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Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2006–2007)


Bond Girl
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Noodle Bar is half the size of Ssam Bar. In addition, the restaurants have to be looked at as a unit. There may be enough demand for this sort of lunch to make it worth offering at a 25-seat restaurant (to be clear, not everybody eating lunch at Noodle Bar is eating this way -- most seem to be ordering the meal-in-a-bowl dishes), but there may not be enough demand to make it worth offering at a 25-seat restaurant plus a 50-seat restaurant, for 75 seats in all, plus maintaining that level of staffing at both places. They might sell exactly the same number of fine-dining dishes even if they offered the full menu at both places. I imagine Mr. Chang is far better versed in the economics of it than every armchair quarterback combined. He seems to be an excellent businessman.

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 is half the size of Ssam Bar. In addition, the restaurants have to be looked at as a unit. There may be enough demand for this sort of lunch to make it worth offering at a 25-seat restaurant (to be clear, not everybody eating lunch at Noodle Bar is eating this way -- most seem to be ordering the meal-in-a-bowl dishes), but there may not be enough demand to make it worth offering at a 25-seat restaurant plus a 50-seat restaurant, for 75 seats in all, plus maintaining that level of staffing at both places. They might sell exactly the same number of fine-dining dishes even if they offered the full menu at both places. I imagine Mr. Chang is far better versed in the economics of it than every armchair quarterback combined. He seems to be an excellent businessman.

Precisely.

The one bit that many people have not quite caught on to is that if you ignore the eponymous sections of the menus (which is not the stuff that's winning two stars and Beard awards), he is now running essentially the same menu at Noodle Bar as at Ssam Bar--none of the dishes is exactly the same (except the pork buns and the tortilla ssams), but they are almost all variations of each other, in somewhat distinct styles. With all the attention given to Ssam Bar lately, the waits there have become at least as long as Noodle Bar, and in recent visits the execution at Noodle Bar has been much stronger.

Hopefully no one will notice until Noodle Bar is ready to move to its larger digs, at which point we can all turn our attention to trying to snag a seat at Ko.

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what FG said.

the thing is, most people eating lunch at Noodle Bar are ordering the cheaper "meal-in-a-bowl" dishes...he just happens to offer the full menu at well. like FG said, I imagine the logistics of offering the full menu at lunch at both places outweighs the demand (especially on weekdays in the EV....I think weekends might be a different proposition).

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I was just there for Sunday lunch and as far as I could tell I was the only person ordering from the haute end of the spectrum. It was me with my soft-shells and crawfish, and twenty other people with soups, pickles and pork buns. I was right in front of the "pass" and just didn't see the interesting stuff going out.

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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well..apparently the Times review did have an impact.

I had organized a large group for the bo ssam tomorrow and it turns out that they're getting booked weeks in advance (something which wasn't the case a couple months ago) for it.

I'm just amazed that anyone can hold together a group of 8-14 people weeks in advance....especially after Memorial Day

Edited by Nathan (log)
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So is it going to be impossible to walk up to this place on a Friday night and not wait 2 hours?  Dang...I had penciled this place in for my trip up to NYC tomorrow.

Ssam Bar only takes reservations for the bo ssam...I walked in with Sneakeater the other week on a Thursday (same thing as a weekend night) and we only waited 10 minutes.

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Hmm...maybe I'll give it a shot Friday night then. Can anyone recommend a restaurant nearby that I can use as a contingency plan just in case the wait at Momofuku is insane? Obviously, since I am trying to go to Momofuku, I am looking for something sub-$40 pp.

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Hmm...maybe I'll give it a shot Friday night then.  Can anyone recommend a restaurant nearby that I can use as a contingency plan just in case the wait at Momofuku is insane?  Obviously, since I am trying to go to Momofuku, I am looking for something sub-$40 pp.

Momofuku Noodle.

E.U.?

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what about zaab thati next door. People have been saying nice things (not Beard award nice, but good dinner nice)

Zabb in Queens...very good by all accounts.

Zabb in the EV....ugh. they've massively dumbed down the menu (and the dishes) for a Caucasian, EV audience. no better than Klong and the like.

edit: this apparently wasn't true at the opening but happened pretty quickly thereafter.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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It was me with my soft-shells and crawfish, and twenty other people with soups, pickles and pork buns.

Oh, so you're the reason they were out of the softshell crabs when I dined there later that same night... :angry::raz:

Stellar meal, though, even without the crabs. Hadn't been in awhile (well, only about three weeks, but it felt like an eternity), so it was good to see that the kitchen was still throwing down. The fried artichokes (that walnut-fish sauce puree is brilliant) and the lamb belly were particularly noteworthy.

Nothing to see here.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Zabb in Queens...very good by all accounts.

Zabb in the EV....ugh.  they've massively dumbed down the menu (and the dishes) for a Caucasian, EV audience.  no better than Klong and the like.

edit: this apparently wasn't true at the opening but happened pretty quickly thereafter.

that's so disappoining to hear. never been to the queens location - guess will have to make it there rather than try the city one :sad:

twobrain - as long as yo get there before midnight, you should be fine -it's lots of fun and lots of good food :-)

Edited by madziast (log)

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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Went two weekends ago and was disappointed to find they had run out of the soft shell crab. Ordered the crayfish instead and it wasn't the most popular item at our table. A little difficult to eat, even for the decidedly hands-on type menu at Ssam.

On a separate note, I hope they revert to serving the chawan mushi in the larger portions as before. It now comes in a small glass, albeit topped with a generous dollop of black fish roe (caviar?).

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The current chawan mushi is nice, but I also prefer the older one, with the snails, garlic, edamame and beef jus served in the larger size bowl. I thought everything in that dish worked so beautifully. Perfect comfort food. I had read in one or two places some complaints about the texture of the larger chawan mushi - that it was too cooked on the edges. I see technically how that is possible, but I never noticed it to be the case and I had that dish a lot. I always found the consistency to be very even.

I went to ssam bar last night and there were some new items on the menu. A chicken ballotine with nori, some tasty greens and radish. I ate it pretty quickly and so I'm fuzzy on the details, but it was enjoyable. They also have a sugar snap peas dish (I haven't tried it yet).

Up thread, some people mentioned that they found the rice cakes in the manilla clam dish to be too large. Last night the rice cakes were the thin coin shaped variety. I enjoyed being able to have some broth, garlic shoots, clams and rice cake in one mouthful. The rice cakes were still very tasty, but I did miss the bite characteristic of log shaped rice cakes that they used to use. I still think the ideal rice cake would be the log shaped ones, but one third or one fourth the length of what they were using. Even so it's good to get all the dish's components in one bite and this is one of my favorite soups (second only to noodle bar's kimchi stew).

I've gotten totally hooked on the scallops with scallion oil and pineapple. It's absolutely incredible. I don't think I've ever seen pineapple diced that small and evenly. That's some serious skills...

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Am I just imagining this, or did they also used to shave black truffles on the old rendition of the chawan mushi (in addition to the braised snails)? It seems unlikely, but I remember seeing a photo of the dish on a blog with what looked to be shaved truffles on the surface of the custard.

I missed the rice cakes on my last visit as well. I didn't realize items came on and off the line-up so frequently, as the dish didn't even appear on the printed menu that night.

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My notes are at home but that chicken ballotine is milk-fed chicken, served with leeks. Mmmmm. I'll upload some photographs to Flickr later.

They have also added a spicy squid salad with Sichuan peppercorns and celery. Seriously sinus-clearing and seriously tasty.

The menu changes both seasonally (for summer the apple salad is gone, for example) and nightly (based upon what's in stock).

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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