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  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Asian East Village Cheap Eats Great

Momofuku Noodle Bar is, thanks to Julia Moskin’s terrific article on ramen two weeks ago in The Times, well-known for its steamy bowls of killer ramen. The signature house version, the Momofuku Ramen ($13), comes stocked with silky strands of ramen tucked into a melting wedge of braised Berkshire (think Kobe for pig) pork belly, a pile of shredded pork shoulder, a perfectly poached egg, and a deep green nook of spinach; a sheet of nori punctuates the dish. This is food that does more than fill you up. It brings a big fat grin to your face, and warms your soul in places you didn’t even know were cold. Not to mention that you are likely to make some great new friends (and run into some old ones as well) sitting at this spare, blond-wooded ramen bar, while you watch as chef-owner David Chang, a sweetheart of a guy with a great smile and to-die-for dimples, assembles bowl after bowl of the squiggly noodle soup. On a soft gray afternoon, with a slight chill in the air, his smile and that ramen are tough to beat. (Okay, so maybe I have a small crush on him. I do have a soft spot for handsome men who cook for me, especially when it’s more than coffee.) Anyway, Dave’s ramen is amazing stuff, but there are a couple of little treats to add to your meal that I feel I must point out. First, the roasted rice cakes with red chile pepper sauce ($6) are brilliant. These springy little coin-shaped cakes are common in Korean cooking (Chang is Korean), where they are usually served stewed in sauce. But in Japan, where Chang spent several months learning the art of soba with a soba master, and studying Japanese cuisine at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, they are roasted and served as streetfood, like French Fries. Ivory in color, the rice cakes are slightly sweet, almost like less starchy plantains, with a slightly springy texture. (To make rice cakes, rice is beaten down so all the gluten is worked up which produces that slightly gummy/chewy texture). Dave douses the rice cakes with a sweet-hot slick of jam-like red chile pepper sauce, and a scattering of scallions and julienned carrots. He sent me this dish as an app, and since I knew I had quite bit more food coming, I shared it with some strangers at the bar. We were all friends in an instant. Next, came the pork buns ($6)—you may be familiar with these steamed buns—Man Tao—from Chinese cooking, but Dave’s version is a bit different. Dave uses the puffy alabaster bun as a wrapper, ... [more, click below]

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