This Saturday I zipped down to NYC to help a friend pick out a wedding dress. Since I was in the city, I met up with one of my best friends from high school (different friend) who is currently doing the New Yorker thing, working in fashion. I had always wanted to eat at Momofuku (ever since I heard about it and since getting the cookbook for Christmas last year). Lucky for me, my friend was more than willing to accommodate the obsession.
Because reservations have to be made 3 weeks in advance because they fill up so quickly, our plan of attack was to arrive early and wait it out. I got into the city in the morning. We met up at Alice's Tea Cup (one of my favorite places in the city to go for tea and scones) and got 3 scones to go (cream cheese and dill, pumpkin, salted caramel and chocolate) and two large teas (Mauritius, a black tea with notes of vanilla, and Alice's, their house tea of green and black teas blended with rose petals). It was a beautiful day and we decided to get our food to go (due to a long wait for a table) and walk to the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park. We sat on a bench overlooking the pond and chatted, eating our delicious scones and sipping our tea. This experience was not without two instances of bikers riding by with carefully concealed boomboxes blaring from their backpacks. Why conceal it when it is obvious you have music exploding from your general vicinity? Oh, NYC.
We jumped on a train down to Chelsea for the dress appointment. It was much more fun than I anticipated and it was a good experience. The dresses were beautiful and I think it was very successful for my bride-to-be friend, even though she didn't buy it on the spot. The two of us then separated from the group and headed down to SoHo for some fun shopping, walking around and general catching up.
The highlight of SoHo was being able to go to PurlSOHO in person, where I obviously left with some yarn purchases. I am going to knit my friend a hat with the yarn she chose. Updates about the hat soon.
We decided to walk to the LES from SoHo. A long walk, but probably a good idea knowing the amount of food we would be consuming. We arrived at Momofuku 30 minutes after it opened. There was only a 15 minute wait! It was a huge score. AND it was really barely 15 minutes. It was more like 5 minutes, during which time we both ordered lychee soju slushies. It was cold, refreshing and DELICIOUS, especially after all that walking. I was surprised because I despise soju, but it was nicely complemented by the lychee and the fact that it was an ice cold slushy really toned down the bite of the soju. It was a prognostication of imminent food glory.
We decided to get one of a lot of things and share each thing equally (even the main). It still ended up being a deluge of food, but a really nice and fantastically tasty deluge. I couldn't have requested a better seat right at the bar in front of the kitchen. I was able to watch each chef AND observe our dishes being prepared. It was the best hardcore food porn I've ever seen. Professional kitchens just floor me with their stressful environment, ballet of food and personnel coordination and the physical tolls of standing on your feet for hours cooking over a hot grill and sustaining burns, cuts and hot oil spatters. Amazing.
Onto the food!
These were raw scallops plated with beets, scallions, yuzu and a sauce with a hint of cilantro. Now, usually handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves will cause my stomach to cramp and then expunge its content violently, but this cilantro was the gentlest whisper of the herb. Delicious and enjoyable without the repercussions of paying homage to the porcelain gods. Scallops 9/10
Sadly this was followed by the anti-climatic dish of the night, which was the
pork and kimchi tamale. It just wasn't good. The pork was a little dry, there was very little kimchi flavor and in general it was kind of an epic fail, especially compared with the scallops. I've had waaaaay better tamales that cost $1 from a tiny place that a friend took me when I was in Southern California. I think in general, it is a good idea that I believe has the potential to be executed well, it just wasn't quite there for this particular one. Tamale 1/10
The foie gras with strawberries and raspberries was a flavor surprise and I thought it was fun, new and tasty. I've never had this combination of flavors before and I really enjoyed it. My friend was not as impressed and she listed this dish as her second least favorite. The foie gras was not as good as I've ever had (that would be the time I had it at Bouley, in TriBeCa) but it was sweet and salty, savory, buttery and creamy. The tart rhubarb and the tart/sweet strawberries were a nice flavor counter-note and the slightly buttery but crisp flatbread/cracker was a nice serving vessel. All in all, I'd say Foie Gras 8/10.
Their signature dish is the Momofuku Ramen. Oh man. Like I said, I have the cookbook and I know that this broth literally takes DAYS to make. And man, it is soooo good. The ramen was delicious too and the poached eggs just adds to the silken texture of the broth plus noodles combination. This was really good ramen. I have to say, I have had better ramen noodles, but this was really delicious and the broth was really fantastic, not too salty and really rounded and almost musky and deep in flavor. Needless to say, all plates were cleaned by this point and I think I was full mid-way through the foie gras. Ramen 8/10
In terms of cost, the damage really wasn't that bad considering how full we were and the quality of the ingredients and the artistry of the dishes we ate. There was a prix fixe menu that was $40 per person and we barely went over that, mostly due to the lychee soju slushies. The service was great. Fast and attentive. We didn't have to wait around for a waiter to request our menu change and the water was magically full all the time. Empty plates were cleared quickly and the food stream was steady once we got our starter. Watching the kitchen work its magic was a real treat for a novice home cook like myself. It definitely gave me fuel for my dreams of becoming a restaurateur/pro-chef. Meanwhile I guess I will stick to my food experiments and watching The Next Food Network Star at the gym.
Thus concludes my epic food blogger wannabe post about my Momofuku experience! If you like asian fusion (there were so many aspects of Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisine) and the loud, crowded, casual bar atmosphere, then definitely try to go here when you are in NYC. Tip: go early!