David Chang’s first restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar, which recently relocated to 1st Avenue in the East Village, has become a kind of beacon to others in redefining a more casual and relaxed approach to food. Eschewing the overly finessed and fussy approach of his forebears, Chang remains committed to showcasing technique and ingredients in each dish though without the inherent pretentiousness and price tag.
The space at Noodle Bar is dominated by a large blond timber communal table and counter where you can sit, eat and watch the chefs frantically go about their work in an open kitchen. The design is almost utilitarian in its simplicity and echoes the counter style ramen restaurants in Japan (where Chang trained for two years under master ramen chef Akio-san). Now run in partnership with Kevin Pemoulie, who coordinates the kitchen day to day, the service is sharp, perfunctory but still incredibly knowledgeable in its approach – an approach that served us well on the Monday night when we visited and experienced a forty minute wait for a table.
Momofuku Noodle Bar’s menu is definitely focussed around a number of key dishes that have become a hallmark of Chang’s approach. Chang’s pork buns – a melange of mantou bun, delightfully tender pork belly slices, hoi sin, slithers of cucumber and spring onions – are a definite favourite amongst diners. The noodle dishes are also a stand out, as you would expect, with his signature Momofuku ramen delivering on its promise of hearty and smoky pork broth (made from smoky bacon and pork bones) combined with perfectly al dente egg noodles and delightfully lascivious 60 degree cooked egg garnished on top.
Along with Ssäm Bar, Ko, Milk Bar and Má Pêche – Chang’s more upscale restaurant located in Midtown – there’s definitely a groundswell in acknowledgement that David Chang is at the vanguard of contemporary American food culture.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
Address: 171 1st Avenue, New York, NYC 10003
Open: 12:00-16:30 (Saturday and Sunday till 16:00) / 17:30-23:00 (Friday and Saturday till 02:00)
Tel: +1 (212) 777-7773
Copyright Leon Goh & SHIFT 2012