Whip me with a wet noodle, if you must. I suppose I deserve some kind of penance for the following confession: Until recently, I had never been to Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Blame it on the lines, which at dinner times often snake down First Avenue. I was eager to visit, but not eager enough to go that far out of my way, and then wait for a bar stool. (Reservations aren’t taken, except for the large-format chicken meal, which feeds 4–8 people. I saw an order go out while I was there: four people would need to be awfully hungry to finish it.)
I rectified this shocking omission in my culinary travels on a recent Friday afternoon, when I dropped in for a late lunch at about 3:30pm. There was still plenty of business, given the oddness of the hour, but it was delightfully uncrowded. If it were always like this, I might come more often. But if it were always like this, it wouldn’t be Noodle Bar.
The Momofuku story is so well known that it hardly needs re-telling. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, David Chang worked his way through the fine-dining kitchens of Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Mercer Kitchen), Tom Colicchio (Craft), and Daniel Boulud (Café Boulud). Then, he left fine dining and opened a noodle shop.
The original Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in 2004 with 27 seats, was such a hit that Chang followed it up with Momofuku Ssäm Bar in 2006. After another two years, Noodle Bar moved into its present 65-seat space down the street. Momofuku Ko, Chang’s Michelin two-star spot, moved into the old Noodle Bar. The empire now includes four restaurants, a chain of dessert shops, and a cocktail bar in New York; outposts in Toronto and Sydney; and a culinary lab.