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Momofuku – Noodle or Ssäm? Maybe Ko?


jende
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Having never been to either, I'm a little confused about the difference between Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Noodle Bar. I'm interested in a late-night, shared plate sort of a meal. Could someone briefly describe the attributes of each and help me choose?

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Ssam Bar is open substantially later, and doesn't serve its full menu during the day. There are many, many more small plates, and the quotient of "haute cuisine" preparations (the scallops, the sea urchin, the asparagus and egg) is higher. Momofuku Noodle Bar has a few of these (incl. the asparagus), but not nearly as many, and is pretty heavily into the noodles. It closes generally around midnight, IIRC.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Similarities: deliciousness, copious amounts of pork, beautifully prepared seasonal vegetables. Don't put yourself through having to choose. Go to both.

Both have stool seating, but Noodle Bar does not have any tables and I therefore wouldn't recommend going with more than one or two other people max.

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One thing worth pointing out is that both restaurants have evolved a lot since opening. I find that the general foodie mood is that Momo-Ssam is way superior -- more haute -- than Noodle Bar. And when I talk to people in food media about Noodle Bar and Momo-Ssam, they're still holding on to early impressions because they typically cover openings and then places fall off their radar. Having been to both places several times recently, my opinion is that we're seeing a lot of convergence. Noodle Bar has a lot more haute items than it used to, and has generally improved so much that I know a couple of very knowledgeable people with good taste who like it better than Ssam now. I don't necessarily agree with that assessment, but I think there are several amazing three/four-star-level dishes at both places. And of course, if it's daytime your only choice is Noodle Bar because the Momo-Ssam day menu is kind of pathetic, whereas late night Momo-Ssam is the only one open.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Noodle Bar has a lot more haute items than it used to, and has generally improved so much that I know a couple of very knowledgeable people with good taste who like it better than Ssam now. I don't necessarily agree with that assessment, but I think there are several amazing three/four-star-level dishes at both places.

Funny, but I always felt Noodle Bar had a fairly high percentage of "haute" items on its menu (anything that wasn't noodles or buns was pretty much "haute") - Ssam's menu is and has always been more extensive, but they do have a hell of a lot more kitchen space to work with.

Imo, those items that weren't noodles or buns were always pretty damn good at Noodle Bar - now that people have sat up and taken such notice of Ssam, they're rethinking the whole Noodle Bar experience as well. But let's not tell everyone just how good Noodle Bar can be - I still want to be able to squeeze in occasionally :wink: .

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

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  • 8 months later...

OK, seriously:

1. I like the atmosphere better at Ssam Bar. It's more lively and electric. Noodle Bar is more, I dunno, homey. No, not homey: comforting.

2. I think the food at Ssam Bar tends to be more interesting. The food at Noodle Bar tends to be more comforting. And note that Ssam Bar has virtually abandoned the eponymous ssam in favor of more ambitious fare, whereas Noodle Bar still serves (a lot of) noodles.

3. Tien is at Ssam Bar, and he's one of my favorite chefs.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Of course, now Noodle Bar has tables as well, and is a much larger space. Sneak does a nice job of explaining the differences above, though imo Noodle Bar has some damn interesting food as well - and the best sweetbreads around.

Each has its place and each has its devotees. Depends what you're in the mood for, I guess. And each has some pretty wonderful food. And Kevin's a pretty darn good chef as well :smile: .

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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but really, you should go to both.

what he said. even if it means back to back meals, depending on the amount of time you have available.

Interesting - would you do a few dishes at one and move on the other for dinner? And in what order? What dishes would you folks recommend at each? I am thinking uni, hamachi, Chawan mischi and scallops at Ssam but any and all recommendations would be great.

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You'll find extensive recommendations on the topics devoted to the two individual restaurants. The menus change constantly, though, so you need to build some flexibility into your plan.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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but really, you should go to both.

what he said. even if it means back to back meals, depending on the amount of time you have available.

Interesting - would you do a few dishes at one and move on the other for dinner? And in what order? What dishes would you folks recommend at each? I am thinking uni, hamachi, Chawan mischi and scallops at Ssam but any and all recommendations would be great.

Fat Guy is right. The menus are far from static. Neither is, in my opinion, a mine field. They are both places that I feel totally comfortable going to with nothing specific in mind and ordering just whatever sounds appealing at the time.

To answer your first question, though, I suppose if it were me, I'd go to noodle first, have a full meal, kill a little time, maybe see a movie or something, and go to ssam, have a full meal. but in general i sort of.. don't get full. so this might not be the best plan for everyone.

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I would agree with going to both, as I did when I visited. Though, I think it is important to note that many consider the noodles at Noodle Bar to be merely ok. (Im no connosiour so when I went I thought they were awesome), so maybe a plan is to go to Ssam Bar then go to another noodle place because most of the interesting non-noodle type items can be found at Ssam Bar as well. But if you want noodles as well as some "haute items" then the noodle bar warrants a trip. Can any regulars lend some opinions on this? I have only been to each once and it was last year, so I am hardly an expert.

*edited cause I am an etrocious speeler.

Edited by Swicks (log)

"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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  • 5 months later...
Is there a reccommendation of going to the noodle bar over the Ssam or vice versa? 

Thanks!

not really. either is great for a first visit. they both have the same approach to food...just different, quite variable dishes.

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Is there a reccommendation of going to the noodle bar over the Ssam or vice versa? 

Thanks!

There will surely be some spirited disagreement on this one, but personally I'd strongly recommend you do Ssam Bar if you can only do one. Obviously, it's best to do both:) Ssam is a bit more adventurous culinarily, and strays a bit more from the classic Asian influences. Still, both are excellent, and each has its strengths. The two also share a few menu items. But for me, it comes back to the variety and more ambitious nature of the food at Ssam.

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I agree with LPShanet.

For a while late last year and early this, Noodle Bar was seeming better -- fresher, somehow -- than Ssam Bar.

But on the basis of my last couple of meals at each, I think Ssam Bar is back to being the better of the two. And it's certainly the more ambitious.

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