The Momofuku restaurant phenomenon, founded by Michelin-starrred chef David Chang, made its way to Toronto a few years ago and I finally had the chance to visit. Momofuku is adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and sits behind an astounding piece of public art created by celebrated artist Zhang Huan entitled “Rising”, a magnificent sculpture that rises over a reflective pool.
If that’s not impressive enough, Momofuku is located in an architecturally stunning three-storey glass cube. What can only be described as a complex, Momofuku comprises of five different concepts. There’s even a subtle map at the entrance to help find your way inside.
Momofuku boasts three restaurants. The Noodle Bar, with its communal tables and bar overlooking the open kitchen, is located on the ground floor. There’s also Daishō (steakhouse) and Shōtō (multi-course tasting menu) on the top floor.
The second floor is home to Nikai, a bar and lounge with food from the Noodle Bar’s menu. Also located on this floor is the Milk Bar, established by pastry chef Christina Tosi. This dessert shop is housed in a small refrigerated glass room.
We booked the Noodle Bar online through Momofuku’s website but it seemed they couldn’t find our reservation so we were shown to Nikai on the second floor. Actually, I’m not really sure what happened when we arrived as there was very little communication. Whether they had our reservation for the Noodle Bar but preferred to seat us in the bar and lounge or had no record of it, we’ll never know. Although we had a nice view overlooking the Noodle Bar below, we were seated on backless stools in a crowded corner so we immediately asked to change place as the stools would have been torture for Paulo’s chronic back problem. We were moved to the bar where the stools were much more comfortable but we had our backs turned to any kind of view of the surroundings. This was a bit disappointing until I realised that the very nice bartender would also take our food order so all was good. We had a captive audience… plus the cocktails were excellent!
Fortunately, Nikai offers the same menu as the Noodle Bar but in a relaxed lounge setting. The informal space made it easy for me to walk around and take in the ambience. Nikai overlooks the Noodle Bar in what is essentially a double-height room with gorgeous décor: textured oak walls, glass and steel accents, and a sweeping open staircase.
We started off with drinks. Paulo had a Peach House beer by Oast House Brewers, a collaboration with Momofuku (momofuku means lucky peach). The beer had a wonderful taste and sweet peach aroma. I enjoyed the Carte Verte cocktail so much I had two! Made with gin, chartreuse and cucumber, it was tangy and refreshing.
We shared some steamed buns as our starter. The pork belly was heavenly and just melted in my mouth. It was nestled in a soft, pillowy bun with hoisin, cucumber and scallion (spring onions).
We also tried the chicken meatball buns with iceberg lettuce, ssäm sauce and smoked pickle. The lettuce and pickle provided a nice texture to the softness of the meatballs. The ssäm sauce, a Momofuku staple, was deliciously tangy. Made with traditional gochujang (a spicy, umami-rich seasoning) it added a nice kick.
Momofuku is famous for its steamed buns so they’re really worth trying. The pork buns are chef David Chang’s signature dish.
Momofuku is also renowned for its ramen but we decided to order the noodle dishes. I had the Ginger Scallion Noodle dish with shiitake, cucumber and cabbage. We both upgraded to have katsu (breaded, deep-fried chicken cutlet) included in our noodles and it was so worth it.
I loved all of the flavours and textures in my noodle dish and the crispy sheet of seaweed was a nice touch.
Paulo ordered the
Very Extremely Spicy Noodle dish with Sichuan chili, zha chi, scallion and katsu. Paulo has a high tolerance for spice but he found the dish definitely lived up to its name. He enjoyed it tremendously and the accompanying glass of soy milk helped calm the spicy heat.
For dessert, we could purchase any items from the Milk Bar and enjoy them at the table. Everything looked so good we bought extra items to take home.
We particularly liked the selection of giant cookies and the truffles (Chocolate Malt and B’day). My favourite was the Cornflake Chocolate Marshmallow Cookie.
The addictive Crack Pie, with its toasted oat crust and gooey butter filling, was also available in abundance.
It’s also worth noting that Momofuku’s bold flavours and high quality ingredients can be found across the street from their building at the Adelaide Eats food market running until 28 July, 2017. Momofuku have their own stall there on weekdays (more info on the website).
We popped by the market a week later to get our Momofuku steamed buns fix. We had the famed pork buns but also tried the spicy chicken bun with kewpie mayo, habanero and iceberg lettuce. Absolutely delicious!
Momofuku is an architecturally unique place in Toronto, housing five delicious concepts. It’s a definite must-visit and next time we’ll be sure to request a seat at the Noodle Bar, perhaps facing the open kitchen where we can watch the talented chefs at work.
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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