Momofuku Noodle Bar 2.0 [BETA]
It's pretty much our favorite restaurant in town, so of course my noodle-head daughters and I had to check out the spanking-new, upgraded and expanded Momofuku 2.0 as soon as possible. Which, in this case, meant last night, less than a week after the grand opening.
The new space is handsomely designed by Swee Phuah, all light wood and minimalism; the 55 seats—up from 27, and including two bars and a bunch of communal tables—are jammed in tight; the place was packed and Led Zeppelin-blasting loud even at 6:20 when we showed, though we did get seated right away. In other words, nothing's changed in the land of the 'Fuku.
Or has it? I've have double-digit delicious meals courtesy of David Chang and Co., so I'm going to give them the BETA benefit of the doubt, but I must say that, until the kitchen gets adjusted to the volume of orders, and what must have been a substantial number of new hires added to the line get their feet a little wetter, a Momo-newbie might wonder what all the fuss is about.
Take one of our favorite starters, for example, the great Anson Mills Yellow Grits & Gulf Shrimp. At first it all seemed like the usual heaven: the grits creamy and rich; the bacon the best you'll ever eat anytime, anywhere; the poached egg perfect; the five fat grilled shrimp... totally without taste??? Seriously, it's strange enough to eat food as flavorless as these shrimp even in sub-par places, but at Momofuku, where bracing, uncompromising flavors are practically a religion, it was pretty shocking.
Also arriving as a First was a heaping funnel of Fried Veal Sweetbreads, which were wonderfully moist and tender but, again, oddly lacking punch, though the accompanying bowl of excellent chili sauce—the balance between sweet and heat exactly right—more than made up for any timidity in the batter. Even Chang's classic Pork Steamed Buns were a little off... not that Bo and Co didn't devour them in seconds, but the ratio of fat to meat was a slightly disconcerting, oh, let's say 75 - 25, especially since it was by no means cooked to a crisp.
We've never been able to resist the Ramen, and this night was no exception. Bo and Co split a serving of the standard Shredded Pork, and happily slurped their way to the bottom. I strayed from my usual Momofuku Ramen, simplifying instead with the Pork Neck, and was somewhat dismayed to find the meat a little dry, the broth a little too greasy, and, most surprising, a tangle of egg noodles in my bowl (and starchy ones at that). Apparently the Pork Neck Ramen is always served this way (instead of, you know, with ramen), so next time I'm sticking with the familiar.
As you can tell from our meal, the menu at the new Momofuku is pretty much the same as it was half a block down the street... except for the extremely welcome addition of Cousin Leroy & Arlo's Soft-Serve Ice Cream! The only flavor available on Saturday was Cream Cheese, and it was superb: tangy, rich, totally addictive, and twirled atop a sweet, crispy cone that came with an unusual surprise in its tip.
Momofuku Noodle Bar 2.0 is located on First Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets, about four doors up from the former, smaller, Momofuku Noodle Bar, which will soon be the tasting-menu-only Momofuku Ko. There are no reservations accepted, though there's now a fairly large standing-room area set aside up front in which to wait. Despite my nit-picking above, I would eat there again right this second if I could.