Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mmmm, Fatty Pork Belly

163 1st Ave # 2
(between 10th St & 11th St)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 475-7899

- submitted by Senior AllTasteSame Correspondent Lily C

4 out of 5 grains of rice

Ok. I know this place has been much reviewed and revered by asian foodies in NYC but I am not a totally Janie come lately. I did a preliminary recon session early last year. And, I have to say the quality has not diminished. This place serves some damn good food.

What other noodle bar does fresh, seasonal ingredients smashed up with Japanese and Korean flavors? For my August 2007 session, I showed up right before closing time 10:45ish on a Friday nite and had to only wait 5 mins for a seating for 3. Not bad. I guess the excitement has died down since the all the NYT hype. This time we got seats right in front of the grill so we could see David Chang in action.

1st course – heirloom tomato salad ($12). Picture a mound of perfectly ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes (natural sugar bombs) dressed with a light asian vinaigrette over three discs of soft white tofu topped with a chiffonade of shiso. August is the height tomato season and this salad took full advantage.

While we were waiting for the next dish, we saw the chef make a shrimp + corn salad. Fresh corn kernels sautéed with miso butter and pork bits topped with grilled shrimp. It looked amazing but couldn’t possibly fit in our stomachs with upcoming courses.

Also saw the rice cakes being made. Circular tubes of Korean rice disks (dduk) fried on grill and then cut into 2 inch pieces and served with chili sauce. It looked really really tasty.

2nd course – much heralded signature pork buns ($9). Momofuku uses berkshire pork (aka kurobuta). Fatty pork belly broiled to juicy perfection inside a fluffy white bao brushed with hoison sauce and accompanied with a slice of pickled cucumber + scallion. Its kinda of like charsiu bao deconstructed with much higher quality meat.

3rd course – shredded pork ramen ($12). You know you can really tell the difference when ramen is made by hand. The noodles were al dente and chewy. So yummy. The broth had a great pork flavor. The ramen was topped with a heaping spoonful each of shredded melt in your mouth pork shoulder, bright green peas, marinated bamboo shoots, and green onions. I loved every last drop but am somewhat ramen deprived since I live in DC.

The big difference for me between momofuku and other ramen shops is the quality of the ingredients. You can definitely get cheaper, more traditional ramen at many other places, but you won’t get a bowl of ramen where everything is local and fresh and just so good. That is certainly worth $12.