Momofuku Fried Chicken Dinner
Only Momofuku place I've been is Ma Peche and it was very much enjoyed. I have a few friends coming into the city in early March and I'm thinking about taking them to Noodle Bar for the fried chicken dinner. I have no idea what to expect and am wondering if it would be a good dinner idea for 5-6 guys, none of whom have ever been to Noodle Bar or any David Chang restaurant.
The FAQ on the website isn't entirely helpful in describing the food and am really curious what people's thoughts are on this meal. Help is greatly appreciated.
15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
OP, if you have no idea what to expect, let's put it simply: don't go for the ramen or the chicken (really), go for the pork buns and the foie gras. Here's my review of the place. For the full review, with pictures: http://restaurantbrat.com. Hope this helps.
For the most part, David Chang is a chef after my own heart – a foul-mouthed, headstrong cavalier who plants a firm kick in the nuts of the traditional culinary hierarchy and longstanding restaurateur norms. Just as I have extolled the virtues of the talented (and beautiful) Anne Hathaway to scores of eye-rolling non-believers from her admittedly cheesy Disney days all the way to her richly-deserved Oscar nomination, it’s always satisfying to follow the path of a chef from modest neighborhood staple to James Beard Award Winner. In Chang’s case, this rise to prominence was just a lot more sudden than anyone could have predicted. These days, he presides over a Manhattan empire that includes the original Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Momofuku Milk Bar, Má Pêche, and the two-Michelin Starred Momofuku Ko. While I have eaten at all of his restaurants on several occasions, the last time I had dined at the Noodle Bar was in 2008. Since then, a ramen revolution of sorts has gripped New Yorkers, and with the sheer influx of new options, I simply felt no urge to revisit this once trailblazing flagship.
Naturally, that all changed when Momofuku Noodle Bar introduced their Fried Chicken Dinner. Now, anyone who knows me recognizes that I have a crippling weakness for fried chicken – to the extent that my yet-to-be-defined answer to the time-honored Death Row Meal question would almost certainly include a 10-Piece Bucket in the list of contenders. On the surface, Chang’s idea sounded like a home run. The last of his set dinner ideas (a whole slow-roasted pork butt at the Ssäm Bar) was Momofuk’in amazing, and had accordingly been the toast of town. This time, he would serve up two whole birds, one deep-fried Southern Style and the other triple-fried with a spicy glaze Korean Style. Accompanied by an arsenal of dips and condiments, this was surely to be a decadent, artery-clogging feast. Or so it sounded.
We were seated promptly at a large table on uncomfortable stools, with no backrests to hang our outerwear and no coat check service at the front of house. A bit of an inconvenience, given snowflakes the size of small dogs were bludgeoning the pavement outside and we were padded in all sorts of unwieldy winter apparel. I ended up with my coat on my lap for the entire duration of dinner and through the evening my scarf fell to the floor as often as Cristiano Ronaldo. Right off the bat, we downed a round of Lychee and Yuzu Soju Slushies. They were glacial, tart and tangy; juxtaposition in a plastic cup, these frosty cocktails were icy like the arctic yet tasted of the tropics. Pity they barely contained any alcohol. The chicken dinner would not have been sufficient to feed our ravenous group of nine, and so a selection of small plates was ordered to tame our appetites before the main event.
A starter plate of Foie Gras Terrine with chickpeas and a candied tangerine was salty and creamy, the intensely pungent flavor of the luscious pâté balanced nicely with sharp, citric acidity from the orange. We tore into the dish, and it was gone in a matter of minutes, so we did what we had to: we ordered another foie gras dish, this time a lovely roasted lobe with almonds, mushrooms and sweet pear. A light brown sear wrapped the delicate liver, and the fragrant combination of musky and bitter flavors resulted in an aromatic, sensual detonation in my mouth. It’s exceedingly hard to go wrong with foie gras.
It’s equally as hard to go wrong if you order Momofuku Noodle Bar’s trademark Pork Buns. These standard bearers of fatty goodness have been consistently terrific over the years, and on this day they were no different, each little masterpiece consisting a slab of mouthwateringly sinful pork belly sandwiched in a pillowy-soft steamed bun. Each piece of belly was about 80% unctuous, unadulterated, buttery fat, packed full of divine, porky flavor. Little slices of sour pickles and a sprig of fresh cilantro took the dish to the next level. Incredible. The next course, of char-broiled Yellowtail Collar, had a lot to live up to. And while it was a decent enough rendition, with a tasty caramelized crust and flaky, sweet flesh, it was not particularly outstanding. And the limp accompanying salad was a pointless afterthought on the plate.
A bowl of Momofuku Ramen arrived next, and was sorely disappointing. While the chewy, springy texture of the noodles stayed true to my memory, the broth was salty as the Dead Sea, and possessed a faint, off-putting urine undertone characteristic of stale bamboo. A wedge of overcooked pork floated lazily on the surface. Newer places like Ippudo and Minca have taken ramen to heights previously unimagined in this city – Momofuku, despite maybe even being the restaurant that kickstarted the entire NYC ramen craze, has been left behind in the dirt. A side of hearty roasted Brussels Sprouts went some way to ridding my palate of the ramen aftertaste, but even then, they paled in comparison to the brussels sprouts at other NY institutions like Alta. And while texturally, I rather liked the way crunchy bits of apple interacted with the sprouts, I felt the use of bonito flakes in the dish was unnecessary and created an odd flavor profile.
And with that, the chicken arrived. A manhole sized plate piled a foot high with a mountain of deep fried poultry parts, one half golden brown and the other fiery red. Along with the chicken arrived mu shu pancakes, a bowl of garden fresh vegetables and a variety of sauces – ample tools to construct the perfect greasy chicken wrap. I sat for a full minute and gazed at the mound of crispy, steamy sex, my mouth agape and my eyes wide with lust. Then, I reached in for a southern-style thigh and bit in. I was instantly brought back to Earth. Underwhelming would be the most apt description here. The buttermilk and Old Bay batter was tasty enough, but one of the most crucial components to successful fried chicken, the skin, was quite simply not crispy enough. The meat was fairly tender, and flavored well – this was, at the end of the day, still fried chicken, and I stripped it to the bone. I had a Korean style drumstick next, and my vision of an immaculate Bonchon heaven was dismantled completely when after my first two bites, I was horrified to discover that the flesh near the bone was bloody red and completely raw. I was stunned into silence, until I looked around the table and found a sea of equally horrified faces surrounding me. As it turns out, around five of the twelve or so pieces of fried chicken we had dug into thus far had been undercooked, still dripping at their cores with blood. And this wasn’t sashimi-grade Blue Foot poultry, either. Who knew what was going on here?
Our complaints were listened to compassionately by our server, who seemed totally unfazed by the situation, as though this were a common occurrence. She apologized and offered to bring out a few more pieces of chicken, which we politely declined, as by this point we were too full from half-cooked chicken anyway and probably too dizzy from salmonella to eat any more dubious drumsticks. The Pork Buns, worth $9, were comp’ed on the bill as a gesture, but nothing else was offered up except the aforementioned apology (out of courtesy more than anything). A meal which had until then been quite decent was instantly transformed into an awkward, strange situation about which nobody seemed to know what to do. We paid and left, more confused and disappointed than truly angry.
Some say David Chang is all hype. Others claim him to be the second coming of God. I love the man for what he stands for in the regimented world of food, but despite my admiration for his swashbuckling style, it will take a long time for me to forget this incident. Even barring the blood, the pieces of chicken that were cooked thoroughly were less tasty than Popeye’s, less crispy than Bonchon’s. Sorry Dave, but you have every right to do whatever the hell you want if whatever the hell you want tastes good. In this case, it just didn’t.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003
Yikes! I'm sorry you didn't get to try the Korean kind. My group thought it was much better than the Southern kind when they tried it.
I'm not sure what you expected the restaurant to do though -- they offered to replace the chicken, they apologized, and they took some items off the bill. What else were you expecting? Did you ask to see the manager?
I'm not too sure how to answer your last question because by all accounts, you are right. They did offer to replace the chicken. They did apologize. And they did take stuff off the bill. I suppose it was more the manner that the event unfolded that surprised us. First of all, offering to replace bloody chicken with more chicken is psychologically like having a terrible masseuse offer to give you another massage to make up for a bad one. You already had a bad experience, the last thing you want is more of the same. The apologies that were coming from the staff were a little half hearted, we felt. And lastly, the item they took off the bill was worth $9 (pork buns). The uncooked fried chicken dinner was worth $100. And we had to ASK them to take something off the bill.
In any case, I hate discussing stuff like that because I hate the awkwardness of expecting something in return for a bad meal. I would personally probably not have brought the blood up to the staff, because I just don't like causing a scene. But we had some aggressive people in our group who insisted. Oh well, I let them do their thing, and documented the activity afterwards.
To answer your question simply: what I expected the restaurant to do was not screw up the fried chicken to begin with. That expectation went unfulfilled. Sigh.
i think it's sort of a wasted opportunity. the non chicken food is so good that it'd be a shame to go to momo and pass it up. on my one chicken dinner there, we got a bunch of dishes pre-chicken, then were totally stuffed once the tons and tons of (good, not exceptional) chicken came.
My fried chicken palate may be underdeveloped, but I think Korean fried chicken from most restaurants (I've had Boka most recently) is just as good as Momofuku's. I also really enjoy Popeyes when I'm in the mood for fast food. With that said, the Momofuku meal is perfect for a fried chicken-centric group dinner, and I like that you're served two very different preparations. You'll probably leave with leftovers.
9 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003
Your real issue isn't the meal itself, it's getting the reservations! It's a very very popular ticket.
Here's other people's write ups of the food:
We did the fried chicken dinner in Sept. '09. There were four of us all with healthy appetites, but we still had a boatload of chicken left. So, doing it with 5-6 guys will be fine. Visuals should help you.
Momo Fried Chicken Dinner photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391@N03/sets/72157622242233427/