Two whole fried chickens - one prepared Southern-style with buttermilk and Old Bay; the other done Korean-style, triple fried and served with a spicy glaze. This, my friends, is the Momofuku fried chicken platter - no cutlery required.
There was only one restaurant booking I made ahead of our recent USA trip, and that was for Momofuku fried chicken. When this was first added to the menu at Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2009, everyone wanted in on the chicken. The chicken has to be ordered in advance via their online booking system, and securing a reservation was like winning the lottery.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
I made our reservation for 2pm on a weekday, and when we arrive we find the place is still busy but not full. The frontage to Momofuku Noodle Bar is deliberately inconspicuous. No flashy signage or decor - just the Momofuku logo on the glass entry door.
Stools at the counter
Stool seating runs the length of the room, starting at the bar area and finishing right opposite the pans in the kitchen. Heads are buried deep into ramen bowls but there's nary a slurp to be heard above the din of chatter.
Yuzu Palmer and grape slushies US$10
We'd been warned to arrive promptly. The fried chicken is dispatched from the kitchen no later than fifteen minutes after your booking. Yuzu and grape slushies keep us occupied while we wait - they're deliciously cold and refreshing on a hot day, with fine ice crystals and an alcoholic kick.
Momofuku fried chicken US$125
Two whole fried chickens, mu shu pancakes, salad and herb basket and four sauces
It's hard not to squeal with excitement when the chicken finally arrives at the table, an entourage of mu shu pancakes, salad basket and four kinds of sauces that act as bodyguards for the main attraction - a platter piled high with deep fried chicken.
Southern-style fried buttermilk chicken and Korean triple fried spicy chicken
It's an avalanche of poultry. On one side is the Southern-style buttermilk chicken, seasoned with Old Bay spices and deep-fried to a deep brown hue.
On the other side is the Korean triple fried spicy chicken, smothered in a fiery kochujang sauce that will leave your lips burning.
Baby carrots, radishes, bib lettuce and herbs
Our herb basket is missing the long spicy peppers and shiso leaves promised in the marketing blurb, but there's an abundance of soft bib lettuce, radishes, peeled baby carrots, mint leaves and Thai basil.
Momofuku fried chicken lettuce wrap with ginger shallot sauce
The idea is to wrap chunks of chicken in either the lettuce or mu shu pancakes, add herbs and salad and dip in your choice of sauce. I preferred the lettuce over the mu shu - which seemed a little too dense and heavy as a carrier for fried chicken - and the radish and mint provided welcomed relief when the going started to get tough.
Some of the chicken pieces were dry - especially the Southern-style breast pieces - and the batter wasn't as crunchy as I thought it would be, but a splodge of ginger shallot sauce easily fixed that, and our salad bowl was happily refilled (unasked) when it neared depletion.
The Momofuku fried chicken is recommended to be shared between four to eight people. We were a party of five and still couldn't finish it all. A party of six would have knocked it over easily.
Momofuku Bar table seating
With two fried chickens on the menu, we couldn't fit in any of David Chang's famous pork buns so we find ourselves returning that very same day for dinner. By night, the place feels completely different, humming with New Yorkers and overflowing with diners waiting for a table. We have to wait half an hour for a table, tacked onto the end of a table with strangers.
Momofuku pork buns US$9 for two
The pork buns are served in orders of two, also available with shrimp, shiitake or brisket. We stick with the original pork and are rewarded with two hefty slabs of pork belly, so fatty and soft your teeth sink through the flesh like butter. A slick of hoisin sauce adds sweetness, there's pickled cucumber for crunch, and the steamed buns are as soft as a pillow.
There's twice as much pork here as the one in Sydney's Momofuku Seiobo, with the fattylicious pork stacked two storeys high.
Roasted rice cakes US$10
The roasted rice cakes are right up my starch-loving alley, little chunks of dduk Korean rice cake that taste like they've been deep-fried until slightly crispy and then coated in a gochujang chilli sauce and littered with sesame seeds and shallots. There's a slight resistance as you crunch through the thin outer shell before you hit the chewy rice cake middle. So good they're spine-tingling.
Momofuku ramen US$16
The longest wait is for the Momofuku ramen. The stock is hearty, the noodles are chewy, but the highlight is the pork - a slab of tender pork belly and a hunk of pork shoulder that falls apart into soft shreds.
Poached egg yolk innards in the Momofuku ramen
Momofuku Ssam Bar
A couple of days later we're pounding the pavement in search of dinner when we look up and realise we're standing right outside Momofuku Ssam Bar. It only takes a sideways glance at each other before we laugh and hustle ourselves inside.
It feels more like a bar in here, with dim lighting, casually dressed waitstaff and a row of diners seated along a counter. Momofuku Ssam Bar is presently listed at number 86 in the 2013 World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
East Beach blonde oysters with ramp mignonette US$3 each
The East Beach blonde oysters feature on the raw section of the menu - not as briny as Sydney Rocks - served on a bed of ice with a ramp mignonette.
Grilled asparagus, chawanmushi, pickled tomato and sesame US$13
Grilled asparagus is grilled until just tender, served with strips of chawanmushi that are more like a soft omelette than the wobbly egg custard we're expecting.
Santa Barbara uni with meyer lemon, onigiri and nori US$18
I choose the Santa Barbara uni, and it's a visually arresting dish once you notice the transparent jelly sheath over the top. Breaking through the jelly feels like you're entering another world. It's an eye-opening combination of thinly shaved slippery sweet scallop, tangy lemon gelee, nori flakes and buttery bursts of creamy uni sea urchin roe. Bliss.
Momofuku pork belly steamed buns US$10 for two
We all order another round of Momofuku pork buns, unable to resist its fatty seductiveness.
Momofuku BBQ pork belly bun US$6
Suze also tries the barbecue pork belly bun, grilled so there's a caramelised char on the surface. It's still tender and soft, but much sweeter in flavour, sandwiched with a sweet coleslaw. The consensus is we prefer the simplicity of the steamed pork bun that celebrates pork fat and bun.
Big bbq pork bun with its steamed pork bun little brother
Momofuku Milk Bar
There are five Momofuku Milk Bars scattered around New York each serving a different soft serve variation. All of them serve the classic cereal milk soft serve.
Momofuku Milk Bar menu
It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the choices on the menu, each imploring you to jack up your sugar with carefree abandon.
Momofuku cereal milk soft serve US$4.50 with crunch topping US$0.75
The Momofuku cereal milk soft serve is mandatory, snaking curls of soft serve that are piped perilously high in the paper cup. The soft serve is made from milk infused with the flavour from cornflakes, and it really is quite a bizarre sensation to be eating ice cream that tastes just like a childhood breakfast cereal. It's malt and corn and sugar and milk in a frozen mind-altering experience.
The crunch topping is amazing too, sweet and crumbly like a cornflake praline.
Momofuku crack pie US$5.25
There are compost cookies for takeaway, but we attack the Momofuku crack pie in the shop. I'd eaten a homemade version of this before so had an idea of what to expect, but its intense sweetness will still make you raise your eyebrows in shock. Essentially it's an orgy of sugar, butter, egg yolks and cream. The buttery short pastry is impressive but the slightly sticky crust across the top is the best part!
Momofuku Milk Bar East Village
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Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 First Avenue (btwn 10th and 11th Streets), New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 777 7773
Monday to Friday 12pm - 4.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 12pm - 4pm
Sunday to Thursday 5.30pm - 11pm
Friday and Saturday 5.30pm - 2am
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Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Avenue at 13th Street, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 254 3500
Monday to Sunday 11.30am - 3.30pm
Sunday to Thursday 5pm - 12 midnight
Friday and Saturday 5pm - 1am
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Momofuku Milk Bar - East Village
251 East 13th Street, New York City, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (347) 577 9504 ext 4
Open 7 days 9am - 12 midnight
Momofuku Milk Bars also open at:
Milk Bar Midtown
15 West 56th Street, NYC
Open 7 days 8am - 11pm
Milk Bar Upper West Side
561 Columbus Avenue, at 87th Street, NYC
Open 7 days 9am - 11pm
Milk Bar Williamsburg
382 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemeyer, Brooklyn
Open 7 days 9am - 11pm (Thu - Sun til midnight)
Milk Bar Carroll Garden
360 Smith Street, Brooklyn
Open 7 days 7am - 10pm
>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Jewish food tour of New York
<< Read the first USA 2013 post: Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC
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9/02/2013 01:17:00 a.m.