Sweetgreen and Momofuku both mark special places in my psychogeography of New York City. My mom and I frequented Sweetgreen when we toured colleges, and my friend and I celebrated surviving the first semester of college together with a meal at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Needless to say, this collaboration was a good enough reason to forgo another sad attempt to create my own salad bowl in the Marketplace at Kimmel and kiss $15 goodbye.
Sweetgreen collaborated with Chef David Chang, founder of Momofuku, to debut the new Tingly Sweet Potato + Kelp Bowl ($14.25) on Thursday in a partnership with Atlantic Sea Farms, the first commercial seaweed farm in the United States. The bowl features marinated kelp, japanese sweet potatoes seasoned with Momofuku’s Tingly spice, roasted chicken and tomatoes served on a base of shredded kale, wild rice, shredded cabbage, topped with a parm crisp furikake and lime cashew dressing.
I was excited to see kelp becoming more mainstream, as kelp is regeneratively farmed. This helps to detoxify the ocean of heavy metals, improve soil condition and remove carbon from the ocean and atmosphere, and does not require fresh water, land, feed or fertilizer to grow, a sustainable, zero-input crop. Not to mention, it’s full of vitamins and nutrients, including iron, magnesium and fiber.
That being said, based on the description, I had a hard time understanding where Momofuku fits into the dish. Neither kelp nor Japanese sweet potato, which I understand to be the selling points of the Sweetgreen exclusive, are notable signature ingredients from the Momofuku restaurants, if they appear in the menus at all. The parm crisp furikake made for a flavorful seasoning, as did the Tingly spice. But what about creating a dish that had a more obvious and significant connection with the co-collaborator? A bowl with Momofuku barley noodles as the base? A salad with pickled shiitake, kimchi and bok choy? Grilled mackerel as a protein option? I’m just spitballing here.
Did I enjoy the salad bowl? It was a Sweetgreen salad, and one thing I cannot deny is that Sweetgreen makes a damn good salad. You never expect yourself to enjoy a bowl of kale and cabbage marinating in a cashew-based sauce, but you’re always surprised by the simple delight of tender, flavorful vegetables and grains. The Tingly Sweet Potato + Kelp Bowl was no exception, but it also was not particularly memorable. Aside from the savoriness of the parm crisp furikake and the unique texture of the Japanese sweet potato, this could have been any other Sweetgreen salad. The marinated kelp almost felt like an afterthought, hardly noticeable in the mix of the other ingredients.
If you’re a big fan of Sweetgreen and Momofuku, I would recommend ordering a different dish at either of the restaurants to really enjoy the best of what each has to offer. But if you’re really curious to try the Tingly Sweet Potato + Kelp Bowl, I certainly wouldn’t stop you. Though I will warn you, ordering something “Tingly” out loud in a Sweetgreen during lunch hour is nothing short of embarrassing.
Disclaimer: WSN Deputy Managing Editor Paul Kim is employed by Momofuku but he was in no way involved with the production or editing of this article.
Email Divya Nelakonda at [email protected]