My love affair with Ramen, the delectable Japanese noodle dish, began long before Ramen was cool and likely long before David Chang's runaway hit Momofuku.
Despite my own long history with Ramen that may have begun with the crunchy dry Mr. Noodles my friends were eating in the playground at recess, one Ramen joint had eluded me. Actually many have, but the one in particular was Momofuku in New York's East Village. Friend after friend travelled to New York and ate at Momofuku, but me — never.
So in October of 2017 I finally had a free day in New York. Despite having been to the city many times this was the first time I had been in the East Village and the first pilgrimmage to Momofuku.
Thankfully a million hipster Ramen joints had opened up so I didn't have to wait for a seat. The place was, however, packed with iPhone toting enthusiasts. Clearly Momofuku had not lost it's luster.
Service was efficient and the noodles excellent. I opted for an Evil Twin Brewing IPA to pair with my Momofuku Ramen — a mix of pork belly, pork shoulder, and a poached egg. Ultimately it was excellent, but not mind blowing. Then I had to think to myself. This place basically helped kick off the North American, and possibly even worldwide Ramen trend and I was way late to the party.
Me eating Ramen at Momofuku in 2017 was like a film student watching Reservoir Dogs in 2017 and being unimpressed. So much time had passed and the rest of the world had adopted the once innovative style, but if you put it into context Momofuku, just like Reservoir Dogs, was not just a restaurant — it was a movement.
The truth is that respect is owed to the pioneers of a trend. Newbies will always come along and innovate or create a bigger splash, but the people that set the table in the first place deserve some respect. David Chang was and still is an innovator and Momofuku is a legend in its own right. The fact that they are still around and thriving is testament to this.
A million hipster Ramen joints can take away from what has already been achieved here.
Chris Stenberg is a Canadian travel photographer, filmmaker and researcher. When he’s not wielding a camera or raising a family you can find him running, biking and boarding in the mountains or eating an apple under a tree in an orchard.