“We wanted a fried chicken on the menu that didn’t have caviar on it.”
It’s hard to imagine many other cities in which you’d hear that quote. But that was Michael Rubinstein’s answer when I asked him what inspired the Malaysian fried chicken recipe being offered on the new lunch menu at Momofuku in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
The restaurant has featured several preparations of fried chicken since opening, the most recent being a large-format presentation for six to eight people offered with a guest’s choice of trout roe ($588) or Osetra caviar ($1,888). His new version is a combination of American, Malaysian and Korean influences that features Jidori chicken marinated in Singaporean shrimp paste, oyster sauce, maple syrup, buttermilk, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry and dredged in rice flour. Two pieces with kimchi potato salad and a beer will set you back just $25 at lunchtime.
That’s just one of three $25 lunch plates on the new midday menu. You can also get a bowl of pork ramen with a pork belly bun, or avocado grain salad with chicken chashu and a side of spicy cucumbers, each accompanied by a small draft beer, for the same price.
The menu is also heavy on buns and noodles, because Rubinstein wants to once again focus on what made the original New York City Momofuku famous.
“This is something that’s looking back fondly and trying to show people what got us here and why it’s special,” Rubinstein says.
The buns include pork belly, shiitake mushroom and shrimp, while the noodles range from simple pork or chickpea ramen to decadent miso lobster and white truffle varieties.
Rubinstein, who once worked at the popular local sandwich shop The Goodwich, also has introduced a pair of American sandwiches for lunch. There’s hot chicken topped with smoked pepper butter on a brioche bun. Or try the cheeseburger, made with trimmings from the pricey dry-aged whole cows the restaurant purchases monthly for various dinner offerings.
“These are full-blood wagyu cows raised in Idaho at a place called SilverStar farms,” the chef explains. “They only sell their beef to restaurants and chefs that are willing to take whole or half cows. But luckily we’ve developed dishes like this that allow us to go through a lot of ground beef. Because when you get a whole cow, you end up with a lot of ground beef.”
In keeping with an overall theme of making the lunch menu approachable, that burger is $18. But the chef does feature a few “baller” items as well. There’s a $218 whole roasted duck carved tableside and presented three ways that serves three to four people, as well as a $318 order of salt and pepper of lobster shrimp that should satisfy about the same number.
“It’s two extremes,” the chef says of the pricing. “But as much work as we put into that duck, we probably do more work on our ramen that costs a tenth of the price.”