New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar was the restaurant that started it all for David Chang’s mini-empire, so it’s only fitting that the Toronto version was the first to open. The least expensive of the four Toronto concepts, it takes up the complex’s entire ground level, with entrances along University Avenue and through the Shangri-La. The room itself is wrapped in textured white oak walls and bordered by blackened steel bridges and a wooden staircase. Echoing the vibe of its American sibling, the 70-seat space has an open kitchen bar along its west wall, rows of communal white oak benches and a Steve Keene painting called Rust Never Sleeps that depicts Neil Young and Crazy Horse playing Madison Square Garden in 1978 (not to mention a carefully crafted playlist).
Sharing Noodle Bar kitchen responsibilities with executive chef Sam Gelman is executive sous chef Hans Vogels (Turf Lounge, Spoke Club); below, in the building’s basement, executive sous chef Teruya Kobayashi heads the commissary kitchen (whose team of 14 assists with the high-volume demands of Noodle Bar and slogs through the basic prep for the other restaurants). Fans of the original East Village location will recognize some favourites on the menu, although the Toronto dishes have their own spins. For example, Toronto’s version of chilled spicy noodles ($14) comes with Szechuan sausage, spinach and cashew, and is dressed with a black bean sauce. The main attractions, of course, are the ramen ($16) and Chang’s oft-imitated steamed pork buns ($10 for two). The short menu also features rice bowls, including one with smoked chicken and a 66°C slow-cooked egg ($15), and a hearty kimchi stew ($16) with fresh sliced rice cakes and pork shoulder. Noodle Bar is open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner, and, like Guu, is walk-in only (i.e., prepare for a lineup).