Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bizzare foods with Me: Pig Tail at Momofuku Noodle Bar

A week or so ago I hit Momofuku Noodle Bar and while not an infrequent haunt of mine, they were running a special of pig tails which I wanted to share.  Also, it mostly gives me an excuse to link to an old post on Serious Eats about another meal at had there in back 2008 when I first got to try  pig tails.  And chitterlings.  And fried lambs brains.  There were several food firsts I ate that night, as it was the night Fergus Henderson of offal temple St. John restaurant in London (a place I've not yet had the pleasure to try) was the guest chef for his annual Fergusstock in NY.  It was before I started this blog, but luckily I met a real blogger, Nick Solares, there and we teamed up to order and share more dishes than I could have reasonably ordered alone and he documented our meal for me in his post.  Anyway, on to my recent visit.

I started with an amuse of a Johan Crab Claw.  In general I like these crab claws ok (are they the same as stone crab claws or something different? Look the same to me) but I also think they are a bit overrated.  I did like this guy significantly more than usual due to the topping of caviar and a bit of sauce (the name I forget) and the fact that it was slightly warm.  I think the temperature brought out more flavor than I usually perceive when they are ice cold.

Next was "sliced hamachi – beets, blood orange, olives."  These flavors worked very well together, and did not overwhelm the delicious fish but in fact worked to highlight its freshness and accent its flavors.  I liked this a lot.

Next were the roasted pig tails special.  They were much smaller than the one I had tried previously here at the Fergus Henderson dinner, and counter-intuitively seemed relatively meatier.  I much preferred these.  The earlier one had perhaps a bit too much breading, but more importantly seemed to consist entirely of gelatinous tissue with very little meat.  I understand that's the draw for many lovers of this stuff, and I like it too, I just prefer a bit more meat than it had that time.  These little guys fit the bill.  It took some work to get the tasty flesh away from the tiny group of bones, but it was worth it and it had a nice balance between the meat and the texture the connective tissues provided.  The pear-like pickles (not sure what it was) proved a nice foil to the rich meat with both acid, sweetness, and crunch.

For my main course I got the Kimchi Stew.  This was an item that had been on the standard menu forever, and I had heard great things but had never tried it in my many previous visits for one simple reason: it is huge, and I always opted for several smaller dishes and never had room to tackle this.  But since I recently read that it had been taken off the menu but was available off the menu if requested, I decided to go for it.  It was in fact on the menu the night I was there, but I note it's not one the current menu today.  So like I said, this thing is huge.  And quite rich and full flavored, and chock full of pork.  I felt like I could barely make a dent.  But it was indeed fantastic.  Not too spicy, but very warming flavors and rib sticking goodness; there seemed to be a good amount of gelatin in the bowl.  It's perhaps better suited to cold weather, but I wanted to finally give it a try even though it had begun to warm up a bit.

The soft serve flavors they offered were "wine" and "cheese", so I got the twist to try both.  They made an interesting combination.  The wine was reminiscent of a tangy grape sorbet, but less fruity as you might imagine.  The cheese was similar to a frozen yogurt, with notes of cheesecake; I suspect it was made with a fresh goat cheese or something similar.  When you dug to the bottom there were bits of cracker and some dried fruit, so it really drove home the wine and cheese experience.  Quite a fun finish.

Like the Kimchi Stew, the tamales the restaurant started offering a while back were something I had been wanting to try for a while, so I got one of each kind to go.  They made for a fine lunch the next day (just as fine was the leftover Kimchi Stew I reheated for dinner).
The tamale batter was quite authentic tasting, and even the fillings did not stray as far from traditional flavors as I might have expected. These guys are larger than the traditinal ones I come across and think of, but of comparable size to versions most often seen here.  The fillings offered were jalapeno queso (back), chicken mole (still wrapped), and pork kimchi.  The jalapeno queso was my favorite, and there's a good chance I will grab some to go again on future visits, even if they are not as good as the one my buddy's mom makes which I get once in a while.

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