I have been on a mission the past year to indulge in David Chang's world famous pork buns ever since I saw the photo in his first cookbook, Momofuku. After salivating on these pork belly pieces of heaven, I finally had the opportunity to visit Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village to sample the goodies myself. Chef Chang didn't invent the pork buns, but he sure made it cool for the foodie nation.
My brother Brian and childhood classmate, Vigie, joined me for my much anticipated degustation. While the all wood counter resembled the photos from the book, the romance of the space was completely whitewashed by the bright sunlight penetrating through the floor to ceiling windows. I envisioned a ryokan-like space that would transport me backto the days of the samurai, but those bright windows and the view of the UPS truck on First avenue ruined my first impression of the place. The pop music in the background didn't help either. So lesson number one, go to Momofuku at night and make sure you are joined by your gregarious friends for dinner to wash out the music.
But I was here for the pork buns and also for the ramen. Two of my favorite Asian food groups. The pork buns came and while it looked good, it lacked the "love" from the all caucasian kitchen staff. For $9.00 pork buns, I wanted a little bit more attention to detail such as the perfect amount of hoisin sauce and cold cucumbers perfectly placed underneath the pork belly and slightly sticking out of the buns for color. I have to give Momofuku credit for the generous pork belly portions, but are these the best pork buns I have ever tasted? It's good but not memorable.
Despite my less than stellar review of the pork buns, the Momofuku Ramen with pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg ($16) was incredible. My bowl of ramen had all the traditional fixings with a broth the Japanese would Kampai for. If you're a fan of the movie Tampopo, this is the equivalent of ramen nirvana.
The house-made kimchi was delicious and was perfectly presented in a canning jar. My brother's Roasted Short Rib with kimchi, caramelized cauliflower and poached egg was also a big hit on our table along with Vigie's order of spicy and velvety baby bok choy ($9).
Was I glad to have made the vigil to Momofuku? Absolutely. But I hope that as David Chang's restaurant empire grows, he makes the occasional stop to his first restaurant to keep things true to his original vision of an Asian noodle bar.
Momofuku Ramen with Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg
Roasted Short Rib with Kimchi, Caramelized Cauliflower, Poached Egg
Salty Peach Amuse Bouche
Ham Bun with Charred Onion Mustard, Pickled Onion, Romaine
Delicious House-Made Kimchi
Sauteed Bok Choy with Pork Broth, Cipollini, Chili Flakes
Momofuku's packed interior