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