Mom, Kim, and I spent a relaxing afternoon watching the talented staff at Momofuku Noodle Bar work their magic. Mom had been browsing through David Chang’s book, so it was only appropriate to take her to experience the real deal in her bi-annual trip out East from Phoenix.
At 1:00 pm on a Wednesday afternoon, the bar was at full capacity. We even witnessed a party indulging in the famous fried chicken platter. In our hours there, the energy was vibrant and crowd in full force.
We started with a set of pork and shiitake steamed buns. The ingredients were simple and presented cleanly. But each bite burst with intricate flavors. While the buns, scallions, pickled cucumbers, and glaze are pretty basic to this traditional Chinese dish, the focal point of each order was prepared with Chang’s special touch.
The pork was cooked to the optimal point of tenderness, jam-packed with juice. Even with that, I ended up being more partial to the shiitake buns. The mushroom slices were just as juicy and seasoned perfectly, each sliver grilled and roasted to fuse smooth centers with crunchy edges. All in all, the best mid-afternoon snack.
As for the main course, my favorite by far – the chilled spicy noodles! First off, Chang’s hallmark noodles really shine when they’re out of broth and chilled on its own. Second, each component of this dish is so distinct in flavor, texture, and intensity that even a culinary amateur like me can appreciate this coming together of vastly different elements.
The noodles were chilled and tossed in fresh chili oil. As a fan of Asian spices, the heat was a welcome hit with each bite. But it wouldn’t have been the same without the sweetness of the toasted candied cashews, saltiness of the crumbling Sichuan spiced sausages, and neutrality of the fresh raw spinach leaves.
Mom particularly enjoyed the slow roasted beef brisket. And this isn’t just any slow roasted beef. In fact, it’s so carefully roasted that strands in the buttery cut just slides right off. The bed of brown rice underneath offered a strong foundation – moist and succulent with flavor. Around the brisket, the plate was bursting with bright colors with the cilantro, pickled radish, and baby carrots that also set in as comforting subtle flavors.
Last, we also shared a bowl of Momofuku ramen. Even though it’s probably one of his classic items, the broth today was a bit too salty. The noodles, as usual were fantastic, but as mentioned, much better in the chilled dish. The beautiful, translucent poached egg is up there with Telepan’s – delicate and almost too heartbreaking to break into.
We ended the marathon meal with a teacup of soft serve. It was a twist – olive oil and pickled cherry. The cherry face was deep with authentic dark cherry flavor. The opposite olive oil, however, was strangely thick – almost cream cheese like – but also unparalleled in taste. Taking a scoop without cherry, there is an undeniable hint of olive oil embedded in the frozen emulsion.
Of his five locations, somehow the Noodle Bar somehow seems to be the heart of Chang’s philosophy. The noodles will never fail to impress and sitting at the bar will always give a little glimpse into his world. With that, our next steps were naturally in the direction of the Milk Bar. That was, until we passed by the ChikaLicious Dessert Club.