Top Momofuku

In food on 01/17/2009 at 9:59 am

Last night turned out to be a tour of Japan. We had dinner at Minca the Ramen Factory in the East Village, which Rameniac raved about. Me, meh, not a fan of viscous liquids, except for kefir-type beverages. Yogurt, especially the vanilla from Trader Joe’s, I like. But soups with consistency of stews, thick, nauseously unctuous, topped with fat-laced braised pork belly, really not my cup of tea.

When you consider the reputation of places like Ippudo, where they MUST make their own wheat noodles onsite, the dense and rather hard square-cut factory ones at Minca don’t really cut it. Maybe that’s why it’s subtitled ‘the ramen factory.’ Papa Momofuku would really disapprove. What made it especially disappointing was how one note it was, all so heavy-handed. Japanese food is known to be light, pretty, and pretty bland. Most people only know sushi or sashimi. It is difficult to find a reasonably priced Japanese restaurant that serves homestyle or just less stuffy food. I want to experience what the people eat in the villages or traditional towns on a workaday basis. Hopefully, my new Japanese Country Coobook will shed some light when I delve into it.

Ippudo is a diner set in a nightclub, which turned me off, but their soups actually have variations in flavor. And their noodles manage not leaden. I even ordered an extra portion when I was there. Noodles should be slippery and light. Minca’s overall was too rich, roasted garlic infused broth in an already dense pork AND chicken-based liquid. Reminds me of Hakata Tonton in Greenwich where pork belly was an ingredient in all the dishes. We were excited to go, but besides the standard braised variety in the form of pork feet, the rest was not well-seasoned, and the steamed bun for the ‘sandwich’ was rubbery!

The Momofuku empire of David Chang is all the rage now, but if he’s known for the same pork belly sandwich, aka Taiwanese hamburger, I now have my reservations about wanting to eventually eat at Ko. Can a Korean dude bring something else to the table, inject some life into tonkotsu? What the soup at Minca lacked in roundness of flavor, a little injection of acidity might have solved, or a hint of spice heat. That kind of tunnel vision is just plain bad.

east village

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