Momofuku milk bar

Momofuku chocolate cake The East Village's Momofuku bakery & milk bar sounds like a Zen haven for cute Japanese dairy-based desserts, but do not be fooled. The food is unapologetically American, from chocolate chip cheese cake and brownie pie dispensed in ridiculously large slices to cereal milk soft serve.

And Zen ambience? Not even close. The place has all charm of a government office, complete with a number system to manage order processing and a condescending cashier. Pull open the glass front doors stamped with Momofuku's signature lucky peach, and you will find people clustered around the few high standing tables, all shouting over each other to be heard. Don't get me wrong; the place is obviously popular, but the name sets some false expectations, and it's not clear to me why, especially when the nearby Momofuku noodle bar serves things like ramen and kimchi.

Unfortunately, the most intriguing thing on the blackboard menu - pancake cake - was "coming soon," so I got a slice of the chocolate cake instead. (Who advertises menu items in advance, anyway? Peddlers of disappointment, that's who.) Eating in the midst of that human crush was out of the question, so I escaped to the tranquility of a nearby Starbucks to devour my treat in peace. The cake was reasonably moist and had a frosting reminiscent of cheesecake but didn't make much of an impression on me. I might go back if it's less crowded another time but only to see if that pancake cake proves to be vapor-dessert or the real deal.