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Momofuku – Noodle or Ssäm? Maybe Ko?


jende
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One thing that's basically indisputable is that at some hours of the day and night the choice is easy: during the day, Noodle Bar is superior because it serves the same menu from open 'til close while Ssam Bar still (though it has improved) has a weak daytime menu; late at night, Ssam Bar simply stays open later so if it's 12:30am on Thursday night/Friday morning your only chance of a Momofuku fix is Ssam Bar.

That's how I wound up at Ssam Bar last time I went, and it was my best Ssam Bar experience in quite a while. Service was better than on my last several visits, when it had ranged from indifferent to incompetent. I attribute this to the return of Cory to the floor. Also there was more care taken with plating and handling of food, though I still had some quibbles that I wouldn't have had in the past.

Here's how I see it overall (and I'm only talking about the 5-6 hours of each day when you have a non-obvious choice between Noodle and Ssam -- see above):

1 - In the beginning, when Ssam Bar introduced its late-night menu and expanded its availability to regular dinner hours, there was nothing like it. Noodle Bar was still in the cramped old space (which is now Ko, seating only 12 people), with inferior kitchen equipment, less skilled cooks (though some cooks worked at both) and less ambitious food than Ssam Bar. Even then, I should note, some people preferred Noodle Bar (my wife, for example, has been unwavering in that preference all along) but the foodie consensus was strongly in favor of Ssam over Noodle.

2 - When Noodle Bar relocated to its new, larger digs and Ko took over the smaller space, it started to improve and the menu became more ambitious.

3 - At the same time, I believe (and many have confirmed this observation, though some disagree) that Ssam Bar went into a slide mostly service-wise but also somewhat food-wise. I think some of the best people in the Chang Gang were focused on the Ko project and Ssam Bar slipped as a result. So while Noodle Bar was blossoming Ssam Bar was wilting.

4 - Recent indications are that Ssam Bar is back on the up and up.

5 - I think you can eat fabulously well at Noodle or Ssam. Noodle has the reputation of being more rustic, and I think it's true that the center of gravity of Noodle Bar's menu is more rustic than the center of gravity of Ssam's menu. But both restaurants effortlessly blend haute and rustic, and each menu offers plenty of examples of each.

All that being said, I like Noodle Bar better, because my favorite Noodle Bar dishes (tri-tip, fluke, sweetbreads, smoked duck, prawns-and-grits, fried poulet rouge) are my favorite dishes within the Momofuku kingdom (in some ways better even than the food at Ko) and because I think Noodle Bar has superior service and I just like the vibe of the place better. I'm also a regular at Noodle Bar now so I get some extra special attention and free stuff, but I made this decision when I was not a regular there.

Also, in the realm of the obvious, if you're serious about wine then Ssam Bar is superior -- it has a more elaborate beverage program than Noodle Bar.

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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  • 7 months later...

Hey all I'm going to NYC in May and I want to eat at Momofuku, but I'm not sure which one I should eat at? KO, Noodle bar or ssam bar? I've heard getting reservations is stupid. Thanks in advance.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"

Oscar Wilde

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Hey all I'm going to NYC in May and I want to eat at Momofuku, but I'm not sure which one I should eat at? KO, Noodle bar or ssam bar? I've heard getting reservations is stupid. Thanks in advance.

If you can, you should get to Ko. However, that's where the "stupid" reservation situation is. Best bet is to keep trying for cancellations, especially late night. The other two are both walk-in only, so you should be fine as long as you go at a good time. Both Noodle and Ko are great, but I think if you have to choose, Ssam is more unusual in terms of menu items. Personally, I prefer Ssam, but you can make a case for either. Better to do both.

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  • 1 year later...

On a related note, well after the start of the thread, I've been dying to have the pork shoulder at Momofuku bo ssam, but they require a minimum of six people, which, seeing as I don't live anywhere near NYC, is a problem for me - I could manage 2-3 friends but not the minimum of 5 others I'd not (since some of my NYC friends don't eat pork or even meat). I am toying with the idea of ordering the pork shoulder to go, and then eating it over several days in the house I'm staying at.

Have any of you ever had the bo ssam pork shoulder for one? Or am I just being crazy?

Jake

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The Bo Ssam is really good (we served it at our wedding), but when I get it, we always order other dishes. Ater your third or fourth lettuce wrap, it does get monotonous.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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The Bo Ssam is really good (we served it at our wedding), but when I get it, we always order other dishes. Ater your third or fourth lettuce wrap, it does get monotonous.

So as a multi-day "feast" for one person interest would likely wane quickly, right?

Jake

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The Bo Ssam is really good (we served it at our wedding), but when I get it, we always order other dishes. Ater your third or fourth lettuce wrap, it does get monotonous.

So as a multi-day "feast" for one person interest would likely wane quickly, right?

Jake

I agree with kathryn. The bo ssam is a great dish, but it's better to mix in other dishes for a variety of flavors. Any single dish would get monotonous in large quantities with no variation. Maybe you can ask your friends if they have any friends who would be interested. You definitely don't need more than 6, as my friends and I polished one off with a LOT of other dishes, and there were only 5 or 6 of us.

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I agree with kathryn. The bo ssam is a great dish, but it's better to mix in other dishes for a variety of flavors. Any single dish would get monotonous in large quantities with no variation. Maybe you can ask your friends if they have any friends who would be interested. You definitely don't need more than 6, as my friends and I polished one off with a LOT of other dishes, and there were only 5 or 6 of us.

Alas, I don't have 5 other friends in NYC who are all available on the same night when I visiting in a week and a half. I think I will try to plan ahead for another time when their schedules are not as blocked up. Thanks for the comments and suggestions all!

Jake

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I agree with kathryn. The bo ssam is a great dish, but it's better to mix in other dishes for a variety of flavors. Any single dish would get monotonous in large quantities with no variation. Maybe you can ask your friends if they have any friends who would be interested. You definitely don't need more than 6, as my friends and I polished one off with a LOT of other dishes, and there were only 5 or 6 of us.

Alas, I don't have 5 other friends in NYC who are all available on the same night when I visiting in a week and a half. I think I will try to plan ahead for another time when their schedules are not as blocked up. Thanks for the comments and suggestions all!

Jake

For a nominal fee, I will supply you enough hungry friends to fill the remaining spaces. :)

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Alas, I don't have 5 other friends in NYC who are all available on the same night when I visiting in a week and a half. I think I will try to plan ahead for another time when their schedules are not as blocked up. Thanks for the comments and suggestions all!

Jake

For a nominal fee, I will supply you enough hungry friends to fill the remaining spaces. :)

Heh. But that brings to mind a question I'll post in a new thread...

Jake

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I agree with kathryn. The bo ssam is a great dish, but it's better to mix in other dishes for a variety of flavors. Any single dish would get monotonous in large quantities with no variation. Maybe you can ask your friends if they have any friends who would be interested. You definitely don't need more than 6, as my friends and I polished one off with a LOT of other dishes, and there were only 5 or 6 of us.

Alas, I don't have 5 other friends in NYC who are all available on the same night when I visiting in a week and a half. I think I will try to plan ahead for another time when their schedules are not as blocked up. Thanks for the comments and suggestions all!

Jake

For a nominal fee, I will supply you enough hungry friends to fill the remaining spaces. :)

This is giving me an idea, except with the noodle bar fried chicken.

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  • 3 months later...

I'll be in NY next weekend and was thinking about getting drinks at PDT or Death & Co. and then heading to Ssam bar for dinner. The loose plan is for drinks around 7 then dinner around 8:30-9 on Friday? Am I being naively optimistic or is it possible to do both without wasting my whole night trying to into one or the other?

Edited by Tim Dolan (log)

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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I'll be in NY next weekend and was thinking about getting drinks at PDT or Death & Co. and then heading to Ssam bar for dinner. The loose plan is for drinks around 7 then dinner around 8:30-9 on Friday? Am I being naively optimistic or is it possible to do both without wasting my whole night trying to into one or the other?

It's definitely possible, but with a few caveats. Definitely try to get a reservation for PDT if you plan to go there. Going on a Friday night without one will most likely be a waste of your time. Ssam Bar doesn't takes reservations, so you're good there, though the earlier you go, the more likely you'll get in. The best way might be to do dinner first on the early side, and then have after-dinner drinks at PDT if you manage to get a reservation. Last time I checked, Death & Co didn't take reservations, and going there on a Friday could be tough if you don't want to wait. Again, going early could be helpful. And they have pretty good food/snacks there, too. If you go there early enough the wait isn't too bad, but you'll probably have a bit of one at Ssam. In the end, it may be up to how long you're willing to wait for each of them and whether you can snag a PDT res. Still, if you can deal with waiting a little bit, then it'll be well worth your while as all three places are great. One last thought is that you could try to drop into Ssam early before drinks and put your name down, getting an idea of how long it will be, and then head to Death & Co., knowing when to come back to get your table at Ssam as it comes up.

Good luck!

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I'll be in NY next weekend and was thinking about getting drinks at PDT or Death & Co. and then heading to Ssam bar for dinner. The loose plan is for drinks around 7 then dinner around 8:30-9 on Friday? Am I being naively optimistic or is it possible to do both without wasting my whole night trying to into one or the other?

how many people?

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I believe SSam bar will call you when your spot is ready too.

I like Ssam bar for dinner and Noodle Bar for lunch. The space at Ssam bar just feels more like dinner and noodle bar feels more like a place where you eat and leave. I don't know how else to explain it. Both are great

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Just two. We're pretty flexible with our plans as well.

My strategy on a Friday is always to go to the bar first (and yes, both are possible - they are about 6 blocks from each other, and I often do both in one night). I like to sit at the bar, not a table, and neither PDT nor D&Co reserve the bar. They both open at 6 and you should get seats for 2 at the bar if you're there before 6:30/6:45. If you want a table and can't make a reservation at PDT for one, you should be fine at D&Co for a table at 7. Later on on the weekends it can be hard to get seats at all, which is why I prefer early.

I also don't see a problem at either Momofuku for 2 people at any time. After 7 you might have to wait for a little while (the cocktails at Ssam can help with this). As far as the idea of putting your name down at Ssam and then going to D&Co - I can't imagine the wait for 2 people would be long enough for that to be worthwhile.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We did manage to hit both on Friday, only a short wait at PDT but an hour at Ssam Bar. It was a very nice, mild night and the whole area was mobbed so we weren't too concerned about the wait, and the fact that we were sufficiently buzzed made the time fly. Things started off a little dicey when the crab claws that my gf ordered were still partially frozen, but everything else was excellent. Between both of us we ordered the uni, pork belly buns, short rib sandwich, and the mussels. All of it was crazy good, especially the uni and the mussels. The uni was so fresh and buttery that it bordered on overwhelming. The mussels were the most interesting, they were pickled and served cold out of a mason jar, with warm grilled bread. They were a little spicy, a little sweet, a little oceany, and just overall very well done. We left in agreement that it lived up to the hype and was worth the wait.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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