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Momofuku Permanently Closes D.C. Location as Part of Company Overhaul

‘I’m still at war with this decision,’ David Chang says on his podcast

David Chang working opening day at Momofuku CCDC in 2015
David Chang working opening day at Momofuku CCDC in 2015
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Momofuku, the celebrated international restaurant group, has permanently closed its D.C. restaurant, the brand announced today.

Momofuku CCDC, which heralded celebrity chef and Northern Virginia native David Chang’s arrival in his hometown market nearly five years ago, had been shut down in the upscale CityCenterDC development since March 14, two days before D.C. ordered a dine-in ban to limit the public’s exposure to the novel coronavirus.

The Milk Bar bakery housed within the building is under the same lease, a representative for CityCenterDC confirms. Development company Hines owns and operates CityCenterDC.

“CCDC was Dave’s hometown project; when it opened five years ago, it was the biggest Momofuku restaurant to date, and it showed us what was possible for our company,” CEO Marguerite Mariscal writes in a statement.

In New York, Momofuku Group is also closing Nishi and relocating Ssäm Bar into its Wayō space.

On his podcast, Chang implied that landlord’s unwillingness to be flexible was effectively behind the closure, noting that CCDC was profitable. “I don’t want to say anything other than: I understand their decisions, I don’t respect their decisions,” Chang says of landlords on a new episode of his podcast. “Maybe if I was in their situation I’d see it a bit differently. There’s no give and take. I’m still at war with this decision. It’s not ever going to sit right with me. At the same time, I understand why we have to do it.”

“All of those decisions are not easy at all, especially CCDC, leaving a city that we obviously have great and immense respect for and over five years built a community around with amazing vendors and customers,” Mariscal says on the podcast. “Now we have to figure out where can we deploy resources and how do we make a more diversified business model that’s not just restaurants but also complimented with these other pieces that we hope will better provide for our teams so we aren’t so reliant on people dining within our spaces.”

According to Mariscal’s statement, the company is “looking into more initiatives [in D.C.] to ease this transition” for employees. Workers who are signed up for Momofuku’s Bluetape Fund will be covered in May and June distributions, and medical insurance will be covered “as long as financially possible.”

“Unfortunately the hardest thing about CCDC is that by leaving a city you [can’t keep the staff],” Mariscal says on the podcast. ‘We would love to have those employees with us elsewhere.”

A former general manager for Momofuku CCDC declined to comment on the closure.

Chang has said over the years that the 2015 opening was particularly stressful — he told Washingtonian at the time, “I almost died.” When the space opened with steamed buns, ramen, and other “greatest hits” from the original in New York, Chang told the local magazine that “it fucking drives me insane.”

A turning point for the restaurant came in 2018, when chef Tae Strain relocated from San Francisco with a directive from Chang to blow up the menu. The resulting dishes, including bing with pimento cheese spread, roasted chicken and chicken fat rice, and seafood boils on a patio. Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema lauded the changes in a three-star review, and the restaurant spent time on the Eater 38. Strain left the restaurant in September 2019, turning the kitchen over to chef de cuisine Kris Brumsted.

The few reported permanent closures to take place during the coronavirus pandemic have concentrated around the high-priced Chinatown corridor near CityCenter, including Fado Irish Pub and Lucky Strike.

Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.

Momofuku CCDC

1090 I Street Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 602-1832 Visit Website