Thursday, April 17, 2008

Momofuku: I Wouldn't Wait For This!

We on the Upper West Side have been hearing about Momofuku Noodle Bar for some time. Located at 171 1st Ave, NYC, 10003, it is difficult to get to and they don't take reservations. So, after an excellent afternoon hanging out with the lovely wife on my Vespa, we parked in front and headed in at the early bird special hour of about 6 PM. No problem getting a seat then!

Momofuku is a small space with a noodle bar and several long tables with multiple tightly packed stools set around them. If it was crowded, you would clearly know much about the business of the people sitting next to you: you could also identify their cologne and whether they bathed recently.

The restaurant specializes in ramen; which most of us think as something you buy 3 for a dollar in Chinatown but the Japanese take quite seriously. There are also a tremendous number of pork dishes, and the pedigree of the meat is proudly listed on the menu. Vegetarians are "welcome" but only in that "if we don't invite you we could get in trouble" kind of way.

We had several dishes. The steamed pork buns, which are served in Peking Duck pancakes are good. The best dish we had was a grilled octopus salad, which had many distinct flavors and lots of excellent tasting whole baby octopus. This is in contrast to most of the other dishes, which were expensive and tiny. The prawns with grits (pictured) contained only two medium sized prawns, which were greasy. The grits were a little too crunchy. It tasted good, but not great. The ramen was fine, but for $16, it still tasted like a bowl of ramen with two types of pork thrown into it.

Momofuku was a fine experience, but one I wouldn't repeat quickly. When we were done, it cost as much as decent sushi, and I still felt like I needed a snack. In fact, when I didn't have one, I think a lost a bit of weight. If it was crowded, I would imagine it would be unbearable. Unless you really wanted to know what that stranger was thinking. Or smelled like.

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