David Chang, Momofuku’s colorful chef owner, had a book signing junket through the Bay Area. I saw him at Kepler’s, a great independent bookstore in Menlo Park. I got there extra early since I was sure the event would be packed. But at 10 minutes before his appearance, only a few people in chairs – so I got a great 2nd row seat. More people did eventually show, but it was not a sell-out crowd.
David talked about starting up Momofuku Noodle Bar, and it is so unbelievable the restaurant even survived, let alone become such a success. It was a tiny, 600 sq ft space, and hardly any room to walk behind diners. In the summer the hoods sucked up all the air conditioning, so they had to figure out how to keep the diners from sweating to death.
David said he stuck to his vision – creating great food with great ingredients. No one had really done this with ramen. He says he wants to keep improving it, even though now it is pretty darn tasty. There was no décor, not because he wanted a minimalist look, like some critics thought, he just had no money for it.
While there were no firework or f-bombs, Chang did explain his comment about San Francisco restaurants put only figs on the plate. He feels many places serve the same type of food, and he wants to see new and fresh, something different. He says even New York isn’t that exciting as a culinary capital. He looks to Europe, especially San Sebastian and Brussels.
If you are in New York, you’ve got to stop by Noodle Bar, or Ssam Bar. Ko is his prix fixe place, with only three seatings, one at lunch and two for dinner. Reservations only at Ko – have to call six days out. His newest eatery Ma Peche, opens soon in the Chambers Hotel.
The Momofuku cookbook has the ramen recipe, along with the broth, which is what really makes this dish. Also the slow poached egg technique is pretty impressive. And the recipe for Chang’s famous pork buns are here too.