Please note that one of the meals was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
There is no secret that I love ramen, but also Korean food, that I tried in my multiple trips to Korea many years ago. So, I was thrilled to try Mŏkbar, a Korean ramen shop that opened in May 2014, with the goal to bring Korean flavors and street food to New York. I went twice before being invited there recently, following the recommendation of one of my friends and was certainly not disappointed. The third time was even better!
There, we got to meet with Chef and owner Esther Choi and we had a nice talk about Korean food, the restaurant industry and of course, Mŏkbar. Chef Choi learned how to cook at a very young age with her Grandmother and later graduated from the International Culinary Education (ICE). Her idea of Mŏkbar was to have people discover Korean flavors, serving a menu composed of classic dishes with a twist, focusing on flavors, balance and texture, without forgetting presentation.
They definitely have a very interesting choice of dishes (there are a bunch of small ones perfect to share), such as the japchae dumplings:
These dumplings are made with tofu, pickled shiitake mushroom, chives and the japchae that is glass noodles made with sweet potatoes. This was very good and such a surprising dish!
We also tried the Ho'cake, a crispy bun filled with pork belly and served with a kimchi hot sauce:
That was a very comforting dish. I love the crispiness of the bun as well as the filling that was very tasty. I did not find the sauce particularly spicy though...
Another snack was the Halmoni. These are dumplings made with pork, zucchini, tofu and kimchi:
They were fantastic: the shell was thin, delightfully crispy on the charred side, and the inside delicious.
But some of the most surprising dishes were made with rice cakes. I always had this idea that rice cakes are bland and perfect only if you are on a diet. But, at Mŏkbar, I discovered that I was mistaken and loved the dishes made with it, especially the texture of the rice cakes.. First was the kochi, some crispy rice cakes presented on a skewer, smothered by a (not so) spicy sauce:
That was so good that I wished there was more! I really thought at first that it would be tasteless, but the chives, sesame and sauce gave another dimension to what could have been a boring dish.
Then, the tteokboki, brown butter rice cakes served with minced pork, crispy bacon, white kimchi and a poached egg:
It had a bit of heat, but I could not resist going back to it, using the runny yolk to soothe my mouth. It was also a bit sweet and smokey with a nice texture.
Another great appetizer was the mushroom tempura. They are made in a pork broth, but you can ask for a vegetarian version of it. This dish was composed of pork pickled shiitake mushrooms, scallion and garlic chive relish.
If you love mushroom, this dish is definitely for you: they are definitely the star.
Another interesting dish was the disco fries, or its Korean version of it, made with ramen gravy, cheese curd, kimchi and nori:
I thought it was a great take on a classic American diner dish, very comforting, with flavors that worked well together.
But, I admit that where I was surprised is when I tried the kale salad: those who know me know that I am not really a salad guy, but I have to say that this salad was fantastic: lightly dressed, it has a delightful sweetness to it, thanks to the golden raisins, as well as some nuttiness coming from the sesame seeds and cashew nuts.
I also liked their bulgogi, that I am more used to seeing cooked on a grill in front of me.
I loved all the colors of the ingredients (marinated ribeye - tender and flavorful-, triple seasonal kimchi, perfectly poached egg and scallion) and was surprised to find noodles in the bottom. The taste was amazing and the first bite divine.
Of course, we also tried their ramen. We went for the brothy one rather than the saucy, and avoided the spicy ones. Jodi picked the vegan miso ramen, that was made with a kombu, shiitake and doenjang (bean paste) based broth. Inside was crispy potatoes and vegetables. On the side were two pieces of crispy tofu.
I got the chicken ramen with, as an add-on, pork belly and a poached egg.
Both ramen were good, but I have to say that the mokbar one was amazing: the broth was simply fantastic and I loved the pork belly that had a nice char. We both got a poached egg as a topping: it was perfect and literally disintegrated when we mixed it with the broth.
The last dish was the rainbow rice: a black rice served with three sorts of fish roe (masago), giving a fantastic color to the dish, kimchi hot sauce (and there, hot means hot) and nori.
It came in a skillet that was pipping hot and you could hear the rice sizzling. We let it sit for few minutes, so it created a splendid crust, adding some texture. I like fish roe, but admit that I was not sure how this would taste as there was a lot of it. Well, it was simply delicious, but very hot and my mouth was on fire. But I could not stop going back to it.
With my last meal, I tried some tea: quince and black tea. I chose to have it with soju in it. It was very good, but dangerous as you could drink it like milk...
Mŏkbar is an incredible place worth knowing and I highly recommend it: Chef Esther Choi has created a sublime restaurant that definitely stands out and with a menu that can satisfy the carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, in a relaxed atmosphere.
Enjoy (I surely did)!
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