Bon Appétit’s restaurant editor, Andrew Knowlton, recently published his list of the 20 Most Important Restaurants in America. Knowlton said, “They’re not the fanciest, trendiest, or even the ones with the most stars. They’re the places that define how we eat out.” At the very top of that list? Momofuku and its founder, David Chang. If you’re not familiar with the name (in which case you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past 10 years), Chang is a Korean-American who opened Momofuku, a Japanese-style noodle bar, nearly 10 years ago. Although he was hardly the first one to think of serving ramen and steamed buns in America, he was the one who started the trend, or should I say, the movement. His bad-boy attitude and friendship with Anthony Bourdain quickly brought him into the limelight. And now, with four restaurants, a bar and a chain of dessert bars (Momofuku Milk Bar) in the US, recent international openings in Sydney and Toronto, best-selling books, and a successful magazine (Lucky Peach), it seems as though his empire knows no bounds.
I have yet to visit most of his restaurants, but I’ve been to Mà Pêche twice (it’s the easiest of his restaurants to book), and I have loved every bite there. The cuisine at Mà Pêche is refined but unfussy and satisfying, and it’s made with classic techniques, but the flavor combinations are unconventional. My visits there gave me a glimpse into Chang’s culinary genius (which certainly starts with his ability to build exceptional teams to run his restaurants), and I’m looking forward to trying more. As is typical with trendy spots though, it’s hard to get to all of Chang’s restaurants, including walk-in-only Momofuku Noodle Bar. A bowl of soup is something I usually have a sudden craving for, and having to suffer an endless line for it puts me off, especially when there are many other excellent options in New York. Oh well. With high honors such as the one just awarded by Bon Appétit, the popularity of Chang’s restaurants is not likely to die down any time soon, so I might just have to bite the bullet and wait my turn in line.
For a 3-minute David Chang crash course, watch the following video in which BA Editor Andrew Knowlton explains why he believes Momofuku is the most important restaurant in America.
Momofuku Noodle Bar picture by Jack Amick, via Flickr Creative Commons.