Ramen obsession. It's a real thing, and I suffer from it badly. The slightest thought of golden alkaline noodles swimming in hot, savory miso broth makes my mouth water. (It's watering RIGHT NOW.)
For the ramen obsessed, like me, Momofuku Noodle Bar is at the top of the list of ramen shops in the U.S. you must visit before you die. It's been on my personal restaurant bucket list for a long time, and I was reminded of it recently after Netflixing season one of PBS's "The Mind of a Chef" featuring David Chang. But on May 18, 2015, I was able to check Momofuku off my foodie bucket list! I finally had a chance to indulge in some of the best ramen in North America.
I was lucky to have a seat at the bar facing the open kitchen, and I seriously don't believe I've ever seen a group of chefs work so quickly and in harmony with each other. There was a woman who was in charge of the ramen noodles, and when the noodles were ready to come out of the boiling water, she would pull the strainers out and shake the noodles a couple of times -- violently. Then she would pour the hot noodles into the bowls, and another person would carefully pour the broth, and add the meat, veggies, narutomaki, poached eggs, and so on. And it was all plated (or "bowled") perfectly and uniformly and beautifully. The entire culinary team worked together with speed and in perfect harmony. It was truly a process to watch and admire.
So what did I order?
I decided to go with the classic Momofuku ramen for dinner, which had pork belly, shredded pork shoulder, and a poached egg in a rich miso broth. For the starter, I had the chicken meatball steamed buns (pictured below), which were f*cking HEAVENLY. The delicious chicken meatball was in a super soft, warm, fluffy bun along with jalapeno, shredded lettuce and paprika mayo. I added some of Chang's special Momfuku ssäm sauce to turn up the heat because I love spice. (I could probably cover all food with ssäm sauce now that I think about it.)
I'm usually chatty during dinner, but the moment the Momofuku ramen arrived in front of my face, I pulled my hair back and rolled up my sleeves and was completely silent from the first sip of broth to the last noodle slurp. I loved popping the poached egg with my chopsticks and swirling around the creamy yolk in the bowl, coating the noodles and pork. The shredded pork shoulder was so tender, the pork belly buttery, and the broth was incredibly rich -- but not salty. And yes, I added some ssäm sauce to ramen, too. But why wouldn't I when the bottle was right in front of me?
I finished almost all of the ramen. I didn't want to leave any noodles or broth behind, but the bowl was so big -- plus, I had eaten the chicken meatball buns and was drinking some Singapore Tiger lager -- that I just wasn't meant to be a part of the "clean plate/bowl club" this time. By the end of the meal my cheeks were red and my face was a little shiny from sweat. My belt had become too tight, and I was close to falling into a food coma. And I would have fallen into it had I ordered the citrus slushie and dessert I had eyed on the menu when I first was seated. Thankfully I was smart enough to pass when the waitress asked if there was anything else I wanted; but I WILL get that slushie next time. Yes, I'm already thinking about next time.
When I head back to Momofuku Noodle Bar, I want to try more of the buns (like the brisket one!) and some of the other "snack" foods on the menu, like the kimchi and rice cakes. I intend to slurp up a bowl of the spicy miso ramen, and I'd like to wash it all down with a cold, spicy lychee slushie. And some other time in the future, I'd also like to go to one of Momofuku's Milk Bar locations so I can put myself into a full-on food coma with their legendary Crack Pie®. (Foodie bucket list item #37: Get cracked out on Crack Pie®.) I'll make sure not to wear a belt next time.