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Momofuku Ssäm Bar (2006–2007)


Bond Girl
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The review is out and Bruni 2-starred Ssam Bar:

http://events.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/dinin...ews/21rest.html

Bruni loved Momofuku and praises Mr Chang:

David Chang is a terrific cook, a pork-loving, pickle-happy individualist whose integration of Asian flavors and his own unbound sense of what’s delectable makes for some deliriously enjoyable meals. At Momofuku Noodle Bar, which he opened in 2004, and at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which came along in 2006, he has proven himself one of this city’s brightest culinary talents.

And lauds their service too:

While the drinks selection remains limited, Ssam Bar has added some beers and well-chosen wines. It has also put a greater premium on service, distinguished by attentive young waiters with more knowledge and palpable enthusiasm about the menu than many of their counterparts at more conventionally polished establishments.

As for the food:

Everything about the setup of Ssam Bar encourages dropping in spontaneously, ordering piecemeal. Nothing about the setup prepares you for Mr. Chang’s wicked grasp of flavor and unerring sense of balance.

...ideal marriage of buttery roasted mushrooms (hon shimeji and king oyster) and a purée of pistachio nuts braised in dashi...

...kimchi, fish sauce and pickled vegetables appear frequently on the plates...

They also know when and how to apply heat, like the pickled Thai and Korean chili peppers that spark a dish of fried Brussels sprouts with fish sauce, garlic and mint.

Mr. Chang has real imagination, coupling sea urchin roe with litchi-flavored tapioca pearls and a snowy cloud of whipped tofu on which bonito flakes, sesame seeds and bits of dried vegetables are sprinkled. He has standards: the grilled slices of pork sausage and hanger steak provided for different lettuce wraps were juicy and flavorful enough to be eaten on their own.

Good luck on getting a table there during prime dining times! And congratulations go out to both Momofuku staffs and Chef Chang!

Edited by foodite (log)
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That is awesome news. Well deserved for Chef Chang. I am curious to go there tomorrow to see the hangovers. Of course I will just have to peer through the windows as it will be a sea of people for the future.

John

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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The Recommended Dishes made me laugh out loud:

RECOMMENDED DISHES Sea urchin with whipped tofu; scallops with pineapple; cured hamachi with edamame purée; steamed buns with pork belly; mushroom salad; fried Brussels sprouts; veal head terrine; grilled sweetbreads; rice cakes with pork sausage; hanger steak and pork sausage lettuce wraps; burrito-style flour pancake with pork and kimchi purée.

Recommend half the menu, now, will you?

I'm a little iffy at the jab at the mochi dessert sampler (a "throwaway dessert") and I also found it odd that he didn't really call out the Benton's country ham. But, hey, more for me.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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It will be interesting to see how Chang will deal with the influx of diners, particularly those large groups that want to do bo ssam. The restaurant is not big, and reserving a party of 10 is something that a restaurant that size likely won't like to do with parties of four waiting for the limited table space. Perhaps it will start taking deposits for bo ssam, but that would somewhat undermine the restaurant's laid back image.

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You know, I was just saying the other day how wonderful it was to have easy access to what I believe is some of the best food in the city on a regular basis, and clinging on to hope that it would stay that way. Now the cat's out of the bag. :angry:

Nothing to see here.

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It will be interesting to see how Chang will deal with the influx of diners, particularly those large groups that want to do bo ssam.

I don't think the Bo Ssam was mentioned in a way that will make review-readers order it any more than people had been in the past. It's not even clear that Bruni tried the Bo Ssam, or even the baby one, since he doesn't say anyhing about it other than that it exists (I have to believe that anyone who tried it would rave).

--

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I was surprised that Bruni thought the clay pot dishes were weak. I really enjoyed the ox tongue and beef claypot. A plate like that could get boring after a few bites, but the sweet but meaty combination of flavors caused this dish to remain tasty and interesting until I finished it. I'd like the tongue cut into smaller pieces though...

Glad the uni got highlighted as well as the brussel sprouts, but it's true - he should have just mentioned 70 percent of the menu! The new mushroom dish is killer good!!!

I'm so glad this place got such an amazing rating!

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You know, I was just saying the other day how wonderful it was to have easy access to what I believe is some of the best food in the city on a regular basis, and clinging on to hope that it would stay that way.  Now the cat's out of the bag.  :angry:

Considering that a month ago Chang thought this restaurant might fold I really don't think it's a bad thing that he got such a stellar review. Granted things were picking up on their own but still....

Better to have place that's hard to get into than one that closes.

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I love David Chang's food (and like the music he plays) but I wouldn't take a single word he says to the media straight.  He's obviously too smart for that.

This is true. But also while the NY Mag article only came out a few weeks ago, reading it closely I'm pretty sure most of the reporting and interviews were done before the late-night menu became the dinner menu and the whole focus of the restaurant changed. (It's difficult to believe, but that was only a month and a half ago!) It's not media spin to say that the concept of Ssam Bar as foodie-style Chipotle has failed, not least, as Chang acknowledges, because of the location. What Ssam Bar has become is pretty damn awesome, but it's not what was originally intended.

Now, was David Chang ever really in danger of moving to Las Vegas?? ...Well, no, I don't think so.

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David Chang is an incredibly brillant man. I had the pleasure of hearing him give a lecture a several months ago and he's definitely got the cojones to do what he does. I'm sure whatever he says to the media is carefully thought out.

Now as for the music...honestly, not too crazy about it. Then again, I prefer very quiet background music. I might be the only one who does!

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I can't think of another restaurant in the city at which I'm more prone to have a second (or third, or...) dinner. Every time, just so solid. I now find myself craving this stuff while eating at other restaurants. Chang's cooking is like crack for me. I've got it bad. And yet I've still not been able to get a group together for that beautiful Bo Ssam. Tsk tsk.

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Ate at S'sam Sat night.

We also had the pleasure of meeting and Talking with David as well (nice Chef: hope you do well). All I can say is any place that uses Benton bacon, serves Wigman ham and properly fries brussel sprots knows 1) how to find the best small batch ingrediants and 2) knows what to do with them.

Food was top rate, from what was used to how it was prepared and served. We sampled starters (brusselsprot were a hit), hams, salad (great apple and bacon salad), clay pots dish (short-ribs) to wraps. Even our 9 and 11 yo nephews enjoyed the food (at least when they did not hear that the dish had fish sauce).

We would definitely return.

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I've been thinking about it, and have come to the following conclusion:

Momofuku Ssam Bar is the best restaurant in New York City right now.

I don't mean that in terms of value proposition, as in "Gray's Papaya is the best restaurant in New York because you can get a great meal for $3." I mean, rather, that Momofuku Ssam Bar is serving the best food in New York at any price.

Yes, I'm disregarding comfort and the trappings of fine dining (though I hasten to add that the service at Momofuku Ssam Bar is excellent: friendly, knowledgeable and attentive). I'm just talking about food. I think the best dishes at Momofuku Ssam Bar are better than anything I've had at Per Se, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin and so on down the line.

I can't name a dish at any of the top fine-dining restaurants that I think is better than Momofuku Ssam Bar's uni with tapioca and whipped tofu (I'll put it up against "oysters and pearls" any day), Chawan mushi with escargots (I'd choose it over Gray Kunz's risotto), or even the humble fried Brussels sprouts (far tastier, to me, than Jean Georges scallops with cauliflower). Not since the early days of Lespinasse have I experienced so many flavor revelations at one restaurant.

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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