experience this dynamic, but in Japan, it is, OK, what am I craving, misoramen, shioramen, hakataramen, chyasuuramen, etc. etc. So this new place might have a great shioramen but I'm more of a tonkotsuramen kind of guy

back to your original point, I wouldn't compare momofuku to authentic Japanese ramenya

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That's the place Raji. And although no two Ramen are alike, and I am definitely far from an expert on this subject, it seems that the new place might be putting a dent in Momofuko's business - I found the signage a bit strange (I was so used to seeing the menu posted there). Although it isn't traditional Ramen (and I am not sure it should be at $16) and Momofuko does serve much more, when I heard about Momofuko in Montreal, the buzz revolved around their Ramen dish.

I haven't tried the new place either and will probably wait for the lines to die down (if they ever do) but I am a big fan of the miso ramen at Rai Rai Ken - this is coming from a palate that hasn't had the pleasure of dining in Tokyo though - but it is definitely a personal preference thing.

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If there is a constant turnover of ramen orders than Momofuku's ramen may actually be very good albeit "new-style".

Pizza is to New York as Ramen is to Tokyo. There's a place on every corner, many are open 24 hours, it's a great snack, quick lunch, and when you're smashed. There's a lot of BS places and then theres intense competition at the top.

But back to my first sentence, one of the main ingredients of top pizza and ramen places is a constant turnover that keeps the ovens/broth hot and ensures your pizza/noodles have not been sitting around long if at all. That's why the best ramen you can do is in Manhattan is probably lunchtime @ Menkuitei, Menchanktei, Saburi, when it's piled with Japanese officeworkers...

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My two cents: the actual noodles at Noodle Bar are just okay. The other ingredients, however, are exceptional. I know of no other place in town that serves the quality of pork, chicken, eggs and vegetables that you get in the Noodle Bar soups. You just don't see that level of quality -- not even close -- at Menchanko-Tei and the other Midtown places. And of course the Noodle Bar offerings (kimchi stew with glutinous rice cakes and shredded Berkshire pork; pork neck ramen with braised neck meat, Shanghai noodles and a coddled egg) are pan-Asian and global rather than entirely Japanese.

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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  • 1 month later...

Lunch yesterday and some of the summer dishes really sang out.

I love the take on the caprese salad; heirloom cherry tomatoes, atop soft tofu rounds, with a chiffonade of shiso leaf on top. Simple, beautiful and delicious. The soft tofu really mimics a fresh buffalo mozzarella, just melts in your mouth.

Baby octopus on a salad which contained kombu, menma and fresh chilis. Some of, if not the, tenderest baby octopus that I've ever had - cooked on that "plancha," so it was charred, crusty and tender all at once - this dish rocks.

For my main, I had the crispy snapper (or was it bass?) with pickled ramps and Benton's bacon...just had to have some pickled ramps while they're still able to be had. And my wife had the smoked chicken over rice bowl - so good with that barely poached egg - a meal in a bowl.

Place was packed (as was Setagaya, which we walked past on our way here) at 2 PM - we waited about 30 minutes for our 2 seats - well worth it!

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...

I started a topic in the Japan forum, but thought I'd also mention here that there was just an article in the Wall Street Journal about an American-owned ramen shop in Japan that was inspired by Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Topic here.

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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  • 2 weeks later...

The new Momofuku Noodle Bar space is set to open soon according to the NYT:

The new Momofuku Noodle Bar will have taken 12 weeks from demolition to the serving of the first bowl of ramen. As soon as it opens they will begin work transforming the old Momofuku Noodle Bar down the block into Momofuku Ko.

“Dave is equipment crazy,” Mr. Phuah said of Mr. Chang as he pored over the appliance list for the new noodle bar, including a custom noodle cooker, standard noodle cooker, a grill, plancha, salamander, steam oven, range and, for the crispy veal sweetbreads, a deep fryer.

But most of that will be invisible to diners at the new noodle bar. The shoe-box-shaped room, which might be described as a dojo crossed with a lunch counter, is more than twice as big as the old restaurant. The walls are lined with strips of plywood, with a bar running the length of one wall and even a small waiting area, a luxury when space is money.

And the Picasso there? A six-foot-by-four-foot photograph of the Band that Elliot Landy took for the group’s 1968 album, “Music From Big Pink.”

“I’ll tell you the real geeky reason why it’s the Band,” Mr. Chang said later by phone. “It was truly a group mentality. It’s some of the things we strive for at Momofuku. The picture is going to freak people out, but it’s for us. It’s an affirmation that this is a group effort.”

Mr. Tsuruta and Mr. Phuah share a similar collaborative spirit, but the photograph’s symbolism didn’t seem to resonate. “I told them about it, and Hiro didn’t get it,” Mr. Chang said. “Swee said, ‘Dave, you’re a weirdo.’ So I just told them they should just expect a massive picture.”

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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