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Bond Girl

Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2006–2007)

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As a vegetarian, I was never that crazy about Momofuku. But, I was willing to put all other prejudices aside and try Ssam. There were three items on the menu and ech one has a vegetarian version:

The Ssam which is the rice flour wrap at $9, the rice bowl at $13 and the buns, which was similar to those served at Momokuku.

"You are paying $9 for a burrito?" My friend Gary said. "That's f.....g expensive! I don't want you calling me up whining that David Chang overcharged you later."

Well, after trying one shitake mushroom burrito, I won't be whining about being overcharged for my burrito. I will, however, be whinning about it not tasting good. There is something off about the shitake mushroom wrap. In the words of a very dear friend: "It's not delicious!" The Ssam sauce tasted too acidic with nothing to balance it. There were some endamame in my wrap that seemed out of place and the white kimichi tasted onion-y and left a bad after taste on my tongue. I ended up picking the whole thing apart and eating the mushrooms and endmame separately and throwing out the rest.

Then again, those liking Berkshire pork may have better luck then me. The place is packed on opening night. Go try it, just because I don't like it it doesn't mean other people won't.

Momofuku Ssam

207 2nd Ave.

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Just came back from there. I was expecting the same sort of premise as the original Momofuku , but was suprised to see that it's actually set up more like a fast food joint. That's certainly not a bad thing...that means I can get my fix of pork buns on the go. :biggrin:

I tried the shredded berkshire pork in a rice flour pancake (essentially like a tortilla) stuffed with steamed rice, kimchee slaw, red kimchee puree, bacon braised black beans, and hoisin. Quite good, but perhaps a touch too sweet. A couple of squirts of sriracha (available along the counter) took care of that, though, and I happily devoured the rest.


Edited by iheartoffal (log)

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There you go. Just as I predicted. It's a place for strict carnivores.

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There you go.  Just as I predicted. It's a place for strict carnivores.

THANK GOD, ALLAH, MOHAMMED, BUDHA, HAYSEUS, THE DALAI LAMA and all those others for places with such delicious, tasty, and satisfying food as that of Momofuku & Ssam Bar.

BRING ON THE PORK BOYS!!

Us carnivores are ready, willing, and able!!! :wink:

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There you go.  Just as I predicted. It's a place for strict carnivores.

The Momofuku menu actually says "We do not serve vegetarian-friendly items."

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I found the Ssam at Momofuku to be too sweet for my taste...how customizable are the ones here?

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All the ingredients are pre-made, so it's like getting a burrito at your local Chipotles. I guess, you can say, I don't want rice in my, but you can't say I wish the rice were cooked with a pinch of salt or something like that....

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There you go.  Just as I predicted. It's a place for strict carnivores.

The Momofuku menu actually says "We do not serve vegetarian-friendly items."

I guess I missed that part....don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against carnivores. In fact, they make the best dining pals. Eating with them means I get to steal the veggies off their plates.

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All the ingredients are pre-made, so it's like getting a burrito at your local Chipotles.  I guess, you can say, I don't want rice in my, but you can't say I wish the rice were cooked with a pinch of salt or something like that....

If restaurants - from fast-casual to fine-dining - didn't pre-make/pre-prep some ingredients/items, your meal would take muuuuuuch longer to make. i.e. risotto, mashed veggies, some meats, vegs, pastas, sauces, salsas, etc., etc., etc. I could go on forever. Unless it's a raw food restaurant. Oh wait, no, they pre-make their stuff as well.


Edited by Chefmara (log)

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My point exactly. So Nathan, wanting to customize his food to the right degree of sweetness, may have to look elsewhere.

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"You are paying $9 for a burrito?" My friend Gary said.  "That's f.....g expensive! I don't want you calling me up whining that David Chang overcharged you later."

Well, after trying one shitake mushroom burrito, I won't be whining about being overcharged for my burrito. I will, however, be whinning about it not tasting good.

If the quality of ingredients is good and portion size is generous I don't think $9 is off the mark in Manhattan. One of my favorite local Mexican influenced Bistro's here in Syracuse - Alto Cinco - gets $7 or $8 for a burrito with one side dish and $6 for a simple burrito. Quality is excellent, they're enormous (one is really a meal) and I've never heard people squawk about the price.

If they had more luxe ingredients $9 is a price that could be supported and we're talking about a market in which even the more enlightened diners don't expect to pay NYC prices for a meal (as they shouldn't - the overall cost of doing business here is far lower than in Manhattan as are wages, housing prices etc.).

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Totally agree. Not only the quality of ingredients (Berkshire, fresh/seasonal veggies, etc.), but the quality of the cooking methods and the quality of seasoning, etc. - $9 - is nothing. Well, at least for me. If I am guaranteed tasty food, well cooked, and good portion, I'm sold @ $9, $10, $11, etc.

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Ate there today and have to say that for $9, the burrito was quite a deal. I love pork belly, and momfuku know how to make it.

I found the decor a bit soulless (too bad - I quite like the original momofuku's interior) and the layout a little confusing - but I think as they flesh it out a bit it will come together.

What's up with the giant Nike ad, though? Some sort of art? It's a poster-sized old shot of McEnroe emblazoned with Nike logos. Are they subsidizing the place?

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I love pork belly, and momfuku know how to make it.

i believe they're using pork shoulder at Ssam.

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Hmm, I'm always a skeptic :huh: when it comes to "fake" or modified to be trendy Korean food. Especially when its overpriced. You can get ssam for much cheaper than $9 anywhere else in K-town, plus more authentic and tastier. Even Woorijip on 32nd St. has it from time to time in their buffet, or try Gammiok for the real deal.

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"Fake" or "modified to be trendy" is some pretty harsh criticism. I've read a few interviews with David Chang and he seems to be a fairly straightforward, earnest chef. His goal is probably to make Korean cuisine more available to the masses who might be intimidated by K-town. This was touched upon in the recent Why can't Korean food become mainstream?, Kimchi for the masses? topic.

I'm glad you mentioned K-town options, but you might want to try Ssam Bar and judge it on its own terms first.

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Yeah, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. I'll definitely give it a shot one of these days and bring back my thoughts. I'm open to try of course, just skeptical since it seems a bit pricey/trendy. But then, that's a sign that Korean food is becoming popularized, which is a very good thing.

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Not yet having been to Ssam, but having been to Momofuko, I think what David Chang is doing is what Chinatown Brasserie claims to be doing: adding value to what is to us in New York an ethnic cuisine by using vastly better ingredients and more schooled cooking techniques. What Chang does isn't always better than the originals -- but it's sufficiently different to be worth the extra money if you're in the mood for what he's presenting.

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yeah i take it for what it is...

overhyped.

casual food using quality product. tasty. fine.

but the shameless worship i see for this place is just plain weird.

i'm convinced that someone at ny mag has a crush on david chang.

it's food i'd pay for if i was in the neighborhood; not a destination restaurant.

also, i think it's a shame to pair high quality meat and locally sourced ingredients with MSG. (and with pride!) if ssam follows through on serving stinky cheeses and other kinds of good stuff during its late night hours, i look forward to it. but i'll pass on the burritos.

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Not yet having been to Ssam, but having been to Momofuko, I think what David Chang is doing is what Chinatown Brasserie claims to be doing:  adding value to what is to us in New York an ethnic cuisine  by using vastly better ingredients and more schooled cooking techniques.  What Chang does isn't always better than the originals -- but it's sufficiently different to be worth the extra money if you're in the mood for what he's presenting.

So, you are saying that it is worth paying extra for modified, inferior product? Would you like to buy a bridge from me? It looks luike the Brooklyn bridge, but just slightly different.

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I'm not saying it's modified and inferior. I'm saying it's modified and different enough as not to be really comparable.

It's like Franny's pizza v. Grimaldi's pizza (in Brooklyn). Franny's uses fancier ingredients and cooking techniques and is a lot more expensive. Grimaldi's is traditional coal-oven not-by-the-slice pizza at a very high level.

I'm not gonna say Franny's is better. Or that Grimaldi's is better. (Although I could imagine people arguing both those positions.) I'm gonna say they're different enough to respond to completely different cravings. Sometimes I'm in the mood for one; and sometimes I'm in the mood for the other.

And I don't mind paying more for Franny's, cuz I understand that the fancier ingredients etc. make it a more expensive product. And, as I said, to my mind it's sufficiently different from Grimaldi's that I can see the added value.

PS -- How does "not always better" translate into "inferior"?


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Admin: A side-discussion on MSG that evolved in this thread has been split out to a new thread here.

yeah i take it for what it is...

overhyped.

casual food using quality product.  tasty.  fine. 

but the shameless worship i see for this place is just plain weird. 

i'm convinced that someone at ny mag has a crush on david chang.

it's food i'd pay for if i was in the neighborhood; not a destination restaurant.

also, i think it's a shame to pair high quality meat and locally sourced ingredients with MSG.  (and with pride!)  if ssam follows through on serving stinky cheeses and other kinds of good stuff during its late night hours, i look forward to it.  but i'll pass on the burritos.

Hmm, I don't know if it's so shameless. He's getting the hype cuz no one else has done it. It's deserved. The food at Momofuko is very good. The simple concept has succeeded nicely (it's always packed) not to mention many of the regulars work in the biz (a high % being cooks). When that info circles around (and it has, everyone knows who eats there) you get much respect.

As for MSG, I don't get the objection. It's found naturally in a lot of things like tomatoes. What's wrong with it and why shouldn't they use it (assuming they do)?

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I've always enjoyed Momofuku...eat there often.

I find the Ssam too sweet and the ramen fine but not great.

Everything else is great...and that's really the point of the menu...the seasonal stuff.

As for the MSG thing...what you saw Accent in the kitchen or something? I could care less anyway. If you use soy sauce you're filling your food with it. ditto if you use seaweed, tomatoes, mushroom, many cheeses, etc....

heck, the menu at Megu is replete with allusions to how filled with "umami" their food is. of course, only a couple compounds are known to hit your umami taste receptors...and the primary one is MSG.

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not to start a war here or anything, but if msg is not a big deal, i don't see why two people are challenging my claim that it's used at the restaurant.  why would i make up something so stupid? 

anyway, i don't have the exact issue on hand, but it comes from the source himself (that would be chang) in an old food and wine article. 

msg is cheap, synthetic and unecessary in making food taste good.  if you like it, more power to you; splash it on everything you eat.  it gives others a wicked headache, though.  as for it being naturally occuring, you have to admit that there's a difference between eating a tomato and adding synthetic powder to your food.

i'm just saying.... and this is a random hypothetical example, but it's like raving about tia pol and then finding out that their secret is goya sazon.

thanks in advance for respecting a dissenting voice.

check your source..

November 2005 Food and Wine Article

Chang indicates that he uses Kewpie mayonaise, and praises it as the best because it contains MSG.. he doesn't indicate anywhere in the article that he uses MSG anywhere else in the restaurant, as your comment insuinuates (at least to me)..

while I'm not condoning the use of MSG, Chang neither douses his food with it, not does it cause the effects many people complain of when used in responsible quantities..

that said, Momofuku relies on animal fats for a large amount of flavoring and I appreciate the vegetables and the pork buns while skipping the noodles, which don't do it for me..

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At least the guy is not lying to the public that he is using MSG.  My question is what the point of cooking high quality and fresh ingredients with MSG?

I'm with you on the MSG issue. But - dumbass question - I know Momo's is a noodle bar, but, on the other hand, it seems to be pretty packed all the time. Do they take reservations, or should I just try to get on line ASAP? Any suggestions, Momo veterans? :unsure:

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