Friday, January 11, 2008

radically alive @ Momofuku's

steamed bun: shiitake mushrooms with crunchy marinated cucumbers hidden inside......

Hey I'm back and returning to write about more food news about town. My eating trip to New York was a well fed one - yes; it was awhile back ago (s/b December '07). I am ready to blast out savory posts as promised.

I am excited to tell about my anticipated lunch at Momofuku in the East Village.

When my love called and mentioned he was free for lunch that afternoon - I was literally munching on my late morning snack from the mega buffet at Whole Foods @ Union Square. We met up and grabbed a subway to 1st Avenue and found our way to 10th Street.

Once inside, it was alive with patrons hankering over bowls of ramen, steamed buns, gooksu, and roasted brussel sprouts - you gotta love it!

We started with the steamed buns with options of chicken, shiitake or pork. We went with the shiitake bun. We were seated bar side literally in full view overlooking the kitchen in live process. The buns were assembled fresh. First a light douse of their special sauce, thin sliced marinated cucumbers and then the chewy shiitakes before the entire bun was gently rolled over.

My first bite yielded the scent of yeast and rice wine that resonated from the dough. The tender mushrooms met well with the cucumbers that also held it's own. Between bites and a few profanities from the aggravated kitchen manager behind the bar; it was a fine moment that attested my senses.

pork neck ramen: braised neck meat, ramen noodles, scallions, bamboo shoots, roasted seaweed and poached egg

The ramen - it was time for the ramen.

This is what I was waiting for.

Anticipating.

Savoring about.

The highlight of the ramen bowl were the house made noodles - chewy & dense. The braised pork meat - tender and sweet. The poached egg was not an afterthought. It was a well bred poached egg that sweltered with just enough resistance when I broke its sack. Poached to its peak; it went on its merry way to join hands with the rest of the order to celebrate their assemblage.

I have had ramen many times over. I'm a noodle freak - love Japanese style noodles. This was different. It tamed away from the traditional and most often times commercially light cherry brightness of the former Japanese style noodle soups I have encountered. Momofuku Ramen had more of an earthy appeal in its broth. That was fine with me as it reminded me very well of the Japanese restaurants in the side skirted parts of town in West L.A. and Culver City California that served up Japanese homestyle cooking straight from mamasan's kitch.

There was a lotta testosterone behind the bar as we watched the kitchen staff in between our noodle slurps. The proprietor and innovator of it all, Chef David Chang was there and calmly churned out the prize winning fare with his staff.

I was duly impressed with the tight concept of the menu. Inspired by Japanese home cooking, yet harnessed with heavy Korean appeal sewn in between with southern fare like grits, ham, bacon and collard greens.

seasonal pickled vegetables platter: we ate this between bites of noodles and fanfare of pork

All is fair and happy on pork @ momofuku's.

They also offered pork belly with the noodles which I didn't order. I am an ardent fan of pork fat - I have to admit. But I prefer it roasted crisp. Perhaps like bacon with the dripping glazed over. I even love deep fried pork rinds and don't get me started on charcoal grilled pigs feet! The pork belly served up here appeared to be braised and came through with an ample amount of that underbelly fat still gelatinous. I'm sure to try it on my next return though. You've gotta at least try it once or you will never know what your missing.....and what you're missing could be really good.

Ginger Scallion: noodles below with scallions, cukes, collard greens, roasted cauliflower, bamboo shoots and a wedge of roasted nori.

What a combination!

But it all worked out in the end.

I'm glad I went - I didn't want to miss out on this opportunity.

Well.....I kept hearing the word about the chef - David Chang as 'radical' and 'innovative'....... He also garnered the 2007 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef and also Bon Appetit's 2007 Chef of the Year Award.

Sounds too resplendent......hmmmm....I had to check it out. I can see why. The menu is tight. The concept is tight. The quality is tight. It was good.

Afterwards we walked about the neighborhood full of more restaurants, dumpling shops, sushi bars, Italian bistros, art galleries and wine bars. We finally stopped at an Italian bakery to graze over hand made cookies and latte.

momofuku noodle bar
171 First Avenue
New York, New York
Tel 212.777.7773
www.momofuku.com

Next post: My late night eating habit gives way at WONJO in Manhattan opening doors to down home Korean fare......

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