We’re in a Ramen moment—no doubt about it. In the Times, Pete Wells filed a massive Ramen survey a year ago, and no doubt half-a-dozen more slurp shops have opened since then.
If Wells had written a few months later, perhaps he’d have included mŏkbar (“eat bar”), which specializes in Korean ramen, hearty soup with Japanese noodles and Korean flavors. It occupies a diminutive stall in Chelsea Market, opposite a taco stand. Like many ramen bars, there’s not a ton of room—and what there is, fills up at peak times.
Mŏkbar is the improbable brainchild of Esther Choi, a New Jersey-born twentysomething of Korean descent, who went to Rutgers as a pharmacy major, got a corporate job, hated it, and went to culinary school.
The usual ending to such stories is a lifetime of dicing carrots in anonymity, but Choi persevered, finding steady work as a buyer for Food Network and as a sous-chef at La Esquina.
When a fried chicken stall went out of business at Chelsea Market, Choi jumped at the chance, beating out dozens of other chefs, including more established names, for the right to open her little Korean ramen concept.