If you are a foodie, and I would imagine you are, you most likely have heard of the acclaimed PBS show The Mind of a Chef. If you have yet to watch this Foodographic program, you should immediately jump onto your hipster cable network, use whatever Netflix account you “borrow,” and commence what will become a serious binge watching session. This is not a Netflix and Chill show either, you are going to want to pay attention to it, so hands off, Handsy McPerv Pants, and watch, as you enter the Mind of a Chef.
The first season of this unique epicurean show follows, Chef David Chang, an American restaurateur, author, and promising television personality as he gallivants around the globe talking to other awe-inspiring Chefs about what goes on in their both food centric and eccentric minds. Chef Chang is known to most of us, as the brilliant mind behind the Momofuku Restaurant Group. (No I did not just call you a lover of someone else’s mother, that is an entirely different combination of the letters M and F.) After watching the complete first season of The Mind of a Chef, in a matter of few short days, I was craving Chef Chang’s ramen more than Lebron James yearns to be loved.
Luckily for me, I don’t live in one of the fly over states, sorry-not-sorry Kansas, so an epic plan was set in motion. The New York Mets happened to be in town last Friday, battling the Milwaukee Brewers and it was Free Shirt Friday to boot. So Kat, Alex, Steph, and I decided to not only visit Citi Field and root-root-root for the home team, but to hit up the Momofuku Noodle Bar afterwards for some late night Ramen with an added nightcap.
For those of you who care, The Mets won 3 to 2, thanks to a brilliant performance by Steven Matz and a clutch home run by Michael Conforto. If you want to know more about this game, check out uber Mets Fan Jim Breuer’s recap below. Seriously people, watch it, like it, and subscribe to it, he is terrific.
Sorry for the tangent, but I like Mets a lot, like almost as much as I like food and beer, and that my friends is saying something. Where was I, Oh yes!!! Momofuku! The Noodle Bar which opened its doors in 2004, was the first of now, many restaurants that make up the Momofuku Restaurant Group. For those of you that are keeping score, that is well before the recent ramen rage, making Chef David Chang the Ice-T or, Schoolly D for those of you in the know, of the NYC Ramen scene. You know, minus the illegal activity and mad fat beats, he is straight up OG… errrrrrrrr… OC…
Before we arrived at Momofuku, located at 171 1st Avenue, between 10th and 11th Street, New York, NY 10003, we stopped at a local bodega to grab a few pre-dinner IPAs because the wait for this awesome eatery can sometimes reach a sobering 1 hour mark. With our road sodas in hand, in paper bags of course, we are not animals, we approached this utopian Ramen Shangri-La and amongst the bustling noise of noodle slurping, kitchen clanging, and customers Instagramming, we placed our names in the queue. Luckily for our bellies the wait was only 30 minutes, which conversely was unlucky for our livers, which now had to process our, damn near 8 percent, IPAs much quicker than we anticipated.
As we sipped from our discreet vessels of hops, barley, yeast and water we perused the menu that the hostess was kind enough to provide when we checked in. Just when our bottles were empty and our bladders were full, our names were called and we took a seat at one of the shared wooden tables in the dining area.
We were greeted by our server, with a smile and menus. Three of us ordered another round of beers and one of us, the responsible one, ordered a Coke because she was driving. (Thanks by the way, because I was celebrating the Mets win and Ramen, so I was going to be in no condition to drive.) Next, we ordered our meal for the evening, and even though the menu is small, it was not an easy choice. In the end, we decided on the Beef Tartare and the Chicken Meatball Buns as appetizers, and 4 bowls of Ramen with a kicker of Kimchi for our entrees.
While we nursed our beers and conversed the anticipation of finally eating at a Chef Chang establishment slowly built. We were like a hot water heater on Mythbusters, the pressure was building with each and every minute. Fortunately, even though the place was crowded, the service was actually quite quick and our appetizers arrived in no time at all.
The first dish to make an appearance at our table was the Beef Tartare. For those of you that are not extremely well versed in the language of cookery, the word Tartare is usually synonymous with raw, and this was no exception. This particular dish featured finely diced high-quality raw beef, seasoned with brown butter and herbs, served with rice crackers. Alex and I are huge fans of Beef Tartare, which means that we are also pretty tough critics when it comes to eating it, but IMHO this dish was the real the deal. The beef was not overly salted, the texture was spot on, and the brown butter added just the right amount of nutty notes to the meat, without overpowering its rather delicate flavor that the raw form tends to have. Furthermore, when we added the tangy SSam sauce, which is placed on every table in the restaurant, this dish went from a 9 to a damn near 10.
While we were polishing off the Tartare, the Chicken Meatball Buns arrived. ***I failed to take a picture of this dish because I was in awe of the Tartare. Sue me! No wait don’t sue me, this is America, and you would probably win. The bun was the star of this dish because it was the perfect consistency and did not fall apart, as we split them in half. As a supporting cast the Chicken Meatball and the Paprika Mayo did just fine, no Oscar nominations, but a solid performance which elevated the leading role. The meatball itself was moist, which was nice, considering Chicken dries out if you look at it the wrong way. (Suck it moist haters! I find this word descriptive and I like using it. I find your hatred of this word to be offensive and linguistically racist!)
The moment of truth was almost here. A bowl of Chef David Chang’s Ramen was on the horizon and I could not wait to dive into it like Scrooge McDuck into a building full of gold coins. Every bowl that exited the kitchen distracted me from our ongoing conversation. I was like a freaking gold fish! As I followed the wait staff around the dining room with my eyes, one waitress scooped up two bowls of brothy goodness and headed directly for our table. I was giddy, I was happy, I was excited, I was scared. What if I didn’t like it? Would I be exiled from the foodie community for not loving Chef Chang’s bowl of accolades and awards?
The moment my Ramen hit the table all my anxiety disappeared like the Matt Harvey fans in 2016. (Don’t worry Matt, I still got your back! To hell with those fair weather fans!) For those non-baseball fans, they melted away like Frosty the Snowman, in the very-very short and ill-conceived film, Frosty Takes Hawaii. Just look at the gorgeous composition of that souptacular bowl of temptation. This bowl of Ramen could be the cover girl for the little known adult-themed food fetish magazine, known as Penthouse Forum: The Slutty Kitchen Edition.
I was in love at first slurp with this brilliant bowl of amazeballs. The broth was extremely flavorful with a hearty dose of pork, the slow poached egg was done to perfection, and the noodles…don’t even get me started on the noodles. I tried each element of this dish separately before going in for the kill and mixing it all together like a savage. I am not sure if that is proper Ramen etiquette but it felt like the right thing to do. The sum of all this dish’s parts coming together was tantamount to the combination of the five astronaut’s ships that created Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Just when I thought this meal could not get much better, I added a few dashes of the SSam sauce to the party and I was in Ramen Nirvana.
Since Kat is awesome or because I gave her the sad puppy dog face, or perhaps a combination of those things, she let me give her meal a whirl. She and Steph decided on the Hozon Ramen Bowl, which incorporated Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions. I was extremely surprised when I tasted the broth of the Hozon Ramen. It was not just the same broth that was ladled into my bowl, it was completely different, but equally as complex. Furthermore, as you can see from the picture above, it was also a stunning dish that was plated…errrrrr bowled, flawlessly.
Even though we were well-satiated, to say it lightly, we felt obligated to try at least one dessert to share while we were at Momofuku. This was a necessity because the desserts at Momofuku are provided by the always impressive Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk. We ordered the Birthday Cake Truffles because we were told they would be easier to split and to be honest how could those not be fantastic. These little Munchkin looking bastards make Dunkin’ Donut’s Munchkins taste like cardboard covered in sawdust. They were the perfect ending to our Momofuku experience!
In summation, get your arse to The Momofuku Noodle Bar immediately! No check that, faster than immediately! Go steal THE friggin’ DeLorean right now from Doc Brown and go yesterday. Don’t wait for a special occasion, make Momofuku THE special occasion and then hang out in the city until you can’t hang no more. Believe me this restaurant is worth the astronomical bridge and tunnel fares and the Kal-if-fee that will ensue while you attempt to find parking.