For a foodie, a noodle bar is kind of like nirvana in a bowl…or many bowls. Sadly, our little berg of Roanoke does not have one, so of course when I visited New York, it was one of my must destinations. Momofuku, a smallish family-style noodle bar offered up a life-changing noodle experience on a cold, blustery night while on vacation. The restaurant had come with high acclaim from a fellow noodle enthusiast and she was dead-on!
There was a wait when we arrived and it was a Monday so plan accordingly if you are visiting. The vibe is lively and hip. The tables are a rustic pine and run along the restaurant to allot for family-style dining. This appeals to me; I love turning to the stranger next to you and finding out they just flew in from London or just finished a tour in Afghanistan or were in town for a particular show. New York is filled with stories and places like Momofuku bring them to the surface for everybody to share. Service came quickly and we ordered up a ginger beer for my daughter, a Brooklyn brew for my husband and some saki for me, as well as the tempting rice cakes appetizer on special and the grilled octopus from the menu. Cara Cara orange coulis, how could I resist?
The server returned with our drinks and we placed our dinner order: momofuku ramen and chicken ramen. They had buns on the menu too that looked delicious, but we were all in for noodles. As our server was leaving the table, the appetizers arrived. The rice cakes were piled high with braised brisket and the grilled octopus had a beautiful char to accompany its vibrant orange coulis. I have to say, these were some of the best appetizers I have ever put in my mouth. The octopus was tender and succulent, not tough in any places. It was complemented with a scallion kimchi that woke up the taste buds. The rice cakes were crispy against the tender brisket. I was excited for what dinner held in store for us.
The chicken ramen and momofuku ramen arrived in no time. The steam was rolling out of the bowls and the aroma was intoxicating. I started with the chicken- spooning a generous portion into my bowl, making sure to get some of the swiss chard and soy egg. The chicken was smoky and juicy; it melted in my mouth. The noodles were perfect and dressed with a smokey broth that mirrored the flavor of the chicken. I went in for some momofuku and it was equally delicious. Hunks of pork shoulder delicately fell apart at the touch of the fork, pork belly was silken in the broth and the cilantro added a nice freshness to the broth.
Even though we had sampled hedonistically of the menu, we decided dessert was a must since the reputation of Momofuku’s Milk Bar preceded it. We ordered the chocolate cake and the beet/lime swirled ice cream. I know, I know, beet ice cream, but I was feeling adventurous. The chocolate cake was not what I expected. It was like we had left the comfort of noodle bowls and entered a laboratory. The cake was prepared with molecular gastronomy and everything on the plate from hazelnuts to blood orange was like little pieces of powder, dust and frozen balls. Not what I was looking for. The ice cream was interesting with the lime and beet flavors, but probably not something I would repeat. It felt like the dessert was not a part of the same meal we had experienced throughout the night.
All told, the noodles were ridiculously good and made up for the dessert and let’s face it, I could have skipped dessert. My lingering memory of the succulent octopus and smokey chicken erase any dessert disappointment. This place makes me fervently wish for a noodle bar to set up shop in Roanoke. Until then, I will dream of Momofuku‘s homey noodles floating in those delectable broths and the conversations forged across family-style tables.