Momofuku means lucky peach. This restaurant is one of three by Chef David Chang who was named chef of the year by GQ and Bon Appétit, among other accolades. The other restaurants, Momofuku Ssam and Momofuku Ko, are increasingly harder to get into. I've walked by Ssam a few times and it looks like a very trendy bar and is always crowded. Ko has just 12 seats and offers a tasting menu by reservation only—I'm still struggling to get reservations. So the noodle bar is the most casual of the three and it is relatively easy to get into. We dropped in not knowing what to expect and were very pleased with the experience.
Our server suggested a few things from the menu for us to try and not knowing any different, we followed his guidance. We started with the most popular item on the menu, steamed buns with pork belly and cucumber. There was some kind of sauce spread on the bun that gave the dish a chocolatey or sweet taste that worked really well with the more salty pork.
The next dish was the biggest risk: sliced fluke sashimi with pickled pearl onion and charred jalapeno. We're OK with raw fish in sushi, but I've never had fluke in this way before. It was really a very good dish, though it didn't look that good on the plate (kind of plain as the fish was white as was the plate). The fish was tender and not at all fishy. The onion and jalapeno were a nice texture and flavor addition. There was also some kind of oil or other lite sauce that helped to bring everything together.
Finally we shared a bowl of ramen. After our experience at Ippudo, we're getting used to gourmet noodles. The momofuku ramen came with shredded pork and two pieces of pork belly, a poached egg, scallions, and watercress (or something). The broth wasn't too salty and the noodles of course were very good. We really liked the dish.
I think the main focus of our dinner conversation was who we could bring to this restaurant. It's a unique atmosphere, casual and loud, with communal tables. The wait staff was friendly and helpful. The food is definitely good but I'd say some people might be a little afraid to try it. I think the restaurant fits in quite well though in the neighborhood and with the general crowd around here. We'll have to see who we take to momofuku next - and when we can try the other two restaurants!