I've been known to plan entire trips around single restaurants. This trip was quite the opposite: a whirlwind of travel with only a few weeks advance notice of exactly where we'd be going and when we'd be going there. It was too late and too populate a time to made reservation at anywhere competitive for our 24 hours in NYC, and too many places were closed on Sunday night, my prime dinner opportunity. So I set my sights simultaneously low and high: I arranged to meet C. and vschanoes for breakfast at the most casual extension of one of the city's hottest restaurants: Momofuku Milk Bar and Bakery.
Most of the reviews of the Milk Bar that I've read are from people who went there for dessert after a sumptuous dinner at the related restaurant next door. I figured that boded well for going for breakfast; indeed, only one other person came in while we were there! Surely everyone knows that pie is good for breakfast?
It's an order-at-the-counter, stand-up-to-eat kind of milk bar and bakery, the counter and display case laden with cakes, pies, and cookies, the visual stars of the show. At another counter, staff worked on preparing food for eventual collection. Free tap water was available on the side, together with the collect-your-own utensils. Concrete slab flooring, bare walls, and friendly, laid-back staff greeted our indecision over the range of flavor options.
The boards, listing the options, are substantial. In addition to the cakes, pies, and cookies, all listed by frequently-unusual flavor combination. Further, there are all the flavored dairy product options. It's not a milk bar in name only. There was a quartet of flavored milks, and a quartet of soft serve ice cream made with equally unexpected flavors. Several flavored butters were also for sale. For those desperate for a savory, a single option, a pair of pork buns, were available.
So - how was the food? Rich, heavy, dense, filling, and - at its best - intriguing. My gingerbread soft serve ice cream was the standout. It was intensely, vividly, bittersweet, more molasses and gingerbread batter than the lightness of the baked version. The banana-and-chocolate cake slice was enormous, dense and filling, pleasant, but not more than the sum of its parts. I barely ate half of it. The cinnamon bun pie was at least as rich and dense and filling, the reduced, baked essence of cinnamonbunness. vschanoes came no where near finishing hers.
Eventually, long after we'd started eating, a basket of that day's specialty breads showed up, my one real reget of the day. I would love to have tried kimchi and blue cheese croissants. (My guess is that it's made with the kimchi-flavored butter, also for sale, for greater subtlety.)
That's not quite the end of the story. I bought a dozen cookies to take home with us to Iowa for sharing. A dozen normal-sizes cookies, four adults, plus a fifth when we brought some for sharing. We cut them up into smaller slices. We at them for dessert for at least four meals. They were rich, heavy, dense, filling. The blueberry cream cookie, made with dried blueberries, stood out for its relative lightness and refreshing concept. Cornflake, chocolate chip, and marshmallow made another cookie a hybrid offspring of a chocolate chip cookie and a rice crispy bar. The compost cookie, with layers of oddities, including pretzels, was inflected with the sharpness of a little coffee grounds.
Mostly, the food was way too rich, heavy, and dense for us, with too narrow a flavor band for real excitement, but when the execution of ideas came through, they were appealingly intriguing. I'm still finding that gingerbread soft serve thought-provoking. I still wish I'd bought a kimchi-blue cheese croissant for later. I'm looking forward to seeing what the seasonal specials are the next time that I'm in town.