The best ramen ever. I actually was sort of not expecting it. Sure, I was in New York – and its cradle of hoity toity trendy eats. On a recommendation, heard Momofuku Noodle Bar was a worthwhile place to check out for the best in noodle dishes and trendy pan-Asian. As someone who has an unreasonable love of Shin Ramyun, high end noodle joint was decidedly up my alley.
So we get there on a chilly Saturday, over on East 11th and 1st in the East Village. When one encounters the place, it definitely looks chic – it also looked very very narrow and crowded. The waitstaff ushered us to two stools at the bar where we see the noodles being prepared. The tables are your basic unfinished wood – something you might find in IKEA furniture, but the view of the open kitchen is a neat plus, and sort of a throwback diner meets sushi bar sort of ambiance mashup. I decided to try their three course prix fix (for a mere $20, which feels like stealing in New York), while my companion orders the house Ramen.
My meal started with a very useful amuse bouche of a Granny Smith apple topping a little foie gras. After the start came my appetizer, a fried oyster bun. Here some fried oyster is nestled in a steamed bun (in the Chinese steamed bun tradition), with spicy mayo and bib lettuce and some pickled cucumbler. The texture and flavor combination is wonderful – even evoking some of the lemony crispiness you get from a good fish and chips. The main course for me was a room temperature Korean noodle interpretation. I don’t want to guess at a pronunciation because I’d get it wrong and it’s not on the restaurant’s menu site anymore as this was the lunch of the day. However they were noodles in a spicy kimchee-like sauce with nori and a salmon marinated egg, the effect of an almost hard boiled egg with a tasty gelatinous yolk texture. The flavor of the egg was delicious and while soy salty, created some depth and softness to go with the spicy noodles. I was pleased.
Of course I was not as pleased as my companion who ordered the house Ramen. The Ramen was flavored with pork belly and pork shoulder, and the aroma just oozed from the broth. The noodles were cooked perfectly of course, with the scallion and poached egg. But the broth took it to another level. The pork belly, of course where bacon comes from, was perfectly cooked with enough fattiness to course throughout the soup – it is hard to do justice to the broth and the according soup without wanting to bang my head on the table from realizing that I am not in New York anymore.
Finally – for desert came the candy cane and mocha twist milk bar softserve. A small portion of creamy icy heaven – a nice capper to an excellent meal. At $50 for two people (no, we didn’t buy alcohol) – a pretty solid price by Manhattan’s ghastly standard. I need some broth!