Lex and I spent the morning visiting the September 11 Museum, which was incredibly moving and also really intense. We were both glad we went as it gave us a new perspective and attitude towards the smaller things in life.
After our visit we chose to be naughty and indulged in Shake Shack near Brooksfield Place. During the busier touristy times near NYE we’d seen lines out the door for Shake Shack, so we thought we’d take advantage of the empty tables and try this popular burger joint out. Not bad. The fries and burgers were probably a bit better than good ol’ McDonald’s but not to the standard of Grill’d (if you’ve never tried a Grill’d burger, you should!).
After what felt like a heavy morning we made a spur of the moment decision and headed quickly to the East Village to watch Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie ‘Joy’ (we had 40 minutes until starting time). On a day that had already included fast food, I saw the option of getting popcorn as a no-brainer (in fact this whole trip I just kept saying to myself “I’ll go the gym when I get home” – I’m home now and still haven’t been – tomorrow!). In to the reclining seats we sat and settled in…
Lex and I had both wanted to try Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village. We’d walked past a few days earlier and it was really busy so we thought after the movie and whilst we were in the area we may as well give it a shot. Momofuku Noodle Bar was the first of many food spots for chef-owner David Chang, and he now has a number of places around town, as well as others in Toronto, Washington D.C and Sydney. The Noodle Bar is the more casual (and affordable) option and focuses mainly on ramen dishes. I once read it is affectionately referred to as “slurp row”. Locations are listed below, and for any Sydney-siders chef-owner David Chang recently opened one at The Star in Sydney.
Momofuku Noodle Bar (East Village)
Ssam Bar (Union Square)
Ko (NoHo – very exclusive and difficult to reserve a spot)
Booker and Dax (Union Square – cocktail bar)
We waited about 20 minutes for a table and excitedly saw massive (seriously massive) bowls of ramen being served to hungry patrons. The place was bursting with energy (and people waiting for a table – after we arrived the line went out the door). It really was a place that had a distinctive buzz and energy about it. The hostess walked us to our table and we truly had the best seat in the house. If you go to Momofuku I would recommend requesting this table – the end seat on the chef’s table. With the open kitchen our table allowed us to see absolutely everything – from the preparation, to cooking, to training of the new guy Sam who had just started that day (poor guy he looked so stressed). We also saw a bit of a love affair taking place between who we believe to be the Head Chef and her assistant. Lex thinks I was glorifying the situation and they were simply friendly towards each other… you decide. A view at the chef’s table cannot be underestimated; it was absolutely amazing to see our food being prepared and the fast-paced, accurate, efficient running of the kitchen. I also loved seeing exactly what went in to creating my food, from cooking techniques to ingredients.
What we ordered:
Lex couldn’t resist starting with a serving of the Chicken Meatball Buns. Even though I’m not too fussed on pork buns/buns of any kind, Lex insisted I tried them (and I’m glad I did!). A flavoursome mixture of chicken, jalapeño, iceberg and paprika mayo all sat nicely in a bun. Lex was very impressed.
For mains, I couldn’t go past the Momofuku Ramen. It sat so proudly at the top of the menu and I got the sense that this was what Momofuku Noodle Bar was known for. I also saw the chef preparing this dish the most. Lex went for the Chilled Spicy Noodles. The waitress warned him it was spicy – Lex was more than fine with this! I was also tempted by this option but wasn’t sure if I wanted something chilled on such a cold night. We also saw the chef preparing this dish and they were very careful not to put even a dash more of the required chili sauce into the bowl.
Both dishes arrived promptly in the massive bowls we saw earlier. We were very eager to dig in! Although I would have liked a kick of chili to my Momofuku ramen, it still was delicious and slurp worthy. The ramen consisted of pork belly, pork shoulder and was topped off nicely with a poached egg. Lex’s noodles were a combination of Sichuan sausage, spinach and cashews – he did comment that he felt the amount of cashews was a bit excessive. Of course I asked for a taste of Lex’s meal – and if you’re not that good with chili, stay well clear. It definitely had a punch. I’m not even sure I would have been able to get through the bowl with that amount of spice! Lex loved it though.
Overall, a delicious and heart-warming meal. Neither of us could quite finish as the portions were large, but that is no reflection of the quality of food. Momofuku Noodle Bar whilst definitely the cheaper option out of David Chang’s ventures, was still not cheap. You do pay for what you get though, generous portions, delicate and careful preparation and great Asian infused flavours. I would recommend Momofuku Noodle Bar for smaller groups as it was a noisy place, and would definitely recommend you ask the hostess for a seat at the chef’s table (even if it means having to wait a little longer). You can’t make reservations either, so do try to go on a quieter night.