Momofuku Noodle Bar (TAKE II)
We were less than enchanted by Momofuku during our last visit, so this time we were invited to sit on the second floor and try to experience the restaurant in a different way.
The vibe upstairs was quite different from the downstairs. To us, the cold light under the bar counter was the only odd element to mention; everywhere else, the warm glow and wood tones kept up the appearance of a street-style market reminiscent of downstairs. We also had a window view and so, naturally, we spent some time marveling at the beautiful exterior sculpture - all covered in ice. We learned that seats could be reserved up here, so for those of you not into the communal tables and quick service, choose the second floor.
NOSE & SWIRL
Their menu is updated every so often, so make sure to ask what was recently added. This time around, we noticed buns, okonomiyaki, and dipping noodles. Our choices were Cod Cakes, BBQ Pork Cakes, and Sichuan Tsukemen (dipping noodles). Momofuku was a quiet, almost romantic, and much more intimate restaurant on a late Sunday, as opposed to a bustling market-like atmosphere during their rush hours. Before our meals had arrived, we enjoyed a little Chef’s special: it was a thinly-sliced Beef Carpaccio with fatty gelatin, topped with cilantro, a schezwan sauce, and some refreshing pickled cubes. Quite a way to prepare for the upcoming flavours.
Our Cod Cakes lacked a bit of punch, plus the meat turned out on a drier side; nduja (spreadable pork) was supposed to part of the dish, but we failed to notice it. Perhaps more of it would have made a difference, as the light mayo sauce, pickles, and iceberg lettuce were bland condiments to the lightly fried cod.
In the meantime, BBQ Pork Cakes were a flavourful and delightful choice. Served with Korean BBQ sauce and some slaw, plus a sweet pickle, it was a perfect harmony of flavours. Our main interest for the night was the Sichuan Tsukemen - a dish unique to us. It came in two bowls with a much-needed spoon. As we shared it, the process of dipping and enjoying became more and more chaotic. One bowl came with fried egg noodles, plenty of chives, a raw egg, and two thick patties of short rib meat. These patties were beautifully dressed and just the right proportion of fat to stay juicy. Some steamed gai-lan (Chinese broccoli), and fermented menma (bamboo shoots) were a marvelous addition to balance off the opinionated dish, contributing a much-needed relief from the spiciness. Our beers were a common, fare Singaporean Tiger Lager: light and a bit hoppy, and a more local Sawdust City Stout: a fuller bodied and a better match for our meal, helping to tone down the flavour peaks.
We finished our experience with some of their soft serve ice-cream made from cereal milk and topped with a cornflake crunch. It is their standard fare and they even brought it to our table to enjoy in a to-go container. We also shared their meringue pie dessert which was fresh and chewing with some more of that staple ice-cream, however we found this dish is often overshadowed by the soft serve - a pitty.
There is always a new angle to discover when revisiting a place with a different lens. Too bad we do not do it often enough - a lot of finer details go missing like that. Momofuku impressed us not with a street-style, communal bench noodle stop, but as a more sophisticated eatery, drawing inspiration from deep traditions of the region and building upon them.