Here I’m, years later, after the ramen revolution have taken over the United States. The last time I was here, we had a president, the line was way too long, and I was wondering if the weather was going to be any hotter. Things have changed since that day. Spring has just turn to summer, there are multiple Momofukus around the world, and that we now do not have a foreign policy. The exciting and friendly atmosphere at the noodle bar has been replaced by a calmer, but more ambivalent tone. Even the cooks seem like they are thinking of the party tonight rather than focusing on serving us the best ramen in the world. Time does heal all wound.
One thing that remain static is the menu. The famous pork buns are still on the menu, and so is the pork belly ramen. They added a few new items, but time almost stood still here, which is unlike other popular restaurants where menus are updated on a daily basis. I’m sure that David Chang continue to experiment, and ramen shops elsewhere continue to play with creativity. Momofuku did not become famous due to the quality of the ramen – sure, the ramen here is yummy – but because they broke the mold by creating a communal like dining experience. If anything, I’m taken aback that nothing has change. Momofuku has no tradition to go back to, so why not take the risk and develop new dishes? There are other noodle options on the menu, such as the beef noodle, but each cost an arm and a leg. A tasting menu would have been welcoming!
Our pork bun come out first. This wasn’t my first pork bun, but it was definitely the first I have in America. Similarly, the pork bun craze had pass, so this serves as a reminder how much better everyone else has become. It is alright, less magical compare to the first time. Middle of the pack, if anything. Service isn’t very quick here, and the noodle is served sometime later. This is better than many local ramen shops in America, but only by a slim margin. I have mentioned countless times that I do not know how to judge ramen, so, the final verdict will be…. decent? If nothing has change here (even flavor wise), that means that everyone else did improve. Two things I would like to comment – first, the soup is not greasy, compare to many others, which is ironic because ramen is supposed to be unhealthy. Second, the half boiled eggs are amazing. I might have been blown away by the ramen and the buns last time; this time, the best thing are the eggs. They are perfect to look at, a bit runny but firm enough to hold onto themselves. Oh, and they are delicious.
2018 isn’t 2004. The noodle bar was way ahead of its time 15 years ago, and still trendy 5 years ago. Had this been a blind test, I would have guess this as an average ramen shop. That’s such a weird sentence, because ramen wasn’t an American thing. I have mix feelings, because on one hand, the best of anything are worthy of preservation, and there is a whole culture behind that. Just look at the classic section in James Beard award. But on the other hand, the noodle bar is supposed to be different. Adventurous. Hip. Classless. Affordable. I liked the original concept, and hope that it might adapt for the future generations to come. The noodle bar is its own curse – by encouraging a ramen revolution in America, it is now overtaken by newly sprung offspring. Let’s hope that Momofuku noodle bar doesn’t end up like Lucky Peach – I can’t stand to see another great thing fumble.
Address: 171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003
Visited: June 16, 2018 for lunch at 11:30am.