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Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2006–2007)


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That's like saying a traffic light is defined as a light that is 1- red, yellow and green and 2- directs traffic, and then saying "but this light over here is red, yellow and green and doesn't direct traffic, therefore there's no such thing as a traffic light."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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I don't think the "packed" part is a major criterion.

in my view the NP is composed of:

1. cross-cultural, chef-driven food combining high and low...often in the same dish.

2. casual surroundings, no formal trappings (although the food contains elements that were traditionally reserved to three and four star cuisine).

3. especially appeals to a youthful but knowledgeable demographic.

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I don't think the "packed" part is a major criterion.

in my view the NP is composed of:

1.  cross-cultural, chef-driven food combining high and low...often in the same dish.

2.  casual surroundings, no formal trappings (although the food contains elements that were traditionally reserved to three and four star cuisine).

3.  especially appeals to a youthful but knowledgeable demographic.

I agree with the first two. I don't recall the third coming up on the original thread. It's also unmeasurable. We can all look at a Momofuku Ssam Bar menu and see what elements are there. We can't survey the diners as to their level of knowledge.

The other problem with "packed" is that it doesn't narrow anything down, since so many places are packed that have none of the other purported elements of the paradigm. In contrast, many lights with red, yellow, and green are in fact traffic lights.

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I don't think the "packed" part is a major criterion.

in my view the NP is composed of:

1.  cross-cultural, chef-driven food combining high and low...often in the same dish.

2.  casual surroundings, no formal trappings (although the food contains elements that were traditionally reserved to three and four star cuisine).

3.  especially appeals to a youthful but knowledgeable demographic.

I agree with the first two. I don't recall the third coming up on the original thread. It's also unmeasurable. We can all look at a Momofuku Ssam Bar menu and see what elements are there. We can't survey the diners as to their level of knowledge.

The other problem with "packed" is that it doesn't narrow anything down, since so many places are packed that have none of the other purported elements of the paradigm. In contrast, many lights with red, yellow, and green are in fact traffic lights.

I guess I'd revise the third to say "foodie-driven" or something like that. there's no question that the demographic at NP places tends to be younger but relatively affluent...the knowledgeable part perhaps should be rephrased as "adventurous"...at least compared to their peers.

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I don't exactly know who's reading the New York Times these days, but I do know that it's not the guiding force on the East Village scene as it might be on the Lincoln Center scene. So, fine, maybe a few middle aged Times readers from the Lincoln Center neighborhood took cabs down to check out Momofuku Ssam Bar, found it uncomfortable and weird, and never came back. I can't see how that changes anything.

I do often see older people there -- I can't tell if they're a steady stream of new folks who came downtown to check it out, eat at the bar, and never come back, but I do see more older folks. It's "a few in their 50s" as opposed to "none."

And I'm seeing mixed age groups that are most likely families. Sometimes it's a twenty something taking his folks to dinner at Ssam Bar and I'm the Times giving it two stars has got to be a factor.

The other night around 10pm (!), I saw a family of 5 (mom, dad, teenager + 2 kids) sit down and enjoy some ssams and pork buns.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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A discussion of the general term of "New Paradigm" restaurant is now ongoing here.. While the term was coined to describe MSB, that is a better place to discuss more general applications of the term, especially if the reality exists outside of MSB.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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I do often see older people there -- I can't tell if they're a steady stream of new folks who came downtown to check it out, eat at the bar, and never come back, but I do see more older folks. It's "a few in their 50s" as opposed to "none."

Allright, off-topic, but what's with the older people thing??...I skew to that demographic, and I've been to Ssam or Noodle Bar as much as anyone in their twenties.

And, I go UPTOWN to eat there.

Sheesh.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Allright, off-topic, but what's with the older people thing??...I skew to that demographic, and I've been to Ssam or Noodle Bar as much as anyone in their twenties.

And, I go UPTOWN to eat there.

I thought Momofuku Ssam Bar was great—for what it is—and I'm 47. There are certain regular forum contributors who repeatedly make gross over-generalizations about the clientele of certain restaurants. They are nearly always wrong, or at least grossly over-stated. Age, at least, is usually ascertainable at sight. Bald assertions about Momofuku Ssam Bar patrons' foodie knowledge or neighborhood-of-residence take the absurdity even farther, because they require mind-reading.
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I don't see why it would be disputed that the median age at Ssam Bar is almost certainly under 35...quite possibly under 30.

I don't want to get into your larger point...but are you really saying that you can't predict which subway stops people are getting off on by their clothing and hair? That's an incredibly easy game to play.

If I'm wrong on this (and gawker and eater and DBTH and SR and WR and every other social NY blog are also wrong on this)...then fashion marketers have wasted millions of dollars tailoring their wares to specific demographics. There's a reason why Bloomingdales Downtown is very different from Bloomingdales Uptown in its selection. Elizabeth St. John is aimed at women of a certain age who live uptown. Imitation of Christ (I'm not talking about Thomas a Kempis) is aimed at a certain Brooklyn/LES demographic. etc. etc. etc.

so, yeah, it's darn easy to figure out if a restaurant has a downtown crowd, an uptown crowd, a B&T crowd...etc.

Ssam Bar has a very downtown crowd...and trends more EV than WV...heck, I ride the L train regularly. it doesn't take rocket science to figure out in a split second whether someone is going home to the WV or to the EV/Williamsburg (there are probably differentiations there that I'm not cool enough to ascertain).

I mean, Murray Hill and the EV draw similar age groups...but it'd be patently absurd to argue that the denizens of each don't dress quite differently (if you don't believe me, walk into the Hairy Monk tonight and then walk into Angels and Kings).

Edited by Nathan (log)
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Come on guys, there should even be any debate at all. It is not up to the diner to search out the best item on a menu, or the best time to order it (as long as the restaurant is open, it's the right time), not their jobs to know the history of the place either (sorry Nathan). The food either taste good or taste bad. In the case of the Ssam, I agree with Mimi, it's a mess, and taste bad. It's as simple as that!

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

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Come on guys, there should even be any debate at all. It is not up to the diner to search out the best item on a menu, or the best time to order it (as long as the restaurant is open, it's the right time), not their jobs to know the history of the place either (sorry Nathan).  The food either taste good or taste bad. In the case of the Ssam, I agree with Mimi, it's a mess, and taste bad. It's as simple as that!

as I said, I don't like the lunch ssam either.

so?

it's absurd to conclude off of one item that Chang "is overrated"

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Come on guys, there should even be any debate at all. It is not up to the diner to search out the best item on a menu, or the best time to order it (as long as the restaurant is open, it's the right time), not their jobs to know the history of the place either (sorry Nathan).  The food either taste good or taste bad. In the case of the Ssam, I agree with Mimi, it's a mess, and taste bad. It's as simple as that!

as I said, I don't like the lunch ssam either.

so?

it's absurd to conclude off of one item that Chang "is overrated"

In general, you are correct, although in this case, the dish in question, a ssam, is also part of the restaurant name. If any dish should be good at a restaurant it should be one that the restaurant is named after. For reasons I mentioned above, I happen to think it is over-rated, but not because of the ssam. Mind you, over-rated does not necessarily mean bad. I didn't think the food was bad. I just didn't think it was nearly as good as many of the people on this topic apparently do or as good a value as many apparently think it is.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Allright, off-topic, but what's with the older people thing??...I skew to that demographic, and I've been to Ssam or Noodle Bar as much as anyone in their twenties.

Pipe down, grandpa.

--

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Come on guys, there should even be any debate at all. It is not up to the diner to search out the best item on a menu, or the best time to order it (as long as the restaurant is open, it's the right time), not their jobs to know the history of the place either (sorry Nathan).  The food either taste good or taste bad. In the case of the Ssam, I agree with Mimi, it's a mess, and taste bad. It's as simple as that!

as I said, I don't like the lunch ssam either.

so?

it's absurd to conclude off of one item that Chang "is overrated"

In general, you are correct, although in this case, the dish in question, a ssam, is also part of the restaurant name. If any dish should be good at a restaurant it should be one that the restaurant is named after. For reasons I mentioned above, I happen to think it is over-rated, but not because of the ssam. Mind you, over-rated does not necessarily mean bad. I didn't think the food was bad. I just didn't think it was nearly as good as many of the people on this topic apparently do or as good a value as many apparently think it is.

well, real ssam (essentially, lettuce wraps) is only served at dinner. she didn't try that. your opinion that it's overrated I respect because you actually tried more than one item.

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Come on guys, there should even be any debate at all. It is not up to the diner to search out the best item on a menu, or the best time to order it (as long as the restaurant is open, it's the right time), not their jobs to know the history of the place either (sorry Nathan).  The food either taste good or taste bad. In the case of the Ssam, I agree with Mimi, it's a mess, and taste bad. It's as simple as that!

as I said, I don't like the lunch ssam either.

so?

it's absurd to conclude off of one item that Chang "is overrated"

In general, you are correct, although in this case, the dish in question, a ssam, is also part of the restaurant name. If any dish should be good at a restaurant it should be one that the restaurant is named after. For reasons I mentioned above, I happen to think it is over-rated, but not because of the ssam. Mind you, over-rated does not necessarily mean bad. I didn't think the food was bad. I just didn't think it was nearly as good as many of the people on this topic apparently do or as good a value as many apparently think it is.

well, real ssam (essentially, lettuce wraps) is only served at dinner. she didn't try that. your opinion that it's overrated I respect because you actually tried more than one item.

edit: of course, this is what happens when Chang made into an entirely different restaurant but kept the old name.

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Allright, off-topic, but what's with the older people thing??...I skew to that demographic, and I've been to Ssam or Noodle Bar as much as anyone in their twenties.

Pipe down, grandpa.

Now that got a big laugh!! :laugh:

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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Didn't someone note that this debate was ridiculous (like pages ago?). I agree. And didn't FG himself note that perhaps the debate over this issue may have grown tiresome? I really agree. We're up to what, 5 pages now? And no sign of it ever abating.

Mimi Sheraton's final point was, "In my book, he is responsible for every morsel, every time his doors are open and customers are being charged." If David Chang's restaurant served Mimi Sheraton a lousy meal, she has a right to not like it, and she has a right to say so, too. You can tell me I'm wrong on that a thousand times over, and I won't change my mind, so don't even bother.

This is starting to reek of the Charlie Trotter Superdud thread, in which some guy got eviscerated by the membership for: a) not having been terribly impressed by his meal; and b) having the audacity to say so.

I respect Mimi Sheraton's and Doc Sconz's right to not have been impressed by their meals, and I respect the right of the others on this thread to have been wildly impressed by their own experience.

What I am finding difficult to respect in this thread though, is the ever increasing heap of pedantic drivel that one has to wade through in order to find any mention of the food itself.

It's FOOD. People like it or they don't. They enjoy their experience of it, or they don't. And where I'll stand in my judgment of this place is where I'll stand depending on how good it tastes - no more. I'm damned if I'm doing any research before dining there.

I'm sick of this place already, and I haven't even eaten there yet.

Edited by H. du Bois (log)
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If David Chang's restaurant served Mimi Sheraton a lousy meal, she has a right to not like it, and she has a right to say so, too.

[snip]

I'm sick of this place already, and I haven't even eaten there yet.

Of course. but...she said a lot more than that....she said that Chang was "overrated" (which may be true!) based upon one item. I stand by my statement that no one has any business reaching that kind of conclusion off of only one menu item. dosconz had a meal. she did not.

this thread didn't have to go on for pages. I don't see why it would have taken much to reach a general agreement that her statement was hyperbole....

btw, try it.

edit: imagine that an ordinary poster posts on the Jean Georges thread tomorrow, "Jean Georges is overrated! I had an appetizer at Mercer Kitchen last night and it wasn't very good." One can point out the blatant error of this hypothetical poster without concluding one way or the other as to whether JG is "overrated"

Edited by Nathan (log)
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And I will gladly interrupt the regularly scheduled programming: Many pages back, but only a few days ago, I mentioned that I got the artichokes and they were too pointy and sharp. On the recommendations of others from this site, I gave the artichokes another chance and the tips of the artichokes were trimmed much better. Still, out of the vegetables, I find the brussel sprouts, cauliflower and the asparagus much more tasty and interesting.

I also tried the new rice cake dish. I'd agree that the rice cakes are cut a little bit too large - it would be nice if they were maybe a third or quarter the size - small enough to fit on the spoon along with some broth and a clam. Even so, I really loved this dish. I removed the clams from their shells right away, so with the exception of dealing with the rice cakes, this dish didn't involve too much effort. The broth was great especially with the added sweetness from the bacon/sausage.

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I love those artichokes but I agree they're not mind-blowing the way the brussel sprouts are. almost makes me wish for fall now.

I am annoyed that the superb mackerel dish had a very short menu stint...apparently no one was ordering it.

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I ate at the ssam bar last night, for the first time since they changed the format. Before, I believe the menu was similar to what is lunch now. I was a fan of the brisket ssam, but would generally have preferred the ramen soup at Momofuku over the ssam bar if it were not for the wait you experience if you are not there at 5:30. (My mom was in a hospital nearby last Autumn, and being able to follow visits with a stop at ssam bar really helped).

That said, our dinner was terrific. I had a starter of sea urchin and whipped tofu that was out of this world. Great contrast of textures, excellent spicing (here's where what I take to be the asian elements came in). I followed this with a pan roasted chicken that was executed on a similar level. Besides very good product cooked correctly, the saucing and spicing lifted it to a very high level. My wife had a hamachi starter and the artichokes - both very fine.

I haven't read past the current page about the controversy here. But this was one of my favorite nyc meals in a long while. Service was also very attentive and friendly. When we inquired about the carbonated sake drink others were having a sample was promptly offered. Every question we asked about a dish was answered by an enthusiastic explanation of every element (The folks next to us had a terrific looking plate of at least a half dozen cured vegetables that we had not ordered as it was just described as "pickles" on the menu). I'm sure I'm at least 20 years older than anyone working the front of the house, but as long as you like rock and roll I do not see age being an issue (of course we ate the 'early bird' shift :biggrin: ).

I've got a cooking class at de gustibus with David Chang coming up this week, and I can't wait to learn some of his techniques.

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Service was also very attentive and friendly. When we inquired about the carbonated sake drink others were having a sample was promptly offered. Every question we asked about a dish was answered by an enthusiastic explanation of every element...

Thanks for reiterating - I've always found the service to be great at Ssam Bar - enthusiastic servers who know every dish and are willing to spend the time explaining what the dish is...might not be haute-service, but damn good in every respect.

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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He's running a business, which he's trying to expand. And, shockingly, he does not believe the best way to do that is to try to fill a 50-odd seat restaurant on 2nd Av. and 13th St. with people spending $70 on lunch. Amazingly enough, this two-starred idiot thinks a mass crowd in the East Village will only spend $10-15 at lunchtime. Imagine!

Instead, he is forcing all those who want to experience his food before 5pm to walk a grueling four blocks to the 25-ish seat Noodle Bar, which all day serves from a full menu that is not only extraordinarily similar to Ssam Bar's but also, as it happens, currently better (!) than Ssam Bar's (an assertion I will back up with a long post later if I get around to it), and where you can spend your $70 and lunch on some of the best food in New York to your heart's content.

Clearly this David Chang moron has no idea what he is doing, is alienating diners and losing customers left and right, and will indubitably be forced into bankruptcy and run out of town with his tail between his legs sometime in the very near future.

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Dave

This is a bit illogical--you say Chang doesn't serve the dinner menu at the Ssam bar because the "mass crowd in the East Village" will only spend $10 or $15 at lunchtime. Then you say the Noodle Bar serves the full menu at lunch (apparently successfully).

Given the attention his lunch menu (or lack thereof) is receiving, it seems to me (and indirectly acknowledged by his Noodle Bar lunch, apparently per the above) there's a market for his dinner menu at lunchtime at Ssam.

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