Monday, August 17, 2009

Momofuku fried chicken dinner, or: we almost finished the whole thing, except not really.

A few weeks ago, word came down from on high that Momofuku Noodle Bar would be offering a fried chicken dinner for $100 via their online reservations system. Obviously, I signed up immediately. I knew my brother, Jeremy, would be as excited as I was, and he and my sister-in-law Miriam agreed to join me. We still had two spots open in our reservation, so I consulted the Twitterverse. Sure enough, the lovely and freshly-married Kathryn Yu (who also photographed the meal) volunteered to join us, and to bring her husband Dan along for the fun.

Our motley crew met up at Momofuku Noodle at eight o'clock last Thursday. We were the second fried chicken dinner of the night; the restaurant does three (6 PM, 8 PM and 10 PM). The night got off to a serendipitous start when we found out that our waiter was none other than Eric Murdoch, who'd performed as an actor for the first play Jeremy produced here in Manhattan. Eric got us going with a round of the restaurant's justly famous alcoholic slushies (these were watermelon spiked with soju, a Korean rice wine).

Eric told us the chicken would take about 20 minutes to cook, so we decided to kill time by ordering a couple of appetizers. We ordered the pork buns, the heirloom tomato salad with melon and the corn with fingerling potatoes.

All were fantastic, though the tomatoes and pork buns outshone the corn a bit. The pork buns, which are the same ones you find over at Momofuku Ssam Bar, are just flat-out insane. Fluffy and chewy and filled with pork belly and lightly pickled cucumbers, they're just ridiculously good. The tomato salad was really interesting; I was surprised at how well the sweetness of the melon complimented the tomatoes instead of competing with them, and the smoky saltiness of the ham crisp brought the whole thing safely back to porky Momofuku land.

The chef sent out a special treat: seared scallops with corn and chili oil. These were delicious as well; we couldn't quite suss out what seasoning had made its way onto the scallops, but it was something truly yummy. The scallops themselves were large, but still tender and moist. And who doesn't love corn?

And then, finally, the main event. A giant - and I do mean giant - platter of chicken was set down on the table, along with a stack of moo shu pancakes and a bowl of gorgeous herbs and veggies, including radishes, carrots, shisito peppers, opal basil, thai basil, mint, bibb lettuce and shiso leaves. Next came a flight of four sauces: hoisin, jalapeño-garlic, bibim, and ginger-scallion.

There were two kinds of chicken: half of the meat was dipped in buttermilk and seasoned with Old Bay, while the other half was cooked Korean-style, triple-fried and basted with bibim sauce and vinegar.

The idea is that you take a little of everything - the veggies, the herbs, the lettuce and, of course, the chicken, fold it up in a pancake, add some sauce to your liking, and eat the whole thing. After a few minutes of tearing into the chicken with our bare hands, it became clear why the restaurant had covered the table in a sheet of butcher's paper. We left grease stains everywhere, evidence of how thoroughly we enjoyed ourselves.

Overall, our group preferred the Korean chicken to the buttermilk; the meat seemed a bit more tender and well-seasoned, whereas the Old Bay seasoning was confined to the crust of the buttermilk chicken. That said, we enjoyed both offerings and tried to divide our attention as evenly as possible. We didn't want any chicken to feel bad about itself.

We were divided on the topic of the sauces; I was partial to the bibim sauce spiced up with a dash of Sriracha, while Jeremy favored the jalapeño-garlic mixed with the hoisin. Obviously, though, there was something for everyone. The only thing I would do differently? Order a pot of the house pickles to go with everything.

Despite Eric cheering us on, the five of us were not up to the task of eating every last bit. Though I'm sure they were ever-so-slightly disappointed in us, the staff did a crack job of boxing everything up (in three containers) for us to take home and enjoy cold from the fridge.

All of these gorgeous photos were snapped by the very talented Kathryn Yu. You can find more of her work at KathrynYu.com.

5 comments:

Louisa Edwards said...

Gorgeous pics! And the food sounds utterly divine. Oh, MAN, I wish I could've been there. We need to start planning meals for when I'm in the city next month!!

Meg Blocker said...

Yes, we must start planning! Obviously, Bar Etats-Unis...

Jeremy said...

Let's go back!

Wendy said...

looks like everyone is loving this fried chicken!

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/mouthing-off/2009/8/19/Momofuku-Fried-Chicken-Addiction

Bryan said...

I went last week, and agree that the apps were good, but kind of disappointed with my fried chicken experience there. For what it’s worth, I think you can get better southern fried chicken at any number of holes-in-the-wall around the city, and way better Korean style fried chicken at Bonchon. Absolutely don’t think it’s worth the time and money when so many better options are available. But oh well, that’s my opinion I guess. I will say, those pork belly buns are sex on a plate – really fantastic. Just wrote my review on the fried chicken dinner, check it out: http://restaurantbrat.com/2011/01/28/momofuku-noodle-bar/

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