Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I say "Momofuku," he says, "Noodle Bar".

Why is it that I have an extensive list of eateries that I long to try but that when I am put on the spot, not a one comes to mind? We were on our way to the National Academy Museum for a Family Arts program this morning. All I could think about was where we were going to eat lunch afterwards. My friend R. was kind enough to drive us and she said that it was up to me to figure out where we would dine (as it should be). I had searched for a place on the Upper East Side last night and nothing grabbed me, except for Kid Fresh which I see more as a shopping rather than eating, experience. I figured that something would come to me eventually.

Suddenly, a light bulb went off and I said, "Momofuku" and Izzy said, "Noodle Bar". I guess our experience there this past summer made quite an impression on him; I know it did on me. I was obsessed with the restaurant from the first, for it took Asian food to a new level with its extensive offerings of local, seasonal, and organic delights. Not many other eateries can boast a list of Heritage pork to rival Momufuku's. It didn't disappoint.

I had already been there a few times myself and I was hesitant to take him because they only have bar stools and it is a rather cramped and crowded spot. I wondered how a three year-old would fare, albeit a generally well-behaved one. Well, I suppose it should come as no surprise, but he exceeded my wildest expectations. We arrived and luckily did not have to wait to secure a spot at the crowded counter. He seemed in awe of the place, peering behind the bar where all the action was taking place. Food was sizzling, dishes were clattering, smells were wafting about and waitresses were busy ferrying steaming bowls of noodles all around us. I overheard the servers say they couldn't believe how adorable and well-behaved he was. They fawned over him as he balanced himself precariously on the high bar stool, for over an hour, while earnestly trying to slurp his noodles topped with Berkshire pork and munch on the delectable shitaake mushroom buns. Ah, I reveled in the moment, then and now, for if he could cooperate here, then we could go anywhere.

When I snapped out of my revelry, I told R. about Momofuku Ssam, the newer restaurant with a different approach, instead of soups, it specializes in Ssam which are Asian burritos(giant flour pancakes)or rice bowls, filled with a dizzying array of succulent foodstuffs, from soft, shredded organic chicken to flavorful beans, roasted onions, whipped tofu..etc. etc. and of course that same old addictive Berkshire pork found at the original spot. So off we sped to lunch. Turns out that the newer spot is less frenetic (at least at noon on a Saturday )then the original. And they have regular tables so it is easier if you go with more than one child. The set-up is semi-cafeteria style and you go up to the counter and choose the fillings for your ssam and order your buns. You pay and take them back to your table. I had trouble choosing from all that was offered but eventually selected a Bibb Lettuce Ssam with organic chicken, roasted onions, pickled shitaake mushrooms, bacon black beans, edamame and whipped tofu($12)along with an order of the not to be missed pork buns (2 for $8). Izzy and I shared bites of the pork buns and he kept grabbing for the porky tidbits when they escaped the bun. I then fed him chopstickfuls of the Ssam mixture. The portions were so big that we even saved some for papa's lunch.

I can't say that R. and her daughter were as enthralled with the experience as we were but what can you expect from a semi-vegetarian Cuban who doesn't eat pork???

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