My first impression of Momofuku at Center City: wow, this is a huge (yuuuge) restaurant.
I entered the main door, turned right for Momofuku, (left for Milk Bar but more on that later) and found myself standing in a large industrial space with standing counters, sitting counters along an open kitchen and a bar-type space, clusters of lower tables and tables nestled against the wall. Lots of tables. Lots of people. Full on a Monday evening at 8.
For drinks, I tried the penicillin – a zingy version that tasted more like ginger lemonade with a smooth scotch aftertaste, so a good start. As dinner progressed, I migrated to a peppery Crozes-Hermitage, good with the rich, pork-based dishes.
After we’d perused the menu over drinks, our server came by and asked if we were familiar with the menu, and while we had read about it, we hadn’t actually been to Momofuku before. So no.
She proceeded to go through each section of the menu to explain and point out crowd favorites. While it was a bit overkill, it was also her enthusiasm for the pepper egg that prompted us to order the dish. Which we would have otherwise overlooked.
We ended up grazing through the offerings, starting with the sweet and sour jerky which came in a paper wrapper to keep the sticky spices somewhat segregated. G then had the pepper egg. I just had the pepper, which was lightly pickled and had a nice delayed heat. At this point, G announced that he could no longer feel his lips.
Next was the sea bass, a seasonal special. It was actually a crudo in a light yuzu sauce, topped by paper thin slices of apples. Incredibly refreshing. A nice palate cleanser. Probably pretty effective at counteracting the heat of the pepper on the pepper egg, too.
The pork buns, a crowd favorite, were as advertised. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness. It was odd, actually, seeing the slices of pork belly, fat and all, expecting an overwhelming fat taste, and instead biting into silky pork flavor. The pieces were flavorful and tender, blending nicely with the sauce and fresh, pillowy, warm buns. David Chang definitely knows his pork.
The table next to us had the brisket buns, which also looked delicious. And I had been intrigued by the shiitake buns. But the pork was so good, I’m going to have a tough time not ordering it again next time.
We wanted to give some of the vegetables a try, so we ordered the roasted brussels sprouts which were tossed in a chili vinaigrette. Also good, although getting a bit soggy as we were finishing them up.
Then the main attraction, the ramen. I went with the classic Momofuku ramen with pork belly (again, so tender and soft, with no fatty taste), ordering my poached egg on the side. I dug into what I thought was a crunchy topping of some sort. But it turned out to be shredded pork shoulder. Absolutely delicious.The ramen noodles were springy and held the flavors of the broth, as well as the pork.
G’s beef noodle soup had a similar preparation of shredded beef – brisket? shoulder? along side slices of nearly rare beef. His noodles looked a little different from mine. He offered to let me taste a bite, but I was too busy devouring mine. While I wasn’t looking, G slid my poached egg into his broth …
And noodle soup was perfect for the cold, rainy weather. The scent of rich broth and savory seaweed seemed to fill the air between us. I felt warmed up and happy. Probably quite full from all the dishes we ordered, too.
What I loved: the casual vibe, the music. You could be in a DVF silk knit dress with an open back, as one young woman, or just in jeans and a t-shirt as several hipsters. You can get a drink and a bowl of ramen, spend exactly $99 like the couple sitting next to us, or graze through the menu like we did. However you want to experience Momofuku, you can.