Momofuku Restaurant and Milk Bar take DC


photo by Isabel Dibble

Customers gather at Milk Bar to try its rich desserts.

By Isabel Dibble, News Editor

The long wait for the highly anticipated opening of the Momofuku and Milk Bar stores at City Center in D.C. finally ended Oct. 23.

The restaurant Momofuku and its sister bakery, Milk Bar, both originally gained popularity with their stores in New York City. Momofuku serves modern pan Asian food, while Milk Bar offers a playful take on desserts, including cakes, cookies, milkshakes and their famous cereal-flavored custard with crushed corn flakes.

David Chang is the owner and founder of Momofuku who opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in 2004. Christina Tosi was at first Momofuku’s pastry chef but then founded the spin off bakery, Milk Bar, in 2008. Both are from the DMV area and announced months ago that they were bringing their stores back to their hometown, creating much anticipation.

“People drove an hour just to come and wait in line,” said senior Jonathan Schwartzman, who also stood in line at Milk Bar. “There was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.”

For most customers, the actual opening of both stores on Oct. 23 and 24 was a surprise.

According to an Oct. 25 Washington Post article, Milk Bar tweeted just after 4 a.m. Friday Oct. 23, that the store would open at 7 a.m. that day. On Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. Momofuku staffers came out and announced that the restaurant was also open, which was followed by Chang tweeting the opening as well.

“Chang decided to open two days before,” said Momofuku assistant general manager Whitney Standish. “Even though it was a relatively impromptu opening, the staff had been training for weeks so they were ready.”

According to Standish, Chang and the rest of his staff’s main concern is how D.C. will react to Momofuku’s communal seating and the fusion of flavors in its cuisine.

Some people seemed to enjoy the communal seating while others were uncomfortable.

According to Standish, one of the reasons people are open to the communal seating right now is that with the new location, the wait for a table can be almost up to two hours, and by that point people don’t really care if they’re sitting next to strangers because their focus is on getting food. A lot of the communal seating occurred at the long tables that seat around 10 people. However, even a normal four-person table can be split into two parties using the napkins and cup of chopsticks put in the middle of the table as a separator.

The D.C. menu pulled unique dishes from all six restaurants in New York City, such as the original Momofuku store’s famous Ramen noodles which are Chang’s mother’s recipe.

The D.C. stores also offer Biscuit Bites made with thinly sliced Virginia ham and mini, fluffy biscuits, which is Chang’s American version of Prosciutto. Brisket Buns consist of soft, pillow-like buns with tender beef and crunchy onions.

Two other popular dishes are the Fried Chicken and the Bo Ssam. The fried chicken includes one southern style and one Korean style of chicken. The southern style chicken is fried with a buttermilk and Old Bay batter, while the Korean style is triple fried and served with a light spicy glaze which even people who do not like spicy food should try. It comes with Moo Shu pancakes in addition to different types of sauces. At each location, the menu evolves, and the D.C. location’s will evolve too, depending on what is popular among the customers.

Milk Bar has various flavors of cookies from the Compost cookie to the Cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookie to the Corn cookie. There are also the mouth-watering crack pies, popular cakes, soft serve ice cream and milk shakes, along with the delicious cake truffles.

“My favorite are the set of three of the chocolate malt cake truffles,” Schwartzman said. “If you are into cookies more, then definitely try the Compost cookie, because it was filling and had a lot of different flavors.”

According to Schwartzman, Milk Bar offered small portions of food that are rich and have a lot of flavor like the truffle balls. Food that is rich and packed with a lot of flavor can also describe the majority of the food at Momofuku.

While not everyone is a fan of the food and others who have been to the New York stores say that the DC location does not provide the same flavor, many of those who did wait in line were happy with the result.

“My sister had told me about Milk Bar, and I heard it was amazing,” Schwartzman said. “I went and stood in line for 30 minutes, and it was worth it.”