Save for the 12+ hours taken to leach pure liquid from pots of aromatics and bones, ramen is generally an exercise in simplicity and restraint. In that sense, Mokbar’s army “budae” all but flies in the face of abstemious, collagen-rich tonkotsu, chastely garnished with wheels of char siu, or golden, halved eggs, floating on a sea of miso—instead, featuring noodles plunged in pungent, kimchi-stained broth, thickened with spam, pork belly, bacon, sausage, and trails of American cheese.
Needless to say, the cheeky play on budae-jjigae (created from salvaged rations from American military bases, after the Korean War), has been a popular, frequently instagrammed order at Esther Choi’s Chelsea Market stall—a shining example of her ability to interject compelling Korean flavors into otherwise staid Japanese cuisine. Yet while fusion ramen has become her trademark, it’s only a jumping off point at Choi’s standalone Brooklyn eatery, where she’s scaled back the number of contemporary embellishments, in favor of the home-style fare of her youth.
Instead of anju (small plates) like pan-Asian disco fries, you’ll find savory mung bean pancakes, poked with smoked bacon and kimchi. And in lieu of a line-up of “saucy,” mazemen-style ramens (such as ribeye bulgogi and bibimbap), Choi’s installed a selection of “jip-bap” set meals instead. Not unlike wholesome, handcrafted T.V. dinners, each features compartmentalized servings of rice, soup, market greens, banchan (vegetable side dishes) and kimchi (in housemade variations like garlic chive, cucumber and daikon), along with a lean protein main, from kalbi jjim (braised short rib) and chicken curry katsu, to tofu steak and fish of the day (hope for an impeccably seared dorade filet, in a splash of dashi soy broth).
They’re beautiful, seasonal, and perhaps most importantly, nutritionally balanced, meaning you can rationalize supplementing with a brimming bowl of porky army budae.
212 Flatbush Ave., (347) 987-3042