As people who grew up in Hawaii and in Asian households, ramen has always been cheap comfort food for us. We’ve experienced ramen in two forms: the 50 cent instant packaged type or through one of dozens of hole-in-the-wall spots on the island. Both equally delicious and addictive. However, the former comes laden with nasty preservatives, and both with a criminal amount of sodium, which is why we rarely eat ramen anymore. But we decided to revisit our old comfort food to try the much touted David Chang ramens at momofuko noodle bar just to see what all the hype was about. Are people just blind momofuko brand followers or are his ramens really that good? We had to taste for ourselves. (Grainy, terrible iPhone photos to follow).
We went at 8:30 pm on a week night and there was a crowd waiting outside. Don’t people who live in New York eat at home on a work night? Apparently not. If a restaurant is popular in New York, it’ll be crowded on a Tuesday night as it is on a Friday night. But even with the small space and the crowd of people, the wait wasn’t too bad. I think we waited 45 minutes. We ordered one ramen each – his cold, mine hot – off the always changing menu, and we split one kimchi tamale. Oh man, they were all good. The kimchi pork tamale was just wow wow wow – juicy, tender, not too spicy. The best tamale ever. And the flavors of the ramen broth were unlike any we’ve ever had before. All along we’d been eating overly salty, overly flavored ramen in Hawaii so we didn’t realize ramen could taste so good without it all hidden underneath a messy, heavy-handed broth of sodium, soy sauce, and miso. The momofuko ramen broths were airy, refreshing, complex and delicately flavored, the vegetables, mushrooms, and meat tasted fresh, and the noodles were perfectly springy. No question the best ramens we’ve ever tasted in our lives, better than in Hawaii, better than in Japan, better than in Korea. The cold ramen pictured here.
I once read an interview in which David Chang said he didn’t get what all these “farm to table” restaurants were all about because he argued, and I’m paraphrasing here, “shouldn’t all restaurants just be using the best, fresh ingredients anyways?” We loved that on the wall, momofuko listed the New York and New Jersey farms they sourced many of their ingredients from.
The restaurant is small, the decor is just straightforward/plain/minimal, the space is crowded, the seating is communal, but who cares, right? I mean, when the food tastes that good, you can serve food out of a cardboard box on the side of the street and people will come. So, we tried it, now we understand the hype. Actually, it’s not hype. The food is just that good. David Chang was able to elevate something so basic and simple like ramen to another level that we couldn’t have imagined possible. Next time we have ramen again (since we’ve returned to our healthy eating habits in Seattle) will be at momofuko noodle bar.