A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from one of my fellow Chowhound'ers, asking if I'd be interested in attending a group lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar for their Fried Chicken Dinner. "Hell yah," I responded.
Look, I don't care where you grew up or where you currently reside - but if you claim to have even a remote interest in food - then you've definitely heard the of the Momofuku chain and/or its chef/owner, David Chang. Some will argue that it was Momofuku's pork buns that put pork-belly on the map. Love him/his concept or hate him/his concept, but it's suffice to say that the "Chang Dynasty" is here to stay.
While I've been to Momofuku Ssam Bar - and frequent Momofuku Milk Bar (Birthday-Cake Truffle Balls! Compost Cookie! Soft Serve!) more times than I'd like to admit - I had never been to Chang's baby, Momofuku Noodle Bar, prior to this occasion.
Our lunch reservation was for 2pm and, to my amazement, every single person was on-time! Since the restaurant doesn't take reservations outside of the Fried Chicken Dinner, the eight of us were seated immediately.
*Note: The menu stated that the $100 Fried Chicken Dinner would feed between 4-8 people. James, who organized the luncheon, informed each of us to bring $20 in cash for our individual contribution to the meal. Additionally, he hoped that this amount would also cover tax, tip, and any extra appetizer(s).
Since the Fried Chicken Dinner did not include appetizers, the table decided to start with a couple of orders of steamed pork buns, steamed shitake buns, and roasted rice cakes.
Steamed shitake bun: slices of meaty shitake mushrooms and crispy cucumbers were enveloped by a pillowy-soft, steamed bun that was too-conservatively dotted with hoisin sauce. To make up for it, I added a liberal shower of sriracha.
Roasted rice cakes: this dish reminded me of a Korean play on gnocchi...only spicier, crispier, more gelatinous, and topped/tossed with much less sauce. Tubular "rice cakes," about 1" in height, were roasted (I'm thinking pan-roasted/fried), and then tossed in some sort of spicy sauce which, very well could have been sriracha - and then dusted with white sesame seeds and chopped green onion.
And finally, the moment that we all had been eagerly anticipating...
Fried Chicken Dinner: this photograph (attached to this article) kind of reminds me of driving across the state of Texas. There you are, cruising down the highway, heading West on your way out of Austin and the Hill Country. You can't help but notice the rolling hills, abundance of trees, flowers, and clear blue sky. Then, out of nowhere, you find yourself on flat land that's surrounded by nothing but sparse vegetation (if you can even call it that) and, if you're lucky, a wind turbine or two. What just happened!?!
That's how I feel about the picture above: from the bottom up, there's a lovely mass of golden, fried chicken (Southern-style buttermilk, leading to Korean-style) which leads to...screeeeeeeeeech...a basket of vegetables!?!?!? What the hell is that all about?
No biscuits? No butter-laden side dish?
And get this, aside from some savory pancakes used for burrito-making purposes, the vegetables were the only accoutrement. Will someone PLEASE tell me what I'm going to do with a carrot stick and a radish? Oh, and a mint sprig?
Fried chicken: look, I may be from the South, but I don't know the first thing about fried chicken. My mom used to order it for me at restaurants when I was younger, and my father used to bring it home for Sunday night dinners. They may have put a drumstick on my plate, but I was the kid who typically ate all of the accompaniments - everything but the fried chicken. Things have since changed, but not astronomically - at least not until I ate the fried chicken at this particular luncheon. Call it my "when in Rome" moment, but I found both of Momofuku's versions - Southern and Korean styles - to be equally moist, juicy, meaty, flavorful, crunchy, spicy, and every other sexy adjective under the sun. I actually had two pieces of each!
Of the four sauces that came to accompany the chicken, I found that the hoisin was the most compatible with the meat. Also, I preferred to eat the chicken sans savory pancake, as it was slightly too thick, making each burrito-style bite difficult to swallow.
Conclusion: I would wholeheartedly say that Momofuku's Fried Chicken Dinner is a great deal for anyone looking to organize a delicious, unique, and affordable group meal.
Read it & eat,
The Lunch Belle