Warning: I was tending two giggling thirteen year olds who think that the mall is cooler than Greenwich Village, so this was a meal that I was not able to enjoy at my leisure.
After the girls decided that there were no restaurants in the West Village worthy of their presence, I had a moment of inspiration and dragged them east to Momofuku, one of the better known noodle bars in New York. It’s easy to get to, and hard to find. No sign, just a small crowd outside the restaurant, patiently waiting for a seat at the bar. If you go, try to get a seat that allows you a view of the cooks. They are quite relaxed, almost lazy looking, but pump out an amazing quantity of food very quickly. I watched one cook, a cute young woman who seemed to be in charge of the heirloom grape tomato salad. As each order came, she would dress the tomatoes and then taste one to make sure that it was up to her standards. Then (and I loved this) she would chiffonade some shiso and decorate the top of the salad. She also tended the huge stock pot in the corner. And I mean huge! 60 gallons? 80 gallons? Oh, and she was an egg-poaching madwoman!
I had a half dozen Barron Point oysters garnished with some minced summer melon to start. I asked the waiter if melon went well with oyster, and his face lighted up in a big smile. He said that the sweetness of the melon cuts the briny-ness of the oysters. I asked for half with and half without, but since he was absolutely correct about the melon, I felt like a bit of a knucklehead. A weird but fantastic combination.
I moved on to the signature dish of the place, a bowl of Momofuku Ramen. If you are afraid of pork fat, do not try this dish. Big slices of Berkshire pork belly on one side, and shredded pork shoulder on the other. And I think I detected some smoke in that pork. In the middle? A lightly poached egg on top of a generous portion of nicely cooked ramen noodles. It was rounded off with some sweet peas and something that must be bamboo shoots but better. Maybe they were pickled, but whatever they were, they tasted great. There was some green onion in there too that added a nice texture. I am probably missing something, but I will definitely go back to check.
The girls had the chicken ramen, and that was very good as well, but I just couldn’t resist the pork fat. I had a Hitachino Classic Ale with the ramen, and was not impressed. Maybe the Japanese should stick to cooking and building cars, and leave the beer-making to others.
This is serious fast food. Excellent ingredients, well prepared and carefully and artfully presented. Even the waiter knew what he was doing. And fresh chiffonade for each salad? You can’t beat that!