Momofuku. Saturday lunch. No lines. No wait. I could barely believe it. Still, I would not look this gift horse in the mouth!
Despite the fact that there were no lines, I did, in fact, have to wait. But only for the rest of my party to show. When that magical confluence of people and seats occurred (Asian Standard Time in full effect), I must have had my “I’m a food dork!” sign on because serendipitously, they sat us in the best-lit corner. I gleefully perused the short menu and our trio debated how hungry (very!) we were. There was one special – an eggs benedict on a bun – but we all seemed more interested in the regular dishes. Decisions made, we sat back and let the dishes come.
Roasted rice cakes in a red chili sauce, with confit onion, sesame, and scallions. If you’re familiar with Korean cuisine beyond gam ja tang and soon dubu, you’ve likely encountered this dish. The traditional versions I’ve sampled tend to be mushy and monotonous in taste after the first bite or two. Momofuku’s rice cakes – chewy and occasionally crispy – appealed greatly to me. The roasting in Dave Chang’s dish really adds a lot of depth and texture.
The chilled and spicy noodles were interesting. Almost a salad in composition; crunchy candied cashews are generously strewn over spinach and ramen noodles. Large hearty chunks of sausage give it heat and salt. Of all the dishes, I felt that this was the most original. Worth a shot.
We couldn’t let the meal pass without ordering the two staples of the Momofuku empire: pork buns and the pork ramen. I’d had the pork buns at Ssam Bar in New York, and these were relatively the same; consistency is good. Nice soft bun, fatty pork, and pickled slices of cucumber. The ramen’s onsen tamago is pretty perfectly cooked and we see the familiar pork again (not a bad thing). For these cornerstones, neither hit me as particularly memorable. Certainly not bad, but I am left a little flummoxed by the furor that surrounds them.
Chicken & Egg is one of two dishes containing rice, and given the description we had from our server, it’s the only true rice dish (Kimchi Stew only comes sided with a bowl of rice). Loved the torched skin on the smoked chicken and we have another appearance of that nicely poached egg – the onsen tamago – in this dish. What killed the dish for me was the mushy rice it sat on. Must have been an off batch – I can’t imagine that this is the norm. I should have mentioned this to the server, but I was in new company and didn’t want to be “that guy.” I will try this again at a later date.
I liked the smoked chicken wings – they were quite tasty in the thick and sticky soy sauce. I didn’t get a lot of smoke, but that’s a minor gripe. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but it was a good snack. Would order this again. Also, after looking at all the photos, I realize they must go through a metric ton of scallions.
Reflecting on the dishes we had and the brevity of the menu, Noodle Bar is effectively hitting that comfort-food tier. And once we remove Chang’s reputation and the general buzz around Momofuku coming to Toronto from the equation, what we get is a convenient local eatery putting out solid meals with really good service. No dish is ground-breaking or uncommon or even superlative. And this is all perfectly fine. I just feel like the hype does Noodle Bar a disservice by setting expectations too high.
- Momofuku Noodle Bar Toronto 190 University Avenue, Toronto