Friday, February 5, 2016

mŏkbar | Chelsea | Manhattan


Editor's Notes: Featured Read of the Day on Yelp  ROTD 11/15/2015
They say true genius often strikes in the pale moments between awake and asleep. I must have been sleepwalking all these years because I haven't truly had Korean-style ramen until today and the experience I had, by definition, was a culinary eye-opener. This brings us to why we feel mŏkbar is deserving of 4.8/5.0

mŏkbar Chelsea market entrance
mŏkbar, the brainchild of NJ-native Esther Choi, began operating in Chelsea Market in May of 2014, billed as the first Korean-style ramen in the city.  (They're situated across from Los Tacos #1 which I'm not a fan of... you can read my review on that.)  Riding on a wave of high acclaim from media outlets, Esther's Food Network appearance on Beat Bobby Flay (aired Sept 4, 2014, in case you're interested) catapulted the restaurant into the cross hairs of the masses for better or worse. Having cut her teeth with experience at ilili, and La Esquina also helped hone her craft from training at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).

When I first visited one afternoon, months earlier, I had the classic ramen, my mistake- it didn't set my palate on fire. I returned to rectify this on a Thursday Chelsea gallery opening night, ordering dishes until I bursted with fruit-flavor.

spicy Mok wings
FOOD
For small plates or as it should be called, anju, we ordered Ho'Cakes, Japchae dumplings, tteokbokki, and spicy Mok wings. Anju is typically accompanied by alcohol so we simply had to have the soju sampler (where each glass come flavored by a different fruit or inspiration)

soju sampler

Ho'cakes
The Ho'cakes, otherwise known as hotteok, are every bit as amazing as I've heard about these savory stuffed pancakes of pork. Every morsel with satisfying chew, it was probably not meant to be shared, because it will fall apart if you try to cut into one of the halves!

japchae dumplings
The japchae dumplings, although true to the dish that it draws inspiration from, I prefer my japchae served up on a plate, not so much in the form of a dumpling (just my preference), however the dumpling had a nice crisp to them and the glass noodles danced around inside my mouth with the accompanying sauce being spot-on.


tteokbooki
The tteokbokki was a nice surprise because I've made them at home with gochujang and so I know that the rice cakes are typically huge logs with satisfying chew. Their take is a fantastic departure in that they're the size of penne with crisp, chew, and heat all in the same bite! This would ideally go great with beer in any case.  They were still crispy even while marinating in the sauces. Impressive!  Finally, the Mok wings, which we ordered spicy were marinated in gochujang, the right amount of kick without overpowering the flavor of the wings. Simply fun to eat, much like the tteokbokki.

For my entree, I ordered the kimchi ramen along with porkbelly and extra noodles because you can never have enough.  I enjoy these soups that are served hot, and also packing sufficient heat despite the summer months.  The presentation is all there, Sun Noodles, as ever-present in commercially produced ramen, is also nice to see.  The porky soup broth provides the requisite kick and flavor from the kimchi, as expected. The cabbage itself provides all the veggies I'd like to eat for the night. All-in-all, I love it without the egg.  Definitely on-par with all the ramen heavy-hitters in the city.


SERVICE
Service is as quick and attentive as you'd expect from a standalone restaurant, making sure your table never runs out of water, getting small plates to the table first, getting entrees out altogether, checking on your experience- basically all the little things which always ends up mattering so much.

ETC
Vegan ramen is offered, and this means miso-based. (This is huge)  A restaurant offering a menu set of this size is remarkable considering the space/kitchen they have to work with. They have seating by the kitchen counter and in the back, away from the prying eyes and those seat-vultures in Chelsea Market. (Yes, like you, I am one too) The only drawback I find with mŏkbar is that it's set within the busy energy that is Chelsea Market, amidst the hustle and bustle of shoppers, stragglers, lunch-goers, foodies, I've heard my fair share of ignoramus commentary while waiting a few minutes for my table like "What kind of Chinese is this??" and so I also don't especially welcome the prying eyes burning into the back of my skull, nor the onlookers with the look of bemusement, gazing at the "bizarre foods" that I'm savoring.


Seating via mŏkbar
SUMMARY
mŏkbar is a solid, casual dining option among various non-competing choices in Chelsea Market, catering to both tourists and worker-bees alike from around the area (e.g. Google), the only Korean eatery within the Chelsea/MePa districts, offering ramen and gastropub (anju) fare.  I can see Esther take the mŏkbar concept into it's own standalone restaurant, as it truly deserve a home to call it's own. 4.8/5.0

mŏkbar
Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
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mokbar

Mokbar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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