Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tracing the Book: Momofuku Ssam Bar, NYC

It is always a risk to go to a restaurant with high expectations. And I had wanted to go to the Momofuku Ssam Bar for over a year. I had read up on the genius of Chef David Chang. I had obsessed over his different restaurants. I had even been sent a copy of his Momofuku Cookbook by the publisher and had started cooking through the book. (You can read about my escapades here and here and here.) So, needless to say, by the time I got to the restaurant, I expected perfection. The truth: my meal there was fine. Adequate. But, alas, far from what I had hoped. And it cost some money as even these little dishes added up.
We began with their infamous steamed buns served with rich, unctuous pork belly, hoisin, cucumber and scallions. Of course these were better than the ones we had made, but not as delicious as those that I ate in Boston at Myers and Chang. The bun itself was mastery. However, I was shocked that I didn't love them. The pork wasn't as flavorful or crisp as I had hoped. They were good, but they didn't leave me starry-eyed.Next: Buttermilk Panna Cotta, served with a salty Fuji Apple Dashi, herbs, and pine nuts. This was a beautiful dish. But the tastes were just a bit off: too sour, too salty. It never came together, despite the look.

My favorite was the Beets Served 3 Ways (and is pictured at the top of the post). The dish included a beet-rhubarb, sorbet, poached, and crisped as a meringue. It was served with labne and was a wonderful play on borscht-cool and sweet.The weakest dish was Chili Soft Shell Crabs served with green plum, asparagus and lemon confit. It simply tasted fried, the heaviness of the coating masking the delicacy of the crab.

Friends of mine have raved about Momofuku Ssam and the Noodle Bar before and after my visit. So, for now, I am wondering if my experience wasn't reflective of the quality and creativity that is possible there. If that means another visit, I am certainly game!

Momofuku Ssam Bar, 207 2nd Ave, NYC


  1. Bummed to hear that you weren't wowed. I haven't been to the Ssam Bar but I'm hoping to check it out during my next visit to NYC!

  2. I too have been dying to go there. Sorry your expectations were not met! Maybe it was an off-night?