OK, I know that New York is the city that never sleeps, and that New Yorkers pretty much go out seven nights a week, but I have to say I was really surprised (and somewhat impressed?) by the crowd at Momofuku Noodle Bar last night. As it was a Monday night, I assumed that delicious, tender buns and steamy, soothing bowls of ramen would be enjoyed in peace — but unfortunately I was let down on both ends.
On this particular Monday night, David Chang’s East Village location was packed. After we were seated at our crowded table and screamed our orders at our waitress, our food came out faster than we could think about it. Steamed pork buns provided the usual expected bites of tender, meaty pork belly paired with a thick Asian barbecue sauce and crunchy cucumber slices; shrimp buns were spread with a spicy mayo and blanketed around perfect fried patties of shrimp; and smoked chicken wings were sprinkled with pickled chiles and fresh scallions; and a big bowl of ramen came with smoked chicken, Swiss chard, and a poached egg.
Out of all of my experiences at Momofuku, this time the buns were among the driest I’ve had, but the shrimp patties were so good I would order them again. The chicken wings were repetitive, served in what I assumed was the same sauce as the pork buns, and the ramen bowl was disappointing. Split between three people, there weren’t enough ingredients to be divided among our bowls, and after trying hand-pulled noodles recently at another noodle bar in Las Vegas, I was thoroughly disappointed in the ones I had at Momofuku. I think they came out of a box. The broth was delicious but not nearly as spicy as I was expecting (seeing as it was listed as a Spicy Miso Soup on the menu).
All in all, the food experience was a little below par for me, and coupled with the packed house and screaming voices, I think I’ve learned to ask myself next time I decide to go out on a Monday night: how badly do I want those pork buns?