Yesterday afternoon I fell over in the street. It was a bit of a shock because falling over is something you tend to do as a child, and so when you have a tumble as an adult it is amazing just how far you have to fall. I was ok (more importantly, my iPhone, which also fell to the ground, was ok), but I felt like I needed a little something to cheer me up, so my friend Matt and I decided to go to the Momofuku Noodle Bar on 1st Ave. The Noodle Bar is, as I have mentioned before, one of my favourite restaurants in the city and even though they have only a few vegetarian items on the menu, the best of which I am now able to cook myself, I am never disappointed there.
We started with the shiitake steamed buns (which, for vegetarians, I think you need to ask for not cooked in pork stock, though I might be wrong). One thing I will say for David Chang’s food is that it is never without flavour – the shiitake mushrooms were wonderfully rich and salty to the point of almost having been too strongly seasoned if the taste hadn’t been cut by the soft bun they were in and the sweetness of the pickled cucumber. When you had everything in combination it was rich, delicious, and pleasantly easy to eat (you could tackle it like a sandwich).
We then shared the amazing Ginger Scallion Noodles. I was glad to come back to have the original version as it reminded me that it is still better than that which I make at home. For starters, the noodles come with this large square of seaweed paper which, for some strange reason, is my favourite part of the meal. (It just has such an interesting texture, and really compliments the soft moistness of the other ingredients.) Furthermore, while the home version has toasted cauliflower (which is, I must admit, really delicious), the version we has last night had pickled shiitakes and menma (which is made from fermented bamboo shoots – something I definitely have to pick up next time I am in Chinatown) which was a delicious and, once again, highly flavourful deviation. There are few meals I enjoy quite so much.
Next, we moved on to roasted corn with miso butter, fingerling potatoes, scallions. (Once again, it is worth checking about any pork content just to be on the safe side – I do remember it was in one of the meals that wasn’t immediately obvious). As soon as he had had his first mouthful, Matt stated that it was the best corn he had ever had. I don’t know if I would go that far, but it was very good. My one gripe would have been that it contained brown sugar that was just a little overpowering in flavour (though maybe on this particular evening I was just a little sensitive to strong tastes).
The desert selection is minimal, coming from another one of David Chang’s ventures, the Momofuku Milk Bar, and I must say that there is something that strikes me as disappointingly American-conventional about the Milk Bar (an emphasis on things like ‘cereal milk’ and ‘cookie dough’ which on the whole fail to excite my sweet tooth). However, I can’t say that they don’t taste good. We had chocolate chip cake truffles, which were pretty amazing. They had the texture of marzipan, which I liked, though reminded me slightly of cookie dough, which I liked less.
Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 1st Avenue (between E10th and E11th Street).