David Chang had already impacted Vegas dining before he opened Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan earlier this year. If not for Chang, would Monta have kicked off our local ramen boom? Would restless casino chef Sheridan Su have built a reputation on beautiful bao and opened his own local hot spots? Chang might not have directly influenced them, but he helped groom a hungry, hip audience—here and everywhere else—by making casual, craveable Asian food as cool as it could be.
Momofuku Vegas is similarly cool. It’s made of glass, wood, steel and concrete, grabbing a corner of Cosmo’s second floor (with sister operation Milk Bar). Chang’s artist buddy David Choe created a main dining room mural inspired by the two Davids’ dogs, Seve and Rosie. A private dining room offers Strip views and old-school imagery. It started serving a big lunch menu very soon after opening, and between 2:30 and 5 p.m., afternoon service at the bar includes small vegetable dishes, buns, noodles and rice offerings. In the kitchen full-time as executive chef is the highly skilled Michael Chen, a young Vegas vet with Joël Robuchon, Yellowtail and Wing Lei on his résumé.
I’d never eaten at any Momofuku restaurant until it came here, intentionally creating unreasonably high expectations for a chef many consider the most influential of his generation. After multiple visits, there have been no disappointments. The famous ramen and pork belly buns are excellent, truly worthy indulgences. The raw bar is my favorite part of the menu, from the smoky, savory bombs of oysters broiled with kimchi and bacon ($28) to ultra-rich bigeye tuna with shaved foie gras ($38). Citrus-cured fluke ($23) is almost violently acidic, a brilliant punch in the mouth with the slightly funky fish and accompanying seaweed holding their own. More must-orders: spicy cucumbers finished with togarashi and toasted almonds ($7); cold ginger scallion noodles ($17) that go well with everything; and a new-for-Vegas dish that has already made its way back home to New York City—crispy chicken katsu smothered in eye-rollingly delicious shiitake gravy ($34).
Momofuku’s vast range makes it special here. The Strip might have everything now, but it doesn’t have many restaurants where you can find a perfect $20 bowl of noodles for lunch and come back at night to share edgy large-format presentations that run into the hundreds (like the vaunted fried chicken and caviar that starts at $328 or the much more mandatory bo ssam, Korean pork shoulder eaten with lettuce wrap, starting at $134). Eating out on the Strip has become a team sport, and Momofuku is the ultimate foodie squad hang. Bring an army, if possible, to avoid choosing between black périgord truffle ramen ($58), roasted onion and pork shoulder kimchi stew ($24) or a five-spice rotisserie duck splurge ($198 for 3-6 people). You gotta get everything.
Chang told us he was excited to play in Las Vegas. Hopefully he’s enjoying himself so far. We sure are.
Momofuku Cosmopolitan, 702-698-2663. Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.