If you follow the New York restaurant scene, you’d be forgiven for thinking that everybody loves David Chang and his Momofuku Ssam Bar: The New York Times, New York Magazine, New York bloggers, London bloggers . . . .
Well, I dropped by last Friday for a last-minute, family-reunion lunch, and I think I’ve finally found people who hate Momofuku Ssam Bar: Jon’s relatives.
Looking back, it was rather brain-dead of me to have suggested Momofuku to a group that included strict vegetarians, pork avoiders, and Italian-restaurants-only diners. Most tragic of my mistakes, the group I convened at Momofuku Ssam Bar understandably wanted to sit a while and catch up, and while Momofuku is a lot of wonderful things, it’s definitely not a place to linger (see e.g., the restaurant’s no-coffee-or-tea policy).
Still, as long as you eat fish, pork or Asian food and don’t mind an in-and-out vibe (I know, that’s a lot conditions to fulfill), you’ll really enjoy Momofuku Ssam Bar. I did, anyway.
I loved the flavors of spicy Korean rice cakes served with broccoli and sausage like a classic gnocchi dish. The rice cakes were beautifully crisped on the outside, chewy and comforting on the inside. And visually a lot of fun.
And the steamed pork buns were a pork-belly-lover’s dream. Crisp, pickled cucumber, sharp scallion and sweet hoisin to lighten the rich, fatty pork, all wrapped in a light, fluffy hot steamed bun. The perfect street food, except at $9 for two, you know Ssam Bar is no fast-food joint. Then again, a fast-food joint wouldn’t source from Newman Farm or Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
Definitely give the place a try the next time you’re in New York, unless, of course, you’re vegetarian, hate pork or want to linger at your table. Most plates are priced at $15-$20 each, so given the quality of ingredients and creativity of cooking, Momofuku Ssam Bar gets high scores for value.
Momofuku Ssam Bar, 207 2nd Avenue (at 13th Street); +1 212 254-3500; closest subway stations: 3rd Avenue (L) or 14th Street Union Square (4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W).