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Friday, December 11, 2015

A Trip to the Big Apple for a Bite of the Lucky Peach

by Blair Loup

It was love at first binge watch.

I first got to know David Chang, creator of the Momofuku restaurant family, watching the first season of Mind of a Chef on Netflix in an attempt to educate myself before starting my new job at Bite and Booze nearly two years ago.

The series taught me a little about several topics in the world of food, but the art and culture of ramen stood out the most.

I learned how different types of noodles were made and why they’re used in which styles of ramen. I became intensely fascinated.

What’s worse is that bitten by this ramen bug, I had nowhere to go. There’s only one establishment to my knowledge in Baton Rouge serving ramen, and, while tasty, I knew it to be far from the real deal.

When Team Bite and Booze took a trip to New York to support Chefs Sam and Cody Carroll cooking at the James Beard House, we headed to Momofuku Noodle Bar first.

The Noodle Bar is simply that, a noodle bar. The magical thing about ramen culture is its simplicity. Park yourself at a community table and order away. The menu is broken down into five categories: Daily, Buns, Bowls, Fall and Snacks.

In true Bite and Booze fashion, we ordered something from each category.

To start things off seasonal, we went with the Pea Shoots. I couldn’t get enough of this. Crispy, bright greens coated in kimchi vinaigrette were spicy and sweet all at the same time. Kimchi is fermented mixture of cabbage, Korean chili flakes and other ingredients. Usually a side item, kimchi is being manipulated into things like vinaigrettes and sauces for salads, fries, etc.

Pea Shoots - Chicory, Sesame, Kimchi Vinaigrette
Pea Shoots - Chicory, Sesame, Kimchi Vinaigrette


One of the daily specials, Corn, blew us away. Roasted corn cut off the cob topped with a creamy/spicy sauce with pickled tomatillo, fresh oregano, and a sprinkling of roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) hit home on every level. Roasty, toasty, and creamy with the right herbs and spice level, this dish had us fighting the urge to lick the bowl.
Corn - Pickled Tomatillo, Pepitas, Oregano
Corn - Pickled Tomatillo, Pepitas, Oregano


I have a major appreciation for tail meat, so naturally I jumped at the Pig Tails in the Snacks section. The tails were tossed in a chili sauce providing a subtle heat and topped with scallions. While there are a lot of restaurants that use scallions as a useless garnish, I find that when purposefully used, scallions make a dish pop. The pickled Asian pears may have been my favorite part of this dish. I’m a sucker for non-cucumber pickled things.
Pig Tails - Pickled Asian Pear, Chili, Scallion
Pig Tails - Pickled Asian Pear, Chili, Scallion


Our Content Sheriff and Warden of the Web Sydney wasn’t feeling in a ramen mood, so she tried the Brisket Buns. Being the sweetheart she is, she let me have a bite. If clouds were buns, they would be steam buns. They’re more of a textural element of a dish. The little to no flavor of the steam bun set the stage for a bold bite.
Brisket - Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion, Cucumber
Brisket - Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion, Cucumber


I had heard fantastic things about all of the Bowls at Momofuku, but I had my heart set (for over a year). It's important to remember there are different styles of ramen. Some are thinner, clearer broths, while others can be thin and have a creamy, thick, and rich taste.
Momofuku Ramen - Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg
Momofuku Ramen - Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder, Poached Egg

This particular bowl of ramen was more brothy and turned creamier when I swirled in the yolk of the poached egg. The noodles were some of the best I’ve had. Ramen noodles behave the way they do because of their alkalinity. It can better be explained by this video from Lucky Peach:



I will say that if I get the chance to go back, I’ll try their chilled spicy noodles. The guy sitting next to me was losing his mind over them.


No trip to Momofuku Noodle Bar would be complete without a walk to their sister bakery Milk Bar a few blocks away. James Beard decorated pastry chef Christina Tosi made the desert program at Momofuku and has since gone on to assist some of the other Momofuku restaurants in winning awards as well as running "one of the most exciting bakeries in the country," according to Bon App├ętit Magazine. Known for their Birthday Cake, Crack Pie, and Soft Serve, you can’t go wrong.

Soft Serve at Milk Bar
Soft Serve at Milk Bar

Chef David Chang is a special dude doing some cool things with the right people in place. Being able to go to his flagship restaurant for a good bowl of ramen is something I've wanted to do for a long time. If you have any restaurant bucket list items feel free to leave them in the comments below or let us know Facebook or give us a shout on Twitter or Instagram at @biteandbooze.

Bite and Booze Bonus: If you're into awesome recipes, food knowledge/science, culinary adventures, etc., check out Lucky Peach. David Chang is one of the founders and editors of this quarterly food journal.