|Mr. Chang looking glamorous –credit|
Have you dined in any of David’ Chang’s restaurants?
Many New Yorkers are familiar with Momofuku, the restaurant chain owned by Korean-American restauranteur David Chang. But Momofuku, which translates from Japanese to lucky peach (the same name as Chang’s food magazine), is more than just the noodle bar on First Avenue; David Chang’s restaurants are part of a much larger picture in the NYC food scene. Capitalizing on his creativity and culinary talent, Chang has built a mini-empire of food creations around Manhattan and worldwide.
Momofuku Noodle Bar is probably the most popular of Chang’s restaurants. It was also his first; it opened in August 2004. Perhaps it’s New Yorkers’ love of ramen or the affordable prices (main dishes $12-18), but the restaurant always has a 10-plus person line before it opens for dinner each night. Long communal tables allow for plenty of conversation between noodle sips, and the late-night menu makes Noodle Bar a premier destination after other quality restaurants have closed for the night. Chang’s famous pork bun originated here, and many diners are known just to fill up on these flavorful and unique snacks.
Chang is a noodle expert. The ramen noodles are stretchy and absorbent, taking on even further dimensions of flavor depending on the broths and sauces in which they are served. The menu changes seasonally, but spicy miso ramen with smoked chicken, swiss chard, sesame is a regular favorite. For a non-soup option, the chilled spicy noodles offer a punchy kick of flavor in their glorious hot sauce, adorned with crumbled Sichuan sausage, spinach, and cashews.
|A hot bowl of Momofuku Ramen –credit|
Lesser known options at Noodle Bar are the chicken dinners, which include two whole fried chickens, one southern style and one Korean style, mu shu pancakes, bibb lettuce, four sauces and an assortment of seasonal vegetables. This meal for four to eight people can be reserved in advance and costs $100 for the basic dinner package.
Ssam Bar moves upward from ramen into small plates inspired by Japanese food but not limited by any level of creativity. Like Noodle Bar, it is also walk-in only, so it constantly has a wait and a crowd. But the wait is well worth it! Bo Ssam is the most popular dish here, as this menu item was the beginning of the strange yet tasty Korean taco trend.
The family-style feast costs $200, but can serve more than 10, and includes a whole slow cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce, ssäm sauce (korean bbq sauce), kimchi and ginger scallion sauce.
|Family-style rotisserie duck at Ssam Bar –credit|
Inside Ssam Bar is Booker and Dax, a unique cocktail bar open until 3 a.m. on weekends. Ssam uses new techniques and technologies to offer the most delicious possible cocktails. Stop by for reinvented classics like gin and juice –– gin, clarified grapefruit juice –– or completely new creations by bartenders who aim to please your curiosity. Bar snacks like kimchi deviled eggs also make for a unique experience.
|A classic cocktail and snacks at Booker and Dax –credit|
Momofuku Ko is probably known as the most elite of Chang’s NYC restaurants. The nine- course tasting menu will run you $175 for lunch and $125 for dinner, each of which will take about three hours to enjoy. But hey, approximately $40/hour is cheaper than a massage or even some Manhattan parking, so go for the insanely memorable splurge. The menu changes daily, using fresh and seasonal ingredients to create outstanding Japanese and Asian-fusion food best representing Chang’s culinary genius. The 12-seat restaurant requires reservations and has quite a waiting list, so plan accordingly.
|The poached egg at Ko is famous among Chang fans –credit|
Momofuku Milk Bar provides desserts for all of Chang’s restaurants and has five of its own permanent outposts from Williamsburg to the Upper West Side. Pastry Chef Christina Tosi uses Chang’s guidance and inspiration to create mind-blowing delicious desserts out of unordinary ingredients. The soft-serve changes flavors every day, some of my past favorites have been sweet green pea and peanut. The cookies, such as the compost cookie or the marshmallow and cornflake cookie, are extremely soft and chewy, and buying more than one is recommended. And of course, Milk Bar is famous for its creation Cereal Milk: a bottle of milk that tastes like the sweet sugary stuff that’s leftover after a bowl of cereal. Sounds strange, but the smooth, sweet beverage is addictive.
For more on David Chang and his food, check out PBS’ documentary series – produced and narrated by Anthony Bourdain – The Mind of a Chef.
|Chang getting busy in the kitchen at Ko –credit|
Which of David Chang’s restaurants is your favorite?