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Sunday
Feb252007

Momofuku Ssam Bar and I are running away together... don't try to find us.

It's been a week now since my meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar and I've just now fully digested and processed the meal in my head enough to be able to post about it.

Last monday, David Chang (proprieter of Momofuku and Ssam Bar) published an extremely funny and self-deprecating article about his expectations for the hotly anticipated Bruni review of Ssam Bar. Some key excerpts:

  • No star (poor to satisfactory): We’d join the prestigious ranks of Lonesome Dove, Ninja and Kobe Club. It’s our nightmare. Both Momofukus would close; the entire staff would be tarred & feathered...I would try crack, black tar heroin and crystal meth for the first time, possibly all three at once. Anything that would take me to a happy place. After rehab, I’d get my GED and start working for the man.>>
  • One Star: Prune has one star – and that places rocks. This is where my money is: a review that says the restaurant is good enough, but not transcendent – a nice one-star. Some witty insights about the food, some finger wagging about the music being too loud, and a summation about how there are certain elements that prevent the restaurant from being great, but those imperfections are what make the place endearing.
  • Two Stars: Two stars would be a reach. And would be the cause for much celebration, considering that Ssam Bar…“feels like two restaurants fused into one—a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint that serves designer ham and $180 platters.”(courtesy of Randall Lane in Time Out New York)...If it’s a good two-star, expect to see amazing acts of drunken buffoonery on Tuesday night. Wednesday will not be the best time to eat at either Momofuku as both kitchen crews will be nursing major hangovers. Major.>>
The following night, Bruni gave the place an exceedingly positive 2 stars and much drunken buffoonery did indeed commence (thank you Don and Gerald for dragging me out at 11PM on a Tuesday night to meet the very likeable crews at Momofuku and other great restaurants to celebrate with a great bunch of people... though I must say the rest of my work week was a bit rough after that night of late night buffoonery)

And on to the meal - a few weeks ago, I decided to put together an outing and gather together a great bunch of foodies to join me at Ssam Bar to properly do it justice. Since a good dining experience can only happen with the right dining companions, I was lucky indeed to have shared it with such a great bunch of people -
Robyn, Connie, Janet, Megan, Don, Gerald and Doug.

The Decor: (10/10)
UrbanDaddy - Momofuku Ssam Bar
Image courtesy of Urbandaddy

I really love the ambiance of Ssam Bar - there's such a lovely, warm atmosphere created by all the dark wood, counter seating, the open kitchen and the spaciousness of the room. It just feels like a great place to lounge around and have a few bites to eat and know that you're surrounded by good food and chefs who will go out of their way to take care of you and your friends.

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The Food: (9.5/10)


Seasonal Pickles
A very tasty assortment of seasonal pickles - there were some radishes and brussel sprouts and assorted other goodies in here. I really wanted to try the pickled fruits but alas, that was not to be this time. These were great to munch on, especially with the lovely drinks we were imbibing at the time.


Maine Sea Urchin with Tapioca + whipped tofu + scallions
Definitely one of the prettiest dishes of the night - this was a burst of the ocean mingled with the soft, velvety texture of the whipped tofu and punctuated by small balls of chewy tapioca.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Benton's bacon, apple, kimchi
How is it that I've lived for 24 years on this planet and am only now discovering that brussel sprouts are actually good?? Not just good for you, but delicious, crave-worthy and mind-boggling good?


Banh Mi - three terrine sandwich
This experience could only be likened to that of a gourmet sandwich on crack (in the immortal words of the ever outspoken Johnny Weir). The innards: ham, veal head cheese and chicken liver pate. The description of head cheese quite frankly scared me off a bit but after having tasted this little slice of heaven, I have to say my horizons have been broadened.


Cured Hamachi with edamame + horeseradish + pea greens
Yummy cured fish with a delightfully green and horseradish streak.


Roasted mushroom salad with crosnes + pistachio + red ball radish
Honestly, I completely forgot to taste this dish (a fact for which I'm still kicking myself). Since mushrooms are one of my favorite things, this is at the top of the list for things that I must try the next time I come back.


Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Ham (Madisonville, Tennessee)
Oh, ham... luscious, sinfully delicious, melt on your tongue ham... I think a sampling of all the hams on the menu is completely necessary... who's in? :)


Chawan mushi with black truffle + snails + edamame + scallions
I really, really love comfort food and this dish just sort of hit a home run with me. I remember my grandmother making her version of chawan mushi for me all the time when I was younger and Tello's version combined all the heart-warming properties of that version with the earthiness and depth that a dish filled with truffles takes on into one tantalizing bowl. The crunchy little pile of edamame at the bottom of the bowl really gave this a surprising and refreshing finish.



The mighty Bo Ssam: whole butt, dozen oysters, bibb lettuce ($180 for a party of 10 usually)
The Bo Ssam was really the main guest of our evening's festivities. I can't recall another time where I've seen so much pig laid out on one table but it was oh so worth it. We tried, we really, really tried to ingest as much of this amazingly tender, fatty pork as we could and yet if looks as if we hardly made a dent in the meat pile. Don and Gerald ended up taking home a significant portion of it (I don't think my heart could have handled it :) ) The Bo Ssam was completely worth it though - eaten with lettuce, rice and with a single briny oyster (or not, depending on your tastes), it was sheer, unadulterated heaven.


Mochi ice cream sampler
The only dessert listed on the menu was this platter was this platter of delectable little mochi ice creams in varying flavors - I believe we got pistachio, chocolate mint, guava and coconut-sweet potato. I really love mochi anythings but I think I like this pairing of a matcha mochi with a sakura mochi that I got from Mitsuwa best:
Matcha Mochi and Sakura Mochi

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Miscellaneous Notes:


David Chang looking fiercely focused in the kitchen
Always the consummate professional - it was really fun seeing him relax after the NYT review and hanging out with his crew in a laid-back mood, chowing down on the Congee Village take-out they ordered in bulk.


NYT photographer setup
There was a NYT photographer shooting pictures of our Bo Ssam but sadly, none of the delectable pictures made it on the page of the review. I'm not quite sure why they chose the picture that was published but it definitely wasn't nearly half as interesting as shots of the divine looking food would have been.


The beverages of choice for the night: Hitachino Red Ale (tasted like berries and all things good with the world) and a korean beer - OB (light, frothy and delicious).

eaterseaters
Our happy little gr
oup chowing down (images courtesy of Robyn)

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In Summary
What a wonderful meal - after the 2 star Bruni review, I'm sure it'll be difficult to secure a seat but the effort will pay off in dividends. I'm so happy for this wonderfully talented team and finding a place that really cares about celebrating the spirit of good food.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

More accounts of our meal:
Robyn
Gerald
Megan

Blogsoop's wonderful blog review aggregator

Reader Comments (8)

When is the next Bo Ssam?

February 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGerald

Any time! :) As you're already well aware(Mister "3 times a week at Momofuku and Ssam Bar"), it's totally dangerous to have such a great place in our neighborhood. I think my heart's ready to give the Bo Ssam another try so I'm in!

February 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEunice

omg...the bo ssam looks amazing, so does the chawanmushi with truffles. definitely let me know next time you have a bo ssam feast...would love to join!! =D

February 26, 2007 | Unregistered Commentertori

Tori: Definitely! :) We'll do it soon.

If anyone has any other ideas for a foodie outing in mind, toss them my way!

February 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAesis

A part of me really wants the bo ssam again...but then the thought of a mountain of pork in my belly is a little unerving.

BUT IT WAS SOOO TASTY!!!

I guess the cost will keep me away, hehe. .__.

February 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn

I totally agree with the unnerving part - I just shut off that part of my brain when I need to. :)

I'm thinking, if we get a bigger group next time, the cost goes down AND we ingest less meat - whatdya think?

February 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAesis

I'm working on a pork party - I know a girl who works at www.heritagepork.com (they supply Momofuku). A private function featuring tons o' pork prepared by the host and myself (don't worry, she's a chef) is in the works. Early April, I'll keep you posted.

March 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDouglas Cress

This looks amazing! I'm from NYC but moved to the Bay Area - must try Momofuku the next time I'm back in the city!

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia Kwok

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