Momofuku Noodle Bar


Shortly after I posted about Ma Peche and Ippudo (okay, literally, the day after), Dessert Zombie and I met up for pork buns and ramen. I’ve resisted the pull of Noodle Bar for many, many years, entirely because my friends – whose opinions I trust – have told me the noodles are mushy, and no one whose food opinion I trusted AND respected has ever told me they like Noodle Bar’s ramen.

***Halfhearted apologies to all who read that and realize that I am talking about them since they have recommended the place to me in the past.

Momofuku Noodle Bar is home to THE most expensive bowl of ramen, as-is, in NYC. You can get more expensive bowls of noodles by adding on every add-on on a given menu at other places, but Momofuku ramen, at $16, is more than Ippudo, the second most expensive ramen in NYC, a few avenues away.

Let’s see how it tastes.


Well, first let’s have some pork buns. I’d really enjoyed these at Ma Peche, and expected these to be much the same. Overall, they were, except these were much, much messier… with a lot more pork. Who complains about the amount of meat in a sandwich? Well, when it throws off the balance of meat-to-bun, I do… still very good, though.

IMG_8644.JPG20130105_124232.jpg IMG_8646.JPG

This dish contains two types of pork: pork belly and pork shoulder. The pork belly was good, just as the one in the buns is. The pork shoulder was, essentially, pulled pork (or chopped)… but was texturally dry even in the broth. It was also super oily. Pork belly is fatty. My broth had a thick layer of oil/fat floating on top that made it very hard for me to want to drink any of the broth – which is one of the best parts of ramen.

One of the other best parts of ramen is the noodles… except when they’re overcooked and mushy, as these were unforgivingly so.

And… while I love salt, I don’t like something to be all salt. There needs to be balance. Complexity to the broth. This tasted like oil, fat, salt… and not in a lovely, balanced, delicious way. This was just… horrid.

I was so disappointed. Dessert Zombie and I were both wildly let down, though we had both come in with measured expectations since we’d each heard separately negative things about the place. I wasn’t expecting much, but I wasn’t expecting this. Especially after my rather positive experience at Ma Peche, I thought I might at least find Noodle Bar sufficient.

Friends asked me what I thought later, and I don’t recall the last time I’ve actually called a food disgusting… certainly not on the blog (I found a reference to a rotten mussel smelling disgusting, but no one would disagree with that). This bowl of ramen, however? it was disgusting. A pool of oil floating on top of water from the Dead Sea, no complexity or depth to it, filled with overcooked chopped pork shoulder, mushy noodles, and a slice of good pork belly, all for $16… how else would you describe that but disgusting? Well, insulting. Insulting that anyone could serve this and expect that I’d enjoy it… but I guess that happens every day. I did take a look around the restaurant and didn’t see anyone else with the same look of pure disgust as graced my face; people were enjoying this.

Oh, the poached egg was good, although there was little to no egg white of which to speak.

I’m positive someone out there will disagree viciously with me. I’ll allow that “perhaps I had a bad bowl; perhaps it was an off day for the kitchen; perhaps it simply wasn’t to my personal tastes” – you can say what you want. What was served to me was absolutely disgusting, and no, I didn’t finish it. I ate what I could stomach, just so I wouldn’t be hungry and gnaw my arm off later, but I… the girl who can’t stand throwing away food… left a decent amount of food in my bowl, and tried to pawn them off on my poor friend. (He declined.)

You will not find me returning to give this another shot. There is absolutely no reason I would order this again; better bowls of ramen can be found all over the entire city, for much less money… and I would say “less wait” except I went at noon on a Saturday, and there was no wait whatsoever. You can’t even decry me for being a brat who factors wait into how much I like something! There was no wait, and I still thought it was awful.

I won’t be back. I would return to Ma Peche for the buns, and I might even go to Ssam Bar where I’ve been informed they have duck buns. But Noodle Bar is on my sh*t list for serving me a bowl of the worst ramen I’ve ever had. The pork buns being good doesn’t make up for it (and they were better at Ma Peche).


Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. Corinne Flax says

    I’ve only had their ramen once, and it was late, I was intoxicated. I loved the fried chicken dinner there, knowing your feelings on fried chicken I’d be interested to see what you eat that meal.

    • says

      I’ve heard a lot of very good things about the fried chicken dinner – to the point where, despite the cost, I was about to book it recently, but a very good friend whose opinion I trust implicitly went (this past weekend, actually), and told me it was horrible. Her description was so off-putting that I can’t imagine I’ll be going any time soon; to the tune of “KFC is better.” And while I don’t hate on KFC, I’m not really interested in paying hmmm… 10x more than KFC for something not as good as KFC.

  2. says

    I first went they opened and I remember it came with everything but the kitchen sink. I think it was to hide the fact the ramen was crap. I met DC and told him to his face that I thought that the ramen was overrated and he just laughed and agreed. And to this day, I still don’t trust the palate of anyone who recommends this restaurant to me.

  3. Dessert Zombie says

    The ramen was terrible. The best part of the dish was the egg, pork shoulder was ok for me, but the other components were mostly meh. Not very flavorful or tasty. I would’ve been much happier going to Ippudo instead. We were literally robbed of better ramen to consume. I am glad I finally tried it but my wallet doesn’t need a return trip. Not even for their decent pork buns. I like how the couple sitting near us picked out all their fat from their pork buns. 😛

  4. CheeeeEEEEse says

    Daaaamn. This is straight up bad.

    Bad form Peter! Bad form!

    You’re right, I haven’t heard you come out as negatively on anything as this. Though, unless I was raking in the dough, I could never ever justify a $16 bowl of ramen so I’d doubt I’d ever experience it myself. Thanks for biting the bullet for me Yvo…

    • says

      You’re welcome. Part of what I do: warning people (or alerting people) when something is awful or amazing, so they don’t have to eat it. It’s a real shame but kind of incredible how he built his empire from this place, though.

  5. says

    Well that’s just sad. Good thing I’ve never had ramen from the Momo empire. I’ve had the pork buns from Ssam and Noodle. I liked Ssam slightly better. It didn’t fall apart on me like the Noodle one did. Both contained fatty pory belly, two slices per bun.

    • says

      I resisted for a very long time, but the positive experience at Ma Peche (despite mediocre ramen; figured their main place must have better ramen) led me to take the leap. And yes, the Noodle Bar bun fell apart super easily, while Ma Peche was perfectly executed.

  6. says

    As much as I love David Chang, I have never been to Noodle Bar. And after this review, I don’t know if I ever will! I don’t want my love affair to end (even if that means picking and choosing the places I love).

    • says

      Thankfully, I’ve never loved David a day in my life, and unlikely ever will.

      You know, it’s like I once asked this very rich gay man who voted for Bush: how can you support someone who despises your very existence? Just out of curiosity; I almost understood his reasoning, because he was voting with his wallet’s best interests at heart. But what about you, and all the other food bloggers who support David Chang?

  7. says

    You called it like you saw it!
    This is good for me to read. My wife and I have been going to Noodle Bar and Ssam bar since they opened but not more than once a year or so and we love the pork, chicken and mushroom buns (all three are fried in pork fat) every time I have had the noodles I’ve liked them and found them to be cooked “al dente” and not mushy–that said, I don’t order ramen at enough places to compare between excellent and mediocre and certainly don’t know how pork should be handled and cooked in Ramen. (like when people tell me “so and so is the best croissant” and then when I ask what other ones they have had in NYC they say “Um – Balthazar?”).

    Now I kinda want to go to some of the other places so I can see what’s what.

    • says

      I think we must have different definitions of what al dente is – there wasn’t any bite to these noodles whatsoever. As for pork, you can cook it any way you like – but this pork was just bad, regardless of being in ramen or not. It had the texture of sawdust; if it tastes dry even sitting in broth, there’s a problem.
      And yes, it’s good for you to see what a bad review looks like 😉 haha xoxo Niko.

  8. says

    i appreciate your candid review. sometimes hype is just that. i haven’t been to the restaurant but i’ve had experiences like this too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *