MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
Address: 171 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003 (between 10th and 11th)
Telephone: (212) 777-77738
Hours: (Lunch) Mon – Fri 12:00 – 16:30 | Sat + Sun 12:00 – 16:00
(Dinner) Sun – Thurs 17:30 – 23:00 | Fri + Sat 12:00 – 16:00
Price: $15 – 30 /person
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Momofuku. All hype or legit?
Momofuku is a culinary brand name we’ve all heard with a cult following. Is it all hype or is the food legit? Recently on a trip to NYC I decided to try for myself and went to the first and original Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village.
From one noodle bar in 2004 until now, chef and founder David Chang has grown the brand to 19 restaurants in six cities (two outside the US). The group is known for their innovative take on cuisine and supporting local, sustainable and responsible farmers, they have become a household name, at least in the US. Apparently the name Momofuku has a few fun meanings…first being “lucky peach” in Japanese. Second, it’s an indirect nod to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles. Lastly, well, it just sounds like motherf*cker which makes sense since chef Chang is known as a ‘bad boy’ in the industry. He’s a no reservation, no vegetarian option kinda chef.
Similar to LA, NYC has no shortage of ramen shops and if you ask around everyone will strongly convince you of their favorite and why none of the others compare to it. I put those other recs aside (for now, I’ll definitely make my way through more ramen on future trips), and decided to (finally) try Momofuku Noodle Bar for a quick lunch. Because of the no reservation thing + cult following, we knew to get their early or risk waiting in line. When you haven’t had breakfast, lines ain’t something you want to be in. When we arrived at 11:50 there were already a few people standing in front but the doors opened promptly at noon. Thank god.
The shop is small but the light wood and open space give it bright and clean feel. I like the open kitchen which is a thing you commonly see in ramen shops in Japan. The staff is very friendly and attentive and are pretty knowledgeable about the dishes. While the menu does change based on seasonal ingredients, the main star ramen is a permanent dish. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, they currently have a seasonal Black Winter Truffle Ramen for mere $49. We weren’t very hungry so we just ordered two dishes, the Momofuku Ramen and the Chilled Spicy Noodles. Missed out on the buns though.
Momofuku Ramen | $18
Broth can make or break a good ramen. Luckily David Chang does it right here. The broth is very flavorful but light. It’s not like those really heavy, thick broths that leave an oily residue in your stomach. This one is still transparent enough to see the ramen but has layered flavors of pork and chicken. I particularly like that it uses a wavy, semi curly textured noodles versus the thinner straight noodles. I find the shredded pork shoulder to be a bit on the salty side, but the pork belly slices were good and tender. All in all, it is a solid ramen dish. Would I crave it? Probably not. But it’s worth a try if you haven’t already or if you’re in the hood. Recommended.
Chilled Spicy Noodles | $16
We were warned that this dish is spicy. But since living in China, my tolerance and craving for spice has gone up, so I said bring on the spice! The menu lists the the ingredients as ‘Sichuan sausage, Thai basil, cashews’ so I really didn’t now what to expect. When the bowl arrives you just see a heaping pile of cashews. (Which reminds me, definitely don’t order this if you have a nut allergy.) The noodles below are covered in a bright green Thai basil pesto so you toss them together with the cashews and sausage pieces. Don’t be fooled thinking no red = no spice because this is effing spicy. The cashews are candied so the nutty sweetness actually compliments the spice nicely, but halfway through it borderlines on too sweet. Recommended (if you can eat spicy)
While I the food is good, I don’t see myself craving it enough to go back. Like I mention above, if you haven’t tried it you should and judge for yourself. Momofuku is a household name for a reason. But the world of ramen is becoming increasingly competitive in all major cities, but each shop has their own style and variation. Have a NYC ramen shop you love? Share your recommendations in the comments so I can hit them up next time!
- No reservations so get there early or be prepared for a wait.
- Try the buns, they’re supposed to be good!