There have been plenty of times in my life that I was “late to the party” so to speak, and whatever the thing was that had been so widely praised just didn’t live up to the hype (E.T., Les Mis and Forrest Gump, just to name a few...) The pancakes at Clinton Street Baking and the pork buns at Momofuku were two items that had a possibility of falling into this category, as they are revered here and elsewhere, and those lofty expectations can be tough to fulfill.
I love it when I read the reports here, go try whatever it is, taste it and think, “Yes, they were right on, this is terrific,” or have that “Ah ha, I get what all the fuss is about” moment.
Both the pancakes at Clinton Street and the pork buns at Momofuku lived up to their billing and provided just those moments.
Clinton Street: I couldn’t decide between the blueberry or banana pancakes and the table next to me kindly offered to do a taste test of their pancakes to help me choose. (I later found out they were readers of CH from D.C.) They made it clear blueberry was the way to go, so that is what I went with. While I waited, I watched stack after stack of pancakes being delivered from the kitchen. They just looked like they tasted delicious, each stack of three pancakes as high as what four pancakes would be from most places, the were that fluffy.
Then my pancakes arrived. I tasted one bite without the maple butter. Normally I need syrup, these were tasty without. They are light but at the same time have enough bite to make them satisfying. And that maple butter, I used pieces of the pancake to mop every last bit out of the ramekin, it was that good. The service was excellent as well. Very warm and friendly.
I can’t wait to go back to try the banana pancakes.
Momofuku: got there when it opened and we took seats in front of the kitchen. We ordered the pork buns, the sweet corn with shrimp and bacon and the smoked chicken with poached egg & scallions over rice. Those pork buns rock. Cucumber is one of my least favorite foods and I normally will either not order a dish that has it or pull it out of dish in which it is served. But I was determined to experience the famed pork buns “as is.” The cucumber is a perfect foil for the pork, along with the scallions. I loved these so much I got another order.
The sweet corn dish was another winner. I would have liked more of this as well, but by this time I was getting full and really wanted more pork buns. The smoked chicken and poached egg dish was lackluster compared to the other two.
Service here was great as well. And the chef was also terrific, talking with us about different dishes and guiding us away from one dish we had our eye on, because given our love for the pork buns he thought we would not enjoy it as much.