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Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2007– )


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WOW! Ok so a huge thanks to everyone (especially Nathan) for recommending we ate here on our recent NYC trip. AMAZING is how i would sum it up. Arriving after a quick cocktail at PDT (i got huge kudos for dragging my friends there and just walking straight into the telephone booth- although they thought i was mad to begin with!) at around 9pm we were told tehre would be a bit of a wait however we had only just ordered our drinks at the bar when they seated us. Not wanting to miss out or order the wrong things, we were steered in the right direction by our server. Clab craws to start were delicious and fresh as you like and the berkshire pork was great too - i forget the third ingredient in the "gravy" coffee , egg and...? The pork belly buns were divine and i could have eaten a good couple of portions more but restrained ourselves and moved onto the squid salad, another winner. The skate wing was awesome, i wish we hadn't shared this dish - could have done with some more! The final dish of pork shoulder was so humoungous we offered it to the people nect to us as well to share some as we didn't want to waste it! We finished with a rhubarb dessert (sorry it is so vague, i have the menu at home but details are a bit sketchy now) which was by far my best rhubarb experience of the year and trust me there have been many! We drank sake to start and the helio wine i saw mentioned in another review, great, great GREAT! There really is no where like this in the UK and i hope Chef Chang expands our way in the not too distant future. I will definitely try noodle bar and am 100% committeed to getting a seat at KO next time too. Thanks for all the advice guys, WOW!

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Red eye gravy consists of coffee, flour, and ham drippings, I thought.

That rhubarb shortcake does blow every other rhubarb dessert I've ever had out of the water.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Pork shoulder steak now comes with the pickled sunchokes, radicchio, (I think?) red onions, buttermilk dressing, zucchini. Not especially tender, but so flavorful.

The rouge poussin with morels, pea puree, and ramps? Please please please let it be spring forever.

How long are ramps in reason? Another week or so? What about poussin?

Run, don't walk for the poussin. Also: rhubarb shortcake continues to be jaw-dropping.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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How long are ramps in reason? Another week or so?

I expect ramps to be gone in a couple weeks.

A huge number of friends will be in town this upcoming weekend. Can't get to Ssam Bar unfortunately. On the other hand, six of us will be at Casa Mono for Friday lunch. Am looking forward to the fried pigs feet with pickled ramps among other things. :wink:

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Oh man, great meal at MSB last night. Perhaps it was because I went my mother and sister and therefore could order whatever I wanted without having to pay for it, but everything seemed especially tasty and on point.

As for all that talk about declining quality and/or service. Whatever. Everything seemed smooth sailing to me, with the same level of MSB confidence/pretentiousness that is alternatively exciting or grating that I've come to expect. It was the first time my companions had eaten here and they found the restaurant entirely in the former category. They agreed in that it is one of the most dynamic and exciting places to eat in the city.

Between the three of us we sampled numerous dishes. Unfortunately in my rush to try everything, I forgot to inquire about any specials or off-menu items that have been discussed here. Now that I'm around full time I imagine this oversight will be rectified shortly and with some frequency.

Some observations.

The uni dish seems to have grown in the portion of actual uni that is served with the dish. This time, however, I did feel that the uni was not quite as fresh and clean tasting as on the many other times I've had this dish. Nevertheless, I still absolutely adore this dish.

After that, pork buns. Portion also seemed larger with regards to the thickness of the slices.

Chawanmushi with jus and snails. Awesome, so rich, perfect texture.

Banh mi. Awesome, though not as Kewpie-y as on previous visits. I love Kewpie.

Sichuan beef tendon. Think a cross between a Thai and Sichuan noodle dish where the noodles are actually tendons. Would've liked it spicier but at least we got a very clear Sichuan peppercorn numbness going on. I know this dish pisses some people off since Chang is charging $16 for effectively scraps, but it's prepared so well and is so tasty and refreshing that I can't see the validity in that complaint.

Pork sausage and rice cakes. Actually the first time I've had this dish. I don't why I waited so long to get this. Perfect for a cold and rainy day. Probably the dark horse hit of the evening.

Poussin. Oh man, this was ridiculous. Pea-lambic puree. Awesome. The chicken was literally perfect. With just a bit more refinement in presentation and perhaps a touch of acidity this is unquestionably a four-star dish. Definitely the best chicken dish I've had in recent memory.

Rhubarb shortcake. While not as AMAZING as perhaps it has been made out to be, this was really, really good. More restrained than I thought it would be, as they really toned down the tartness. The butteriness shortcake was also quite pleasant.

Pistachio. Still very tasty, but a step down from the rhubarb. The portion here was actually a bit small and haphazardly presented. The flavors were on, think kind of like rustic, crunchier gianduja but I'd rather order two of the rhubarb desserts instead.

So yeah, this place continues to be the sweetness. If only I could get into Ko now.

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Does anyone know whether they serve the pistachio croustillant or the rhubarb shortcake (or the dessert of the season, whatever it is) at lunch?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I like this year's version of the squid salad more than last year's. the menu doesn't purport it to be spicy so you don't have that disappointment. nice play with both tastes and textures.

not a fan of the pate en croute. decent charcuterie but the bar for that has been raised vastly in this town in the last few months.

finally got around to the hangar steak ssam....of the ssams, I think this one is best (other than the bo).

service was friendly and as pleasant as it has ever been...except for a failure to mention specials (though some diners around me were told of them)

Edited by Nathan (log)
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Does anyone know whether they serve the pistachio croustillant or the rhubarb shortcake (or the dessert of the season, whatever it is) at lunch?

I think they only serve the brownie pie at lunch.

yeah, had lunch on Saturday, only dessert is the brownie pie.

regarding the off menu/specials at dinner, are they generally mentioned, sometimes only mentioned to regulars, or do people generally ask if there are any to hear them? I've had one or two mentioned maybe half the times I've been there, should I be inquiring more? they sound awfully good. but I guess given my love for everything they have that's not surprising.

I also agree about the pate. not at all bad, but not enough to order over other things. I also preferred it more on a bit of bread from my ham plate.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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The servers usually remember to recite them, but I always ask to make sure. Last few times, though, the specials have run out quite early in the evening. That is probably why you might not hear about them.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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I'll be in town next week and would like to do a solo lunch at Ssam. Is lunch as difficult to get in as dinner? What's the best timing strategy for a solo?

Are the portions manageable for a solo? (I want those pork buns).

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There are two pork buns to a portion and I believe a reasonable person could finish both, then move on to a main.

The hanger steak ssam was rockin', and I loved it, but the waitress recommended the poussin and after reading the description above I feel maybe I should have gone with that. Still, left stuffed and happy.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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I'll be in town next week and would like to do a solo lunch at Ssam.  Is lunch as difficult to get in as dinner?  What's the best timing strategy for a solo?

Are the portions manageable for a solo? (I want those pork buns).

The lunch menu at Ssam Bar is abbreviated. My standard recommendation for people who want the Momofuku experience at lunchtime is to go to Noodle Bar where the menu is the same at lunchtime and dinnertime.

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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rumor on the street is:

1. Pork buns coming off the menu.

2. They're looking at renting the space behind (not sure if this is ssam bar or noodle bar) to sell ssams and buns to go.

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Bummer for you New Yorkers if those buns are coming off the menu. They're everything that people rave about.

Had lunch (pork buns) at Ssam today. That lunch special is a great deal. (Thanks for the Noodle Bar recommendation Fat Guy, but I just didn't have the stomach for the full "Momofuku experience" today.)

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finally got around to the hangar steak ssam....of the ssams, I think this one is best (other than the bo).

The hanger steak ssam is awesome, though I think it's tied for best with the pork sausage ssam (I also leave the bo out of the comparison because it's such a different experience, but I don't think the bo is all that great anyway). If you're partial to a simple, beautiful, rare piece of meat then the hanger steak is the way to go, but the melange of flavors in the free-form pork sausage is also formidable.

service was friendly and as pleasant as it has ever been...except for a failure to mention specials (though some diners around me were told of them)

I don't know how many times I've been to Ssam Bar -- a couple of dozen maybe -- and I've had the specials mentioned to me maybe twice. I've just made it part of my routine to ask about specials in response to the "Are you ready to order?" query, and every time I do the server is like, "Oh! Yes, we have two specials today . . ." If anybody way back there in the kitchen is wondering why the specials don't sell very well, this is where you want to start looking. Someone reported that Cory is back on the floor regularly at Ssam Bar but I haven't seen him. Not that the staff was any better about reciting specials when Cory was nearly always there.

rumor on the street is:

1. Pork buns coming off the menu.

2.  They're looking at renting the space behind (not sure if this is ssam bar or noodle bar) to sell ssams and buns to go.

Logic says this is Ssam Bar we're talking about.

1. There isn't really a space behind Noodle Bar that could operate as a standalone concession. Noodle Bar is mid-block. However, Ssam Bar is on a corner so a space or carve-out behind it could open on to 13th Street.

2. Noodle Bar's commitment to the buns is significant. Unlike Ssam Bar, which only offers pork buns, Noodle Bar offers pork, chicken and shiitake variants. They also do a ton of volume on buns at Noodle Bar. At busy times, there's one guy in the kitchen who does pretty much nothing but fill bun orders.

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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I've noticed on the saam dinner menu they mention a tasting menu they can do, has anyone ever tried that? I only noticed it the last couple times I was there, don't remember seeing it before. I'm specifically curious if the give you small portions of a selection of the regular menu, or if it's off menu stuff.

Now that I've tried almost everything on the regular menu, if it's different stuff I may go check it out this weekend....

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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1. There isn't really a space behind Noodle Bar that could operate as a standalone concession. Noodle Bar is mid-block. However, Ssam Bar is on a corner so a space or carve-out behind it could open on to 13th Street.

There is retail space for rent directly adjacent to the rear of Ssam Bar, on 13th. If this rumor proves true, this is almost certainly the destination.

There is also vacant retail space directly above Ssam Bar, on the second floor—it's always been there. It's too large a space (as big as Ssam Bar, I assume) for a takeout venture, but I've always found it intriguing as a potential expansion opportunity.

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I've noticed on the saam dinner menu they mention a tasting menu they can do, has anyone ever tried that?  I only noticed it the last couple times I was there, don't remember seeing it before.  I'm specifically curious if the give you small portions of a selection of the regular menu, or if it's off menu stuff.

Now that I've tried almost everything on the regular menu, if it's different stuff I may go check it out this weekend....

yeah, they started that about six months ago. I think you'll find discussion of it way back on the thread.

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Saw the lardo on the menu last night and didn't try it. I guess I'm regretting it now.

Had a bunch of old favorites with a decent group of people. Only new dishes for me were the asparagus--a dish I've riffed on before without having tried it--and the hamachi collar that shows up as a special from time to time. The asparagus was very tasty, nice presentation, too. The collar is a difficult piece of fish to cook but worked well because of this. Charred skin, nicely cooked flesh, more rare on the bone. Nice.

I thought the chicken dish, however, was a step backward. No more pea puree, no more ramps, and the chicken wasn't quite as well-cooked or -plated. The dish is still delicious but perhaps a bit of a letdown in comparison to the version from a few weeks ago.

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Comparing the previous poussin to the current poussin is kind of like a comparison between "transcendent" (pea and ramps version) and "excellent". The morels are still there, though.

The new lardo is really good. Comes with some toasted bread, and pickled white turnips. Really nice and flavorful.

Also tried the new blondie pie -- nutty and very sweet. Delicious. I definitely like this dessert over the brownie pie, but the rhubarb shortcake is still my favorite.

Patiently waiting the Tristar strawberry shortcake, though. Soon, soon.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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I've noticed on the saam dinner menu they mention a tasting menu they can do, has anyone ever tried that?  I only noticed it the last couple times I was there, don't remember seeing it before.  I'm specifically curious if the give you small portions of a selection of the regular menu, or if it's off menu stuff.

Now that I've tried almost everything on the regular menu, if it's different stuff I may go check it out this weekend....

yeah, they started that about six months ago. I think you'll find discussion of it way back on the thread.

The tasting menus I've seen have consisted of all stuff from the regular menu, not different dishes. It has been a while, though.

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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  • 4 weeks later...

after a couple recent mediocre meals here, I'm happy to report that tonight's meal has been fabulous. There's a wonderful lamb's tongue salad. More robust and less subtle than the Babbo classic, but extremely good. The current version of the branzino dish is classic ssam bar: perfectly balances the butter and salt with acidity while cooking the fish just right.

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