It’s crazy when you think about all the spectacular restaurants in Vegas and realize that the city’s most anticipated opening ever has just been announced. We’re of course talking about David Chang’s Momofuku, which started as a New York City ramen joint and has become an unstoppable indie brand that’s changed the game in New York and beyond.
No other chef has weaved together loose Asian influences with classic cooking skills, 21st-century attitude and DGAF creativity in such a high-profile way. Chang has managed to lead the charge away from white tablecloths and toward boisterous soundtracks while also operating one of New York’s more pristine tasting-menu spots. He’s taken simple food and elevated it into large-format feasts for hipster kings. He’s influenced by old-school ethnic restaurants, but he uses modernist technique to reshape ingredients to his will. He is the pet of national food media and a James Beard Awards conqueror even while he’s talked some mad sh*t about the industry. He’s even a media mogul of his own with his Lucky Peach magazine.
Momofuku has turned into a collection of restaurants that all have their own personality. Vegas is a place that celebrates swagger of all kinds, so we hope Chang uses his forthcoming restaurant at the Cosmopolitan to showcase some of his greatest creations.
Here are five things we’d love to see at the Vegas Momofuku, slated to open later this year along with sister bakery Milk Bar.
Chang’s rendition of this Korean classic is large-format bliss and the best pulled pork you’ll eat outside Texas. A brined and slow-cooked shoulder, big enough to feed as many as 10 people, is served with accompaniments including a ginger-scallion sauce and a difference-making kimchi purée. You eat it in lettuce wraps or over rice. At New York’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Chang charges $250 for this crowd-pleasing feast, which comes with a dozen oysters. But Chang, who recently Instagrammed an enormous plate of langoustines at Aria’s Carbone, knows that Vegas is about glorious excess. So why not add caviar as a $500 supplement? This could also work for Chang’s other large-format sensations like the duck ssäm or Momofuku Noodle Bar’s fried chicken.
José Andrés has his eight-seat é restaurant hidden inside Jaleo, so maybe Chang can create a Momofuku Ko counter somewhere in his Cosmopolitan space. Ko is where Chang and crew serve elaborate tasting menus. Vegas could use a dose of shaved frozen foie gras.
The rotisserie duck—with its perfectly crispy skin—over rice at Ssäm Bar has long been one of our favorite lunches in New York. It’s the kind of quick-service brilliance that high rollers in a hurry would love in Vegas.
Ramen and buns
This is how it all began for Chang at Noodle Bar, which opened in 2004. The Vegas Strip still hasn’t caught up to the worldwide ramen trend. Having Chang’s noodle bowls would help a lot.
Clams with lo mein
The new Momofuku Nishi, which weaves together Italian and Asian flavors, is the only one of Chang’s New York restaurants we haven’t checked out yet. But the early buzz is remarkably strong. The Clams Grand Lisboa with chow mein, oregano and cabbage could be another Chang classic, a dish for lovers of both linguine vongole and clams with XO sauce. Umami bombs are what Chang does best.