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Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2006–2007)


Bond Girl
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Went on Sunday night around 10:30pm. The were 5-6 other people in the restaurant, most of whom left as my boyfriend and I ate a late dinner.

Here's the updated menu.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn/366619454/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn/366621669/

Unfortunately, it looks like a few things I wanted to try (crab claws with yuzu mayo, the cauliflower, etc.) are off for now, as well as that 4th ham.

We had:

The famous (and rightly so) Banh Mi. I dream about this sandwich.

Benton's Country Ham. Itcame with a spicy gravy this time, I didn't like the gravy at all, so it struck me as useless, but the bread was nicely toasted and of a very high quality

Cured hamachi - good and nice temperature and textural counter point to all of the ham

Mochi sampler - Blueberry cheesecake, passionfruit, chocolate espresso, pistachio. All excellent, but I liked the bright and fresh passionfruit best, while my boy enjoyed the decadent, creamy blueberry cheesecake. I'm glad they mix up the flavors so often.

It was a struggle NOT to order the pork buns but well worth it. I look forward to trying the spicy seafood clay pot (our server said it was her favorite) and the sweetbreads.

Edit: check out his short essay in Eater today:

http://eater.com/archives/2007/01/on_the_house_th_2.php

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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  • 2 weeks later...

I go here pretty frequently for late suppers after working late, so I hardly feel it's worth noting my every meal. But for some reason I so enjoyed last night's supper that I thought it was worth a post.

1. After putting it off for months, I finally tried the sparkling Shiraz. I think it's like a perfect winter aperitif. Who thought of this?

2. My favorite thing about this place is that every time you go, there are new things on the menu. And usually they're really good. Last night, a stew of braised beef and ox tongue, with liberal shakes of cinnamon. When I was a boy, just about my very favorite food (other than pizza -- which is STILL my very favorite food) was this stew that my Russian Jewish grandmother used to make of braised beef cooked with ginger snaps (Zu-Zu Crackers, to name the particular brand used). This was the closest thing I've ever had to that.

3. My other favorite thing about this place is that it's finally living up to its initial billing of someplace where a bunch of talented cooks get together and jam. They're into it, and they're into keeping it new -- and you can tell. Not just from how good and inventive the food is, either. I ordered the great apple salad to start, and a glass of riesling to go with it. (They didn't used to have wines by the glass, did they?) It's not surprising that the riesling was perfect with the apple/bacon salad. But then, one of the guys manning the bar came up to me and exclaimed excitedly, "You know what? You won't believe it, but that riesling is going to be GREAT with the stew! The stew is [i think he said the name was Tim]'s new dish, and we had a staff tasting of it and all the wines last Saturday, and the riesling won out! No one expected it! Wait till you try it!" Damned if he wasn't right (it was the cinnamon). But what a kick that they're all so excited about this great food they're all coming up with, and so open to playing with it (figuratively, I mean [in case RichyRich is reading this]).

4. It was after 11 last night, and the place was near capacity. No more than a couple of empty seats at the bar, and maybe one empty table. So I guess we won't get to hear David Chang complain about how badly he's doing to the media any more.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I go here pretty frequently for late suppers after working late, so I hardly feel it's worth noting my every meal.  But for some reason I so enjoyed last night's supper that I thought it was worth a post.

1.  After putting it off for months, I finally tried the sparkling Shiraz.  I think it's like a perfect winter aperitif.  Who thought of this?

2.  My favorite thing about this place is that every time you go, there are new things on the menu.  And usually they're really good.  Last night, a stew of braised beef and ox tongue, with liberal shakes of cinnamon.  When I was a boy, just about my very favorite food (other than pizza -- which is STILL my very favorite food) was this stew that my Russian Jewish grandmother used to make of braised beef cooked with ginger snaps (Zu-Zu Crackers, to name the particular brand used).  This was the closest thing I've ever had to that.

3.  My other favorite thing about this place is that it's finally living up to its initial billing of someplace where a bunch of talented cooks get together and jam.  They're into it, and they're into keeping it new -- and you can tell.  Not just from how good and inventive the food is, either.  I ordered the great apple salad to start, and a glass of riesling to go with it.  (They didn't used to have wines by the glass, did they?)  It's not surprising that the riesling was perfect with the apple/bacon salad.  But then, one of the guys manning the bar came up to me and exclaimed excitedly, "You know what?  You won't believe it, but that riesling is going to be GREAT with the stew!  The stew is [i think he said the name was Tim]'s new dish, and we had a staff tasting of it and all the wines last Saturday, and the riesling won out!  No one expected it!  Wait till you try it!"  Damned if he wasn't right (it was the cinnamon).  But what a kick that they're all so excited about this great food they're all coming up with, and so open to playing with it (figuratively, I mean [in case RichyRich is reading this]).

4.  It was after 11 last night, and the place was near capacity.  No more than a couple of empty seats at the bar, and maybe one empty table.  So I guess we won't get to hear David Chang complain about how badly he's doing to the media any more.

I believe the "Tim" they were referring to was Tin Ho. One of D.Chengs hechmen. From what I know Tin runs the day to day and important kitchen stuff at Saam bar. I'm not sure of his official title. The kimchee marinated apple salad with cured/confit/ fried pork jowls and wild arugula is one of my all time favorites.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I go here pretty frequently for late suppers after working late, so I hardly feel it's worth noting my every meal. 

I too eat here too frequently to post every time but will also chime in to say that the latest incarnation of the Chawan Mushi is particularly note worthy. They've added chopped edamame to the egg and added a rich sauce of reduced red wine, beef jus, and garlic. The edamame at the bottom of the egg gives a nice textural contrast and the rich garlic sauce takes the dish to a whole new level of savory without overpowering the dashi flavor.

They've also added a dry aged steak to the menu that I haven't had a chance to try yet but given how good the unaged steak was I can't wait to order it.

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But what a kick that they're all so excited about this great food they're all coming up with, and so open to playing with it (figuratively, I mean [in case RichyRich is reading this])

I was in there a few nights ago and noticed a bunch of the cooks in the back excitedly tasting something and it made me jealous!

My boyfriend and I were commenting that the sausage accompaniment to the rice cakes could probably be served on its own as a David Chang version of Chili.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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I go here pretty frequently for late suppers after working late, so I hardly feel it's worth noting my every meal.  But for some reason I so enjoyed last night's supper that I thought it was worth a post.

1.  After putting it off for months, I finally tried the sparkling Shiraz.  I think it's like a perfect winter aperitif.  Who thought of this?

2.  My favorite thing about this place is that every time you go, there are new things on the menu.  And usually they're really good.  Last night, a stew of braised beef and ox tongue, with liberal shakes of cinnamon.  When I was a boy, just about my very favorite food (other than pizza -- which is STILL my very favorite food) was this stew that my Russian Jewish grandmother used to make of braised beef cooked with ginger snaps (Zu-Zu Crackers, to name the particular brand used).  This was the closest thing I've ever had to that.

3.  My other favorite thing about this place is that it's finally living up to its initial billing of someplace where a bunch of talented cooks get together and jam.  They're into it, and they're into keeping it new -- and you can tell.  Not just from how good and inventive the food is, either.  I ordered the great apple salad to start, and a glass of riesling to go with it.  (They didn't used to have wines by the glass, did they?)  It's not surprising that the riesling was perfect with the apple/bacon salad.  But then, one of the guys manning the bar came up to me and exclaimed excitedly, "You know what?  You won't believe it, but that riesling is going to be GREAT with the stew!  The stew is [i think he said the name was Tim]'s new dish, and we had a staff tasting of it and all the wines last Saturday, and the riesling won out!  No one expected it!  Wait till you try it!"  Damned if he wasn't right (it was the cinnamon).  But what a kick that they're all so excited about this great food they're all coming up with, and so open to playing with it (figuratively, I mean [in case RichyRich is reading this]).

4.  It was after 11 last night, and the place was near capacity.  No more than a couple of empty seats at the bar, and maybe one empty table.  So I guess we won't get to hear David Chang complain about how badly he's doing to the media any more.

What do you like about the apple salad? I got very bored with it after a few bites. To me it was just a bunch of apples and a couple pieces of bacon - it was the least interesting thing we had that night. Everything else though was delicous.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just read perhaps the worst review ever by a purported professional restaurant critic...Randall Lane in Time Out.

crap. everything I wrote I just somehow erased.

Look, I'm no David Chang groupie. The can be an ass. His staff can be surly (as he is). But he can cook. That covers for a multitude of sins. I don't think that he cares what anyone thinks of his personality...I think he does somewhat care what they think about his cooking...he's got his priorities straight.

anyway, in a nutshell, Lane was somehow metaphysically annoyed that there were luxe and expensive dishes side by side with cheap ones. He didn't explain what the issue was. He was especially mortified at the cost of the Bo Ssam (for 8!) which he didn't try. Obviously he sees the menu as dissonant but never explains what his objection to that is.

furthermore, his comparison of the shellfish stew to "a cioppino which one might find in a good Italian restaurant" makes Bruni's culinary knowledge seem consonant with that of Escoffier. (one has exactly the same chance of finding cioppino in a "good Italian restaurant" as one has of finding a dish made of spaghetti and meatballs)

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Randall Lane is saying that "bohos" may find the high ticket items "alienating". I was once there eating my delicious 11$ (give or take a buck) brussels sprouts when the guy sitting next to me insisted that I try a bit of his $115 rib eye, and like, I was so overwhelmingly "alienated" by this guy's love of food, the friendly gesture and the tasty rib-eye, I almost couldn't deal (sarcasm).

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1.  Kim chee seasoning...

Also, the kim chee seasoning.

A friend just emailed me and said they had oysters on the half with kimchee consomme. Now that's creative. I imagine it was probably a consomme gelee on top of the oyster? Not sure... my friend's not really really the type to pay attention to those things. But, he did say that the oyster was served on ice, so I can only imagine the consomme was either cold and/or in gelatin form.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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1.  Kim chee seasoning...

Also, the kim chee seasoning.

A friend just emailed me and said they had oysters on the half with kimchee consomme. Now that's creative. I imagine it was probably a consomme gelee on top of the oyster? Not sure... my friend's not really really the type to pay attention to those things. But, he did say that the oyster was served on ice, so I can only imagine the consomme was either cold and/or in gelatin form.

It's just cold - not a gelatin. Very, very good...

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1.  Kim chee seasoning.

2.  Three kinds of pork.

3.  THREE KINDS OF PORK!

Also, the kim chee seasoning.

I had the apple salad last night and thought it was great -- bacon, spicy and crunchy peanuts, sweet and luscious pieces of lychee, all topped with scallions and some sort of clear jelly. It worked so well with the apples that I was immediately dismayed that I hadn't ordered it before.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Per Eater, Frank Bruni reviews Momofuku Ssäm Bar in tomorrow's Times. Eater is taking the two-star bet, and so am I.

I went around midnight on Sunday and the place was 80% full.

The previous Sunday around 8pm it was packed, with a few parties waiting for tables.

I hope I can still get a seat after the review!

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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There is an interview with Chang over at eater talking about what it means for him regarding the pending review. It is a hilarious interview.

Interview here.

Some highlights:

Last Thursday, we found out that Ssam Bar was getting reviewed by Frank Bruni this week. In related news, Quino and I ended our bourbon sabbatical the same day.

Getting reviewed sucks. It’s incredibly stressful. And what is odd and utterly nerve racking is that Dana Bowen wrote a pleasant review of Ssam Bar in the Times not more than four months ago. Nobody should have to go through two Times reviews in four months. It’s bad for the heart. And the liver.

After the first time we spotted him at Ssam Bar, I actually dreamed of refusing to feed him. I did not want to deal with the life-altering stress of being critiqued by Mr. Bruni. (The bourbon helps, but not much.) Unfortunately, I have neither the balls nor the talent of a Marco Pierre-White, so it was on.

The problem with guessing what he’d make of the restaurant is the problem that makes Ssam Bar good in my opinion: It is run by a bunch of cooks in dire need of Ritalin who cannot keep the restaurant focused. If it seems like a good idea to us, we try it. You can't sort out why there’s a ten-pound pork shoulder on the menu next to a $9 Korean burrito. We just cook.

My money is on them getting two stars, so here is his take on that:

Two Stars: Two stars would be a reach. And would be the cause for much celebration, considering that Ssam Bar…“feels like two restaurants fused into one—a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint that serves designer ham and $180 platters.”(courtesy of Randall Lane in Time Out New York).

If Bruni really enjoyed his meals here, we might have a shot at two-stars. He did give Spicy & Tasty a two review and that place is a dump. (A dump with really spicy and tasty food.)

If it’s a good two-star, expect to see amazing acts of drunken buffoonery on Tuesday night. Wednesday will not be the best time to eat at either Momofuku as both kitchen crews will be nursing major hangovers. Major.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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My money is on them getting two stars, so here is his take on that:
Two Stars: Two stars would be a reach. And would be the cause for much celebration, considering that Ssam Bar…“feels like two restaurants fused into one—a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint that serves designer ham and $180 platters.”(courtesy of Randall Lane in Time Out New York).

Chang has done a beautiful job of setting expectations. He says he expects one star, so he can't be terribly disappointed if that's the outcome. But he fully realizes that Bruni rates primarily on food, and if that's good enough, two stars aren't beyond reach.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar was reviewed in $25 and Under less than four months ago, making this probably the shortest jump in history from $25&U to the main reviewer. My sense is that Bruni won't do that just to award a measly star.

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I believe Chang is not only a great chef, but quite a serious restaurateur as well.  This place has evolved so beautifully - gotta enjoy it while it's still sort of in it's pre-zoo phase.  And Momo just hums along as well.

As I said a mere 6 weeks ago, after the NY Mag piece about maybe having to close Ssam bar, not making any money, blah blah blah - that guy Chang (or as the times might say, Mr. Chang), is sly like a fox.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Well, maybe 11.

I think it's gonna become a Monday or Tuesday night place to not have to deal with the crowds...like Noodle Bar around 2 - 3 on a weekday afternoon.

Anybody up for a Bo Ssam?

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