One man's play-by-play from stuffing himself like an offensive lineman in the off-season at David Chang's Momofuku Fried Chicken Dinner
Pregame starvation diet having gone wide right (as in the taco truck right down the street), Stein lines up at First Avenue's Momofuku Noodle Bar. "I've got a reservation," he says. A long, awkward pause. "It's for the chicken dinner."
Homefield advantage: chicken.
Led to the table, Stein discovers his fullback for the night, Eric Nylund, has already sat down. Their table is bare save for a monastic, brown-paper covering (astroturf?). With kickoff still twenty minutes away, a twenty-two-ounce Orion beer and a Stone IPA await them.
Hydration bonus: man.
Clad in Cleveland Browns orange, waiter Tim Chick (always referred to as Tim Chick and never Tim) arrives with four sauces for the chicken. "We've got soy-garlic jalapeno, hoisin, bibim sauce, and soy-ginger scallion sauce." He looks around for more players (Momofuku's notoriously anal reservation system recommends this meal for four to eight) and warns, rather ominously, "You guys better be hungry."
Illegal formation: 1,500 calories, man.
Tim Chick, having presented "The Bounty" (a big, salad-seeming thing with bibb lettuce and shiso leaves), shows Team Man both sides of the ceremonial mu shu pancake. Man proceeds to Round Two of IPA.
Coin toss: man.
The crowd turning, the plate steaming, here it comes from the kitchen: a fried-chicken mountain. Miguel "I Like to Say Things and Eat Stuff" Ochocinco drops down the plate with an overwhelming yet altogether appetizing thud. "This," he says, "is the chicken." The slightly more orange half of the heap, he explains, is Korean-style; the other half of Chicken Mountain is Southern-style. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!
Kickoff return: touchback, man.
Stein and Nylund take to the ground game hard, maneuvering between the thighs and hitting the breast in Southern territory — a crisp blanket of buttermilk fry (seasoned with Old Bay, salt, and pepper) covering a heap of steaming, lily-white rookie meat.
First down: man.
Crossing midfield to the Korean side, things are spicier, tangier. In four minutes, two thighs and a breast (Southern, Korean, Southern) have been devoured.
Hostess Margaret arrives bearing a salad with heirloom tomatoes, summer melon, bacon chips, and mint — plus sweet corn, shiso butter, and fingerling potatoes. On the house. Friendly appetizer, or gadget play?
Manager Jorge explains the secret to Chang's fried chicken: "It's fried twice — that's why the fried part is so thick and sticks so well onto the meat. We ate variations of these recipes for months before David settled on the right one."
Two-point conversion: 8-3, chicken.10 of 16
Team Man takes stock: barely a dent in Chicken Mountain, vision blurry, arteries beginning to clog. Momofukers glide by knowingly at a not-full-enough bowl of bones — testament to a valiant first-half effort, but next to a laden plate and two salads that are, perhaps, an indication of futility.
Halftime: 15-6, chicken.
Stein, stuffing the Korean-style inside a mushu pancake for stomach coating, looks over Chicken Mountain and decides to hit the no-huddle, nonstop binge. If he and Nylund can't climb back by the end of the third quarter, Team Man will send in the doggie bag.
Three breasts, five wings: 15-14, chicken.
Fumble! Stein and Nylund fail to hang onto their appetites, recline into their chairs, and flail for waiter Tim Chick, who's nowhere to be seen. Team Man underestimated Chicken Mountain's defensive deliciousness. That double-cooked buttermilk goodness was dizzyingly worth the three-month wait.
Costly turnover: man.
Momofuku busboy/free safety Jeffrey swoops in and takes it to the house. Nail in the kitchen.
Touchdown: 21-14, chicken.
A two-minute-drill rally: Stein has Team Man back in enemy territory with a salient of strawberry lemonade and angel food cake soft-serve.
Two hours after sitting down, the underdog Team Man escapes with a rare tie against a Goliath the likes of Chang's Chicken Mountain — unless, of course, you count the to-go bag with five pounds worth of the best fried chicken its ever eaten.
An overtime victory: 26-21, man — happy, full, and eternally satisfied.