Thursday, November 29, 2007

Momofuku Noodle Bar

On the way to Setagaya, I passed Momofuku Noodle Bar at their new location. It reminded me that I'd been wanting to eat there for a while. So after Setagaya, we went to Noodle Bar.

The only problem with the two restaurants being in the same neighborhood is that I know I like Setagaya. And if I want noodles, I have to eat there. So the only choice was to eat at both.

I'm glad we ate at Setagaya.

But first, the good news. Mabel couldn't eat any more noodles, so we split an order of Brussels sprouts with kimchi puree and bacon. Priscilla recently forwarded me the Martha Stewart take on this dish. But the original is much more involved, and better.

The kimchi puree tasted more like sriracha than kimchi which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm just saying. It looked like they used baby Brussels sprouts. And the bacon tasted like BBQ pork which was nice. It was really good. The Momofuku restaurants work magic with Brussels sprouts. They should open a third restaurant called Momofuku Brussels Sprout.

Mabel ordered a soft serve pumpkin-cheesecake swirl to eat while I ate my noodles.

I ordered the Momofuku Ramen.

It was all wrong. I mean it just didn't seem right. It wasn't savory enough. There was no umami. And the stuff in it just didn't make sense to me. Why were the ingredients there together like that? There was shredded pork, pork belly, collard greens, bamboo shoots, green onion, a poached egg, and two large pieces of dried seaweed sticking up out of the bowl. It didn't really come together in any way (although I'm not complaining about that pork belly). And the noodles were too soft and too long.

I'm trying not to hate on their noodles. I can't stand when people say that their ramen is not authentic, because they never claimed to be authentic. Momofuku is an American restaurant, and their noodles should be judged on whether they simply taste good. But this bowl of noodles did not taste good. They didn't taste bad, but I would never order them again. I think I understand the debate surrounding this place now.

I've decided to think of Momofuku's ramen as a gateway ramen, that is, it is for people who have never had ramen before. But it could potentially introduce them to the good stuff. Priscilla says the first time she went, there was a small family sitting at the table next to her and the father said, "Kids, this is supposed to be the best ramen in New York City!" I'm not sure if they would have made a special trip if it weren't for the hype and broad appeal of the place.

On the up side, I discovered that there are several Korean-inspired soups on the menu. There's an oxtail soup, a kimchi stew, and bibim gooksu. I have a feeling this is where the true heart of the restaurant lies. And we really liked our waitress. She was very little, which she had to be to squeeze through the closely packed and cramped tables. We're sitting at the bar next time.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave (btn 10th and 11th St)
New York, NY 10003

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