The Early Word: Momofuku Milk Bar


The problem with wearying of reading about every move David Chang makes is that, almost inevitably, his food is delicious. And it’s delicious in ways that seem both simple and obvious (fish sauce, sugar, chiles, fried brussels sprouts, kimchi, butter, oysters, tempura eggs, pork belly), and at the same time singular and new.

So while Chang’s business moves occasionally seem irksomely haughty (charging $160 for lunch, without wine, in this economy), I can hardly ever find fault with his food. And that, not all the tiresome hype and the endless coverage on Eater, is what really matters.

So we skipped the long lines this weekend, and waited until today to check out Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar (207 Second Avenue).

The very best thing I tasted was the already-famous salty pistachio caramel soft serve. And honestly, it’s so good that I think I had to grab onto the table to steady myself. There’s something almost witchy about the perfect ratio of salt to pistachio to caramel—and pistachio (under-used!) always has something wonderful and illusive about it. How do you describe that distinctive pistachio taste? It’s nutty, fragrant and sweet, but not sugary. Rich and almost meaty. This pistachio soft serve fills your mouth with the flavor of pistachio, salt and caramel, and seems to go on forever. It’s the color of yellowish split pea soup, and is the tiniest bit grainy, heavy with nuts. We didn’t get any toppings, but there were brown butter solids available for scattering over the ice cream. Brown butter solids. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Everything else we tried was very good, but if I had to go for one thing, the soft serve would be it.

Other highlights:

Crack pie: Surprisingly, contains no actual narcotics, but instead is a thick and sticky concoction of butter, heavy cream and brown sugar. So it’s only a little better for you than actual crack.

Cookies! Top: Marshmallow-cornflake-chocolate chip. This one was actually a little bit too much, a little too chewy-crunchy, too much going on. Middle: Snickerdoodle. My favorite; cakey and pillowy, browned on the edges and fragrant of cinnamon and vanilla. Bottom: Corn cookie. Like the richest corn muffin top ever, a pleasantly grainy, sweet cornmeal cookie, crisp around the edges, soft and chewy inside.

Pistachio Cake: Pistachio cake and icing, filled with layers of very tart lemon curd and a sprinkle of “milk crumbs,” which seem to be sweetened milk, boiled down to solids.

The volcano: The only savory thing we tried, this is a crusty bread bun (with those blistery little bubbles under the crust’s surface that tells you it’s going to be good) filled with potato gratin, bacon and gruyere. The whole thing smells overwhelmingly of bacon. This was my least favorite thing. It flirts with overkill.