Momofuku Noodle Bar – NYC – Worth the Wait

5 Aug

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Momofuku Noodle Bar is the place that launched a thousand pork belly buns, arguably kicked off the American ramen revolution, and made David Chang a Fooddouche-household name. It just celebrated its 10th anniversary — quite an accomplishment in the brutal NYC restaurant scene. Although the basic menu has not changed that much since 2004 (except for the famous fried chicken dinners), it’s still a mandatory NYC stop.

The Noodle Bar was originally in the space that Momofuku Ko now occupies. The current location keeps the bar seating but adds tables for small groups. Chang helped revitalize this stretch of the Lower East Side, and though it doesn’t gleam like other recently gentrified parts of NYC, it is much safer than it used to be.

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So, what about the food? Chang is obviously too busy to make the ramen here any more, but the food is still top notch. Here are the pork buns that brought Korean pork belly into the mainstream. Served on a Chinese bao bun, with a bit of hoisin sauce and scallions, it is still delicious.

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Obviously, it’s a fat bomb, so know that going in.

(Incidentally, loyal Fooddouche readers may remember that one of my earliest posts was about LA’s Flying Pig Cafe that straight ripped off Momofuku’s buns. They’ve finally succumbed to the entropy of serving terrible food. They’re closed now.)

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This is an off-menu item that is a must-get for any Korean visiting the Noodle Bar. It is their kimchi stew (jjigae). Kimchi jjigae is an amazingly simple and delicious part of the Korean diet. Saute some kimchi with sesame oil, add spam + water, cook for a while. Eat. In Korea, it’s known as bachelor’s stew because it is so easy to make, or budae jjigae, (“platoon stew”) for the same reason.

The Momofuku version adds two brilliant additions to the classic kimchi stew: dduk (rice cakes) and ramen broth. I had never had dduk in kimchi jjigae, but it was one of those I-can’t-believe-I-never-thought-of-it moments when I first dug them up in my bowl. They add a great chewiness to a dish that is not usually served with noodles.

I would never have thought of putting ramen broth in it. It’s pure genius, adding umami and fattiness to what is usually a pretty acidic stew. It’s also nice to have them make it for you, considering the ramen broth takes about 10 hours to make.

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And of course the ramen. It’s not quite as mind-blowing if you’ve had a bunch of the better ramens that have graced our city as of late. But it is a quality tonkatsu broth, with excellent chewy Sun noodles, a slice of pork belly, some shredded pork, a couple slices of fish cake, scallions, some non-spicy kimchi, and a slice of nori. I would eat this bowl all the time if Chang would get off his stupid-horse and open an LA branch.

If you’re keeping score at home, Tsujita is still better for ramen. But that’s probably the only bowl in LA I’d put over the Momofuku ramen. And no other ramen place is going to have better other dishes than the Noodle Bar.

Even though there are four Momofuku choices in NYC now (Ko, Ssam, Noodle Bar, and Ma Peche), I still prefer to make Noodle Bar my essential David Chang stop. It’s also the cheapest of the options, so that helps, too.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 first avenue
btwn 10th + 11th street
new york, ny 10003
lunch
mon – fri / 12 pm – 4:30 pm, sat + sun / 12 pm – 4 pm
dinner
sun – thu / 5:30 pm – 11 pm, fri + sat / 5:30 pm – 1 am

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