Momofuku Noodle Bar
A curious fact: Momofuku means a “happy peach”. Shangri-La Toronto is hard to miss and Momofuku is right in the center of it. We saved the occasion of visiting the restaurant for a get together with friends and it turned out to be a perfect social place.
A simple wordmark can be noticed, but, being next to the elaborate exterior sculpture, we most certainly missed the sign the many times we passed Shangri-La. Momofuku is written as a statement on the upper part of the building (after the 3rd floor to be exact), which is not actually where the noodle bar is - another restaurant occupies the space above.
A peach, graphic laser cut from wood was subtly greeted us by the door, adding a layer to the brand.
While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, we productively studied the vestibule with an educational wall, covered in photos and a light laser-cut plywood design, showing a simple render of the building's first three floors. It was like a mini-mall for foodies - each level, a different restaurant.
Accents of warm wood and scattered light dominated the interior. That coziness was contrasted a bit with a sense of grandeur, created by the height of our dining hall. We thought that a suspended sculpture could be a good addition here, as the interior did not have that statement piece. We caught ourselves feeling that we were inside a deep bowl of noodles - bland and beige, warm, murky, but lacking character.
The space was missing passion - a statement piece of sorts could have set the tone/mood. The only attempt was a large, naive painting with red and yellow details, and it seemed out of place. We noticed a random integration of mirrors encased in light, wooden wall planks. The noise was carrying through and resonating; that could be easily mitigated with some strategically applied noise reduction efforts. One more off-putting detail was the way boxes of napkins and chopsticks were laid out on the table, making the place feel cheap. On the other hand, this can be seen as a part of creating a set for a street food-like experience, if were not inside the extravagant Shangri-La Hotel.
Our waitress gave us plenty of time to decide, while we at the communal benches with simple paper menus in front of us. Our ginger beer arrived first, giving a sharp blow to the nose and acting as an excellent palate cleanser throughout the evening. There was also a local take on an Iced Tea: refreshingly not too sweet and augmented with Macha. As we were rushed through the order by our fast-paced waiter, the chill back tunes from Michael Bublé and John Mayer sharply contrasted the hustle and bustle all around.
We found out that Kimchi had gluten, which came as a bit of a surprise. Ma Cherie’s dish, Ginger Scallion Noodle, was sour and vegetarian. Shiitake, cucumber, and cabbage, and a sharp seaweed crisp for the presentation contributed to a refreshing option on a rice base. We asked for their Famous Pork belly, but were abruptly told it is not available as a side. Mon Cheri’s Spring Lamb Tsukemen dish was large, meaty, and spicy. There was not much liquid there, but the noodles were made to perfection.
With a generous amount of ground lamb shoulder, seasoned with xian spices and scallions, this was quite an enjoyable plate. One size fits all approach.
The only option for dessert was a soft serve ice cream in a paper cup that we were not impressed by at all.
It was curious to see a luxurious hotel with a noodle bar seemingly for everyday people. It would have made a better impression if the service was not as rushed and barebone, but maybe that was the idea - you can get just close enough to the rich and famous, enjoying their meals from atop the floor gallery of Daisho and Shoto. Perhaps, it was an intentional hierarchy arrangement. The most entertaining part was the massive sculpture off the street, at the entrance; an art piece could be enjoyed from everywhere.
PS: There was a curious Milk Store a bit above Momofuku, with desserts and magazines produced by the chef. A neat idea for a souvenir shop inside a restaurant, for enthusiasts to take home a flavour by David Chang.