Fairly often, a new strip restaurant opens up with a big celebrity chef named stamped on it. Rarely will the chef ever go there, and the food suffers as a result. It makes sense to cash in on your newfound celebrity if you’re one of these people, but those are the exact restaurants that give Vegas its negative reputation of overpriced tourist trap places. Reasonable enough restaurants, but nothing worth the money and often boring and underseasoned food that caters towards rich and trendy people.
I’d heard tell that Momofuku in NYC is the real deal. David Chang is, by all accounts, a brilliant chef. He has a sterling reputation, but is by no means nearly as famous as Gordon Ramsay or some of the Food Network darlings. I was super excited to try his restaurant with its simplified menu at his Las Vegas location and see for myself if I can add another actually good strip restaurant to my list.
The restaurant is located on the less traveled 2nd floor of the Cosmopolitan off in a corner next to the chandelier bar. It’s a gorgeous space, and I can imagine the rent on this place to be astronomical. The menu has a few extremely expensive items nestled among some reasonably priced entrees, and though I love truffles as much as the next guy I stuck to the mainstays and most of the popular dishes that Momofuku is somewhat famous for since I’ve never been to the original restaurant.
Everything is served family style and they just bring things out as they’re ready, so the first thing we received was sashimi of citrus cured fluke and pickled plum and seaweed. I’m a huge citrus fan in general, and the fish was cut thick enough that it had a really satisfying bite to it. There was a lot of acid and a lot of sourness which went along really well with the fish, which was a good choice. The powerful flavors didn’t overpower the flavor of the fluke and everything meshed extremely well together, which is sometimes hard to do with sashimi. I told my friend Matt that it was a good start, and I was excited for the dishes to come.
Excitement was appropriate, because the chicken katsu with pepper gravy was absolutely the best new dish I’ve had in months. Simply good fried chicken cutlets were covered in a thick, peppery gravy that looks like it’s going to weigh down your stomach and make you regret finishing the plate, but the acidic bite of sherry vinegar completely cuts through the heaviness of the sauce and makes it an absolute joy to spoon up once the chicken is all gone. It was absolutely impossible to put down the spoon until we ate all the sauce. This dish is simply a must order.
In this enigma of a bowl are up there as the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had. Seemingly deep fried for intense caramelization and covered in a vinaigrette with possibly fish sauce, these are crispy treasures that give just enough bite to satisfy a sprouts fan. Not necessarily the most inventive dish, but sometimes you just want something done extremely well and this bowl delivers.
The ramen came very highly recommended and was Matt’s absolute “must try” dish. It wasn’t hard to see why; fairly typical noodles but in a tonkatsu broth packed full of savory goodness with a soft poached egg that popped with the slightest touch. And instead of an anemic piece of pork belly with unrendered, unappetizing chunks of fat, braised pork was in the bowl adding a small layer of melted pork fat to each bite. Super simple, but absolutely delicious. At $18, one of the more expensive ramen dishes I’ve ever had but worth every penny. I can imagine coming here just for this. Matt concurred.
The service was fine, but a little spotty at times. Near the end of our meal it took a frustrating amount of time to get someone over to us to be able to tell them that we had yet to receive our (intended appetizer) pork belly buns which are renowned in NYC. After a few minutes, we had a nice little steamer tray set down along with a little squeeze bottle of sauce for each bite. A nice touch! Sometimes the sauce is so good you need a little more than they give you. And boy, was this the case.
My problem with pork buns generally is that the buns are big, doughy and overpower the sometimes paltry amount of meat and sauce within. Absolutely not the case here. Beautifully made pillowy buns acted as a taco shell for crispy, well rendered pork belly and cucumber and a hoisin sauce that sent literal shudders through me. The chili sauce on the side added an acidic bite as well, and the whole thing felt like an out of body experience. I can definitely see why these are so famous and they’re yet another dish I can’t see skipping when I come here.
All told, aside from a somewhat slow end to the meal due to inattentive servers, I was blown away by the quality of the experience and $135 for two people after tip was well within what I would consider to be a steal for a strip restaurant. I absolutely can’t wait to go back again and try out more of the menu.
2nd floor of the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas
Open daily 5:30 – 10:30 PM