Two CHOW editors on a caloric extravaganza exploring innovation, novelty, and deliciousness. RSS
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Talking about the inventiveness of the Momofuku empire, for a food writer, probably feels a bit like talking about the Mona Lisa for an art critic. Hyperbole, maybe, but seriously: What has NOT been said about David Chang’s game-changing cuisine? That said, a lot of what Chang arguably started (the reinterpretation of East Asian street food for a white audience, for instance) can be found everywhere in NY, more popular than ever. So it only felt right to visit Noodle Bar on our Innovation tour (and hit up nearby Milk Bar, the dessert joint he started with pastry chef Christina Tosi afterward).

I wasn’t even hungry when we arrived at Momofuku for lunch, but I proceeded to eat an incredibly delicious bowl of cold, spicy noodles until my stomach hurt. The noodles were topped with Chinese sausage, raw baby spinach leaves, and candied cashews that bore a not-coincidental-I’m-sure resemblance to the street nuts sold by hundreds of carts around Manhattan. It had the perfect balance of hot, spicy, sweet, salty, oily; so dead on, I knew nothing would stop me from finishing it. I expected Momofuku to feel dated. Or I wondered whether I’d be underwhelmed by the food, considering so many people have ripped it off by now. I gotta say, it was probably one of the best things I’ve eaten this whole tour.

The open kitchen at Noodle Bar lets you hear and see everything the chefs are doing, and the atmosphere was a little tense. Lots of swearing from the chef, lots of dour faces. It was a bit of a dark spot in my zombie pig-out.

Later that evening, I hit up Milk Bar for the famous (trademarked, even) “cereal milk”–flavored soft serve. One of the first places to start getting creative with soft serve, Milk Bar has had a lot of bizarre flavors. (I heard they even did a “stuffing” flavor on one Thanksgiving, and I’m about the only person I know who thinks that sounds like a good idea.) The ice cream did, indeed, taste exactly like milk that’s been sitting in a bowl with frosted flakes for a while.

We also got a slice of grasshopper pie, which came in a cardboard pod almost like McDonald’s. It had a startling number of ingredients listed on the label. Again, just like McDonald’s. You don’t go to Milk Bar for simple, artisanal ingredients. Tosi was one of the main trendsetters in the whole “junk food reinterpreted in haute cuisine” trends we’ve seen in the past couple of years (we celebrated her in the CHOW 13). Anyway, back to the pie: It was so rock hard with chocolate, it bent my plastic spork and I had to resort to biting right into it. Majorly salty in a good way, minty, and sweet as hell. Everything there is sweet as hell. You feel dirty after a trip to Milk Bar, in that “Did I really just eat Pringles?” kinda way. But weirdly, I find myself there on every trip to New York. Go figure.