Momofuku Noodle Bar, one of New York’s most buzzed-about restaurants, has Washington roots. Actually, it almost opened in DC. The 30-seat East Village ramen house, which has become a favorite hangout for such chefs as Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud, is owned by David Chang, a 29-year-old Vienna native and Georgetown Prep grad (he was a busboy at Sam & Harry’s during high school) who went to culinary school after a few attempts at postcollege desk jobs. When he returned from a soba-making apprenticeship in Japan with hopes of opening a restaurant, he scouted spaces here. “I had more connections in New York,” Chang says. “That’s what it came down to.”
It’s been quite a year for Chang, known for his love of all things offal (veal-head terrine, spicy tripe) and porcine (he has four country hams on his menu, and his Berkshire pork buns have become as much of a New York culinary must-have as a Gray’s Papaya hot dog). Chang’s second Manhattan restaurant, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, snagged a nomination for a James Beard Foundation Award (Chang is also up for the rising-star chef award), which will be handed out in May. He recently sat down for our Either/Or questionnaire.
People are always going to love bacon, so country ham. It’s a lost art, and without people supporting the families that are third- and fourth-generation ham makers, it’s not going to happen anymore. And as much as I love Iberico ham, I’m tired of it. People should start supporting the stuff that’s produced in America.
“Honky Tonk”-era Stones.
Cigarettes. But somebody got me yoga classes, and now I feel bad for not saying yoga.
Both. They’re one and the same in terms of importance.
Robuchon—he’s on the Mount Rushmore of greatest chefs of all time. A hundred years from now it’s going to be Ferran and Robuchon.
The pork. I think Kobe is the most overrated, overplayed food item. Meat is such a precious commodity in Japan that you eat it in thin slices. To see it in these enormous steaks and cut up in five or six ounces, I don’t think it’s palatable.
Champagne, then Budweiser.
Foie. Five years ago I never thought that foie gras would be banned, but I think that without support down the road, it will be. We’re contemplating putting it on the menu and donating the foie proceeds to a charity.
Sriracha—it’s better on pizza.
Gawker. I read it because I’m waiting to get roasted. I know it’s going to happen with a vengeance. I’m nervous.