This past weekend, we headed to Mokbar located in Chelsea Market, right across Los Tacos No. 1. It was one of those wet, rainy evenings that my dining companion and I craved a comforting bowl of noodles and maybe more.
This restaurant, on the surface, looks like most ramen bars around Manhattan but what really makes them stick out is their push on traditional Korean fare but utilize Japanese ramen noodles to use it as a vehicle for familiarity. In other words, since most New Yorkers know what ramen is, why not change it up with Korean flavors? Why not make Korean food familiar to those who never or rarely eats it?
Mŏk bar is run by chef and proprietor, Esther Choi. An American-born Korean hailing from New Jersey. Her passions run deep for Korean food as she cooked traditional Korean with her grandmother. You would taste the two (Jersey and Korean) roots lending a hand to each other when you eat through the tightly edited menu.
Our waitress informed us that they do have a market inspired iced drinks (it’s non-alcoholic since they do not have a liquor license yet) which today’s concoction was a refreshing, citrus-y and gently sweet blend of strawberries and yuzu.
The ho cake ($6), known as hotteok, is essentially stuffed pancake. Their version is savory stuffed with tasty ground pork and the pancake is chewy and greasy in a good way.
Their trio of banchan ($12) for the day were delicious young kimchi, a mildly spicy salad of squid, watercress and cucumber, and a kabocha squash porridge sprinkled with pine nuts. All of the banchan were fantastic. What amused me was the squash porridge was very thick like a pure squash purée but it’s a very tasty, vegetal sweet appetizer.
The disco fries ($12) is the essence of what Chef Choi’s upbringing. She said growing up in New Jersey, she loves to have disco fries. When she’s creating her menu for this restaurant, she must have disco fries but make it Asian. So what she decided was to top her fries with the cheese curds, kimchi, and ramen gravy.
These fries were insanely good. Delicately crisp fries with gooey, melting cheese curds, mildy kimchi worked wonders. My dining companion loves fries and he wouldn’t mind polishing off that cast iron pan by himself.
We ordered the special ramen, chicken soup ramen topped with poached egg ($12 and an additional $2 for the egg), which was really samgyetang. The broth was wonderful. Rich chicken flavors with a delicate earthiness of ginseng. The ramen was excellently cooked with a gentle springy texture. The toppings of tender chicken and chives was perfect.
I really adored the kimchi ramen ($12) topped with a poached egg ($2 supplement). The rich, porky kimchi broth was amazing. The heat of the soup was mildly spicy but the heat builds up a bit as I keep on slurping on. The delicious, melt-in-your-mouth braised pork and the stewed kimchi tied up the flavors neatly.
For a restaurant that is only a month old, they do run a pretty tight ship. Despite the fact we were able to finish our meal within an hour, it didn’t feel time pressured and it felt like the spirit of a Japanese ramen bar that you don’t normally hang out for over an hour for a bowl of noodles. The food was very solid and I would definitely come back for their bowls of ramen soon.
To view more photos of this meal, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157644407718859″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]