Tae Strain is in a difficult position. The new Executive Chef at Momofuku CCDC has complete control of the new menu in a restaurant that most every diner associates with its owner. Or its owner’s former magazine. Or its owner’s television show(s). Or its owner’s sister bakery. Or its owner’s sister bakery owner.
Strain’s version of Momofuku should please those that complained the D.C. version of Momofuku was just the greatest hits version of Momofuku. (What’s wrong with greatest hits? They’re usually great for a reason.) His menu is not the original Momofuku CCDC menu. The ramen is not on the dinner menu. The brisket buns are not on the dinner menu. In its place are bing (Chinese bread) and mussel & prawn donabe.
Unlike some others, I’ve only had positive experiences at Momofuku. I enjoyed it for dinner when it opened in the fall of 2015. I really enjoyed their brunch when it launched in the fall of 2016. Chef Strain began in the fall of 2017 and in spring 2018, the experience is still Momofuku, but the options are slightly different.
What remains the same is the ideal dining size. The more, the better. It’s fine to go with one guest, but the restaurant is better equipped for three or more. A smaller dish like the curried red beets with peanuts, puffed rice, and pomelo is a fine example of something a vegan and carnivore could enjoy. It’s a bright, excellent opening is best in small doses. If you order it with a bing, you’ll be too full to order much of anything else. In other words, the small plates aren’t that small.
If Chef Strain is working on a calling card for the new Momofuku, it’ll be his bing. Well, it’ll be the dippings that accompany the bread. Pictured below is the Momofuku trout roe & dill labne and the roasted Chesapeake oysters. If you’re into indulgent seafood and carbs, good luck finding a better pair of dishes. There’s no way these will be as popular as the pork buns. Who cares? If you’re into hearty seafood flavors, these will satisfy. Since some in your group may shy away from trout roe, the salted chili pimento cheese bing is placed first on the menu.
Moving on to the mains, the whole rotisserie chicken served with chicken fat basmati rice, olives, cilantro yogurt, and fried eggs is another dish meant for more than two. The menu says it’s for two, but it’s also enough for four. Once again, Momofuku is good for groups. Groups that aren’t afraid of seafood and poultry.
I do not care for dessert. I thoroughly enjoyed the olive oil cake with yuzu curd, coconut, and marshmallow. It cut through the heaviness of the main courses without making me feel even more indulgent. If you’re going with someone that doesn’t enjoy the finer things in life (seafood, poultry), you could stick with the beets and sweets and leave happy.
Momofuku CCDC,1090 I Street NW, is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner Sunday through Wednesday from 5 p .m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The ramen and brisket buns are still available during lunch.