We had to find a place serving “traditional American food” that could seat 8 people at short notice – this was our mission. A quick search online led us to RUB – Righteous Urban Barbeque. I mean, barbeque is American right? Let’s leave out the part where there are different regions within America and that New York isn’t a traditional place for barbeque and just bear with me, okay? There were cranky people to feed, cranky people who’d been listening to talks since 8am and they were all carnivores. RUB had a lot of seating and a lot of meat – bring it on!

We started the meal with a couple of starters for the table: some finger-licking good barbeque chicken wings…

Chicken Wings

… and fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were just ok but not the fault of the restaurant, I think. This was my first time having fried green tomatoes and I was slightly disappointed to find out that they’re exactly as the name suggests – battered, fried slices of green tomato. Nothing mind-blowing.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I hoped to have The Baron – “A tasting of beef, chicken, pork, ham, pastrami, turkey, sausage, and topped with a quarter rack of ribs”. The waitress ensured us that this would feed three people and so I roped in two of my colleagues and ordered this.

This is what came to the table:

The Baron

THREE people?! Are they insane? Maybe three giants. Or three rugby players. The chalkboard at the front said they were out of ham so this is the only thing missing from the platter.

My favourites were the pulled pork and the pork ribs and the brisket that just fell apart at the touch of my fork. On the table, there’s both their classic and spicy hot barbeque sauces, which were both delicious tomato based concoctions, but many of the meats didn’t even require extra sauce. I wasn’t a big fan of the turkey, which I found dry, but then again, I always find turkey dry.

It came with two large side dishes. I chose the onion strings while my colleague went for the super fries. The onion strings were greasy and good, exactly what I hoped for, and the fries were very good and actually were much better than I expected.

Onion Strings

Super Fries

Needless to say, we didn’t finish the platter. We enlisted help from our other colleagues but they were struggling with their own orders.

For example, one friend of mine ordered a whole slab of baby back ribs with cornbread on the side. She just about managed to finish this by freely handing out ribs to all takers.

A Whole Slab of Baby Back Ribs

Here’s another friend’s two meat platter; he chose beef brisket and pulled pork. A quarter of the way through, he declared himself full but he soldiered on and just about finished the platter. A good effort!

Two Meat Platter

We pretty much rolled out of there. And for a Londoner, the prices were frankly, ridiculously low. I mean, that Baron platter? The one that can feed at least six people? $45. And yes, that includes the two large side dishes. I’m not sure how much barbeque normally costs in the US, but this was a pretty good deal for so much food!

208 W 23rd Street
New York, NY

Rub BBQ on Urbanspoon

It was my first night in New York and I managed to eat at Momofuku Ssam Bar: what an excellent start to the trip! I’d arranged to meet Don (Cocktailian on Flickr) and Robyn (roboppy on Flickr and TGWAE) that night and had brought along a few of my colleagues too. Altogether there were six of us and that meant lots of stomachs to hold lots of food and we could try a good chunk of the menu.

We left Don to the ordering, he being a regular there. Quite a few dishes were marked and I did start to worry that we’d never finish them all but somehow we did clean all the plates. I should mention here that it was my first time meeting Don and he’s just a wealth of knowledge on the food scene in New York; he also recommended an amazing sushi restaurant to us but that’s for another blog post. And Robyn is just so cool and nice and pretty awesome all around – I’d met her before when she came to London for a short visit. We’d all known each other through our Flickr photostreams.

Did I mention there were a lot of dishes? This is what came out to our table.

Diver sea scallops – pickled cherries, lemon
These were incredibly fresh and the lemon came in the form of a puree or creme under the scallops. Delicious.

Diver Sea Scallops

Cured hamachi – edamame, horseradish, pea leaves
The black-greenish stuff on top of the hamachi is furikake, Japanese sprinkles normally put on rice. It was great textural contrast to the hamachi (yellowtail).

Cured Hamachi

Sliced Long Island fluke – yuzu kosho, peaches
Uh oh. I’m going to have to admit that I can’t remember much of this one other than the fish was very fresh and in a fruity sauce?

Sliced Long Island Fluke

Seasonal pickles
I insisted on these as I’m a big pickle fan! There was kimchi, daikon, carrot, Asian pear, cucumber, ramps, mushrooms, beetroot, etc. I was quite a pig on these, wanting to try at least one of each type – and I loved them all. It seems I like any pickled vegetal matter.

Seasonal Pickles

Ossabaw lardo – pickled carrots
We all got a lesson that day on the Ossabaw pig (quick story: feral pigs living on an island and they have some special biochemical system so they’re popular with medical research – and with eaters it seems!). These thin slices of cured lard melted in the mouth.

Ossabaw Lardo

Eckerton Hill Farm’s tomato salad – fried tofu, opal basil
Gorgeous tomatoes. And it was some fantastic, crispy fried tofu; I like the idea of using tofu instead of bread croutons.

Eckerton Hill Farm's Tomato Salad

Steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions
Oh my goodness. This is a Ssam Bar classic and I can see why. Don told us that the pork belly was first cooked sous vide which gives it its melt in the mouth consistency. The bread too is soft and steamed and it all goes down quite easily. I was savouring mine, taking itty bitty bites to make it last longer! I want this now!

Steamed Buns

Inside a Steamed Bun

Meacham country ham (Sturgis, Kentucky), Benton’s Smokey Mountain country ham (Madisonville, Tennessee)
See the sauce on the side? I thought it was mustard at first but nope, it’s red-eye gravy. That’s a gravy made with coffee (geddit? red-eye?). The smokiness of the ham and the caffeinated gravy did go well together – and yup, it was some mighty fine ham. (The bread was freaking good and Don told us that it was from the Sullivan Street Bakery.)

Meacham Country Ham

Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Ham

Bahn mi – ham and chicken liver terrine sandwich
Another classic. The filling was really lovely but I wish the bread was the more usual light white bread used in these Vietnamese sandwiches. That said, the bread used here was really very good otherwise and again from the Sullivan Street Bakery.

Banh Mi

Roasted stone bass – Jersey corn, chantarelles, pancetta, lima beans
Fresh fish and it wasn’t nice but not something I would crave. But that’s just me.

Roasted Stone Bass

Bev Eggleston’s pork shoulder steak – zucchini, buttermilk dressing
Oh, this was one of my favourites that night. I really can’t turn down a good pork dish.

Bev Eggleston's Pork Shoulder Steak

Spicy pork sausage and rice cakes – Chinese broccoli, crispy shallots
This one was quite spicy with a few chilies and some Sichuan peppercorns within. The rice cakes were Korean deok and were fried – so slightly crisp outsides and heavy, chewy innards. I liked this dish!

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes

Crispy pig’s head torchon (Newman’s Farm, MO) – sucrine, sugar plums
One in the party described this as “better than sex!”; I don’t think I’d go that far but it sure was good! My first bite was ok – quite meaty as I must’ve got a bit of cheek. The second bite burst into my mouth – amazing fatty goodness! If you’re wondering what sucrine is, as we all were, it’s the type of lettuce.

Crispy Pig's Head Torchon

Sichuan beef tendon – green mango, peanuts
Oooh, it seems I like tendon! When sliced thinly, it’s soft but with a gelatin feel.

Sichuan Beef Tendon

Crispy lamb belly and roasted loin (Four Story Hill Farms, PA) – cippolinis, violet mustard
The belly was soft and the loin tender and I preferred the flavour of the latter. I couldn’t discern the violet in the mustard.

Crispy Lamb Belly & Roasted Loin

Then all those were gone. We were all pretty full but still Don went ahead and ordered one each of the desserts!

Chocolate hazelnut croustillant – nectarine, cherry
Oooh, I do like chocolates with that crispy nutty fillling. But this wasn’t just a chocolate – it was like an oversized chocolate! It might seem like a small dessert but a little goes a long way.

Chocolate Hazelnut Croustillant

Tristar strawberry shortcake – corn, Kendall Farm’s creme fraiche
What I wasn’t expecting was the fresh kernels of corn in there! Nice twist on the classic.

Tristar Strawberry Shortcake

Blondie pie – cashews
This seemed to go down well at the table – strangely enough, I can’t remember much of this one as I only had one bite.

Blondie Pie

And the cost of all this decadence? $40 a head and that’s for all the food and a drink each to start. Further drinks can add up though and I have to thank Don for all the rest!

So, my other opinions. I loved the food and I loved the company but I didn’t love the loud music and dark room. It’s a little annoying having to shout at your companions to be heard and having to look very hard at the dish on the table to see each ingredient. And the waitstaff did have a habit of showing up all at once and talking over each other so some of the details of the dishes did get lost. But we’re really there for the food, no?

Thanks again, Don and Robyn! We’ll go back next time I’m in New York, won’t we?!

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave., corner of 13th and 2nd
New York, NY

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

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