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beef brisket pho at Momofuku Ssam Bar

beef brisket "pho" at Momofuku Ssam Bar

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.

Korean rice cakes with sausage at Momofuku Ssam Bar

Korean rice cakes with Chinese broccoli and sausage

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.

hoisin pork in a steamed bun at Momofuku Ssam Bar

hoisin pork in a steamed bun

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).
Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

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