Sunday, January 29, 2012

Momofuku Ssäm Bar - New York, NY

If there is a restaurant in NYC that I have been dying to get back to, yup, it's Momofuku Ssäm.  From the casual ambiance to the incredible pork belly, I have been craving this place again for well over a year.  So with a gorgeous January day on the East Coast, I hopped the train out of Princeton, for a quick jaunt up to Penn.  From Penn Station, I hopped on the A/C line down to 14th Street, and then switched trains and grabbed the L train over to 3rd.  From there, it was an easy 2 blocks over to Ssäm Bar.  Such an easy trip really.

I walked in and was greeted by the lovely hostess and grabbed a seat at the counter, about 5 stools in from the door.  The service was quick, and a bus boy came over promptly asking if I wanted bottled, sparkling, or New York's finest water.  I quickly browsed the wine list in hopes that I would find a nice Rosé, and I did.  It was a 2010 Domaine La Suffrene Bandol Rosé (France, Provence, Bandol), and we'll talk about it more in another post on here eventually.

Even on Sunday, Ssäm Bar does a prix fix menu of sorts, where you chose 2 dishes as well as a dessert.  For starters today, I went with the dish that lured me here in the first place, the Steamed Pork Buns.  What is there to say about these other than awesome?

First off, do I need to say anything else other than pork belly?  I don't think so, as in my book, pork belly ranks at the top of the list, yes, even above the bacon!  Sin!  Say it isn't so!  But it is, sorry bacon!
This is cooked simply, with just some salt and sugar as far as I can tell, but the flavors are incredible.  This is served on a homemade steamed bun, with a hoisin sauce, cucumbers, and scallion.  Quite honestly, I don't think these even needed the garnish, but they did add nice flavors, and all of the elements worked well together.  But really, this is all about the pork belly and that is all that matters in this dish!  Pork belly, pork belly, pork belly!  ;-)

From here I chose the Duck Sandwich, and while this didn't blow me away like the pork belly, it was certainly tasty.  This is served on a great piece of bread, with iceberg lettuce, a spicy mayo, and pappadews. For someone who isn't a big fan of duck, this probably wouldn't entertain your fancy.  While I thought it was delicious, it isn't what I crave in duck, but having had it in one of my many prior visits, I knew that going in.  But even so, it was great, and I wouldn't have changed my mind at the after thought today even if given the chance.

Finally, I got my choice of a dessert today, and the Pear Sorbet with a pumpkin garnacha and blue cheese was calling my name.  In all actuality, I was really craving the pretzel cake truffles, but you have to make due with what was offered on the tasting pre fix.

Needless to say, the Pear Sorbet was absolutely amazing.  Nicely infused, elegant pear flavors, with a bowl painted with the crunchy pumpkin garnacha.  I figured these two would work nicely together, and they did.  The element that had me freaked ot a bit however was the blue cheese, but I have seen blue cheese work well in several dishes.  Let me say that there are not many things I like blue cheese on, but the shocked me as the different elements together worked flawlessly.  Was I disappointed in this?  Oh heck no, however, there is one thing that I was disappointed in, and we'll talk about that more below!

By this point, there were only a few single open seats at the counter.  I ended up getting to the restaurant just after 1PM, and the place was pretty full.  Tables seemed to come and go while I was there, and at one point, there was even a wait.  All the seats at the counter to my left were open, as were 2 seats to my right.  Half way through my courses, these were all full.  That being said, David Chang is still doing something right (not that I have ever doubted it), and word is still out there about this place.

Ambiance was comfortable, the service was great, the wine had a nice chill, and the food was great.  What is there to say other than what a great start to a beautiful, January, Pro Bowl day in the NYC?

As for my single disappointed, well, now that Milk Bar has opened just across the street, I didn't save any room to go there for something sweet post lunch!  But I'll be back soon enough.  From here, I hopped on the L Train again, and then walked over to the High Line for a nice walk to burn off some lunch!  And what an amazing lunch it was!

The million dollar question that everyone always seems to ask is, "How much is the pre-fixe weekend lunch menu?"  The answer is simple:  $25, and worth every penny.  Check it out for yourself, and let me know what ya think!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 Second Ave
New York, NY


Shelly said...

You went to Momofuku Ssam and didn't invite any of your favorite wine friends? Some kind of wine geek you are!

NJFoodies said...

Shelly: thanks for the note, but have we met before? I don't know any Shelly's off the top of my head. What board do I know you from? Cheers, and thanks for reading!