Momofuku Ssäm Bar: Part 2
Co and I went to David Chang's spin-off of his great Momofuku Noodle Bar last fall, about two days after it opened, for lunch. It was lonely in there that day, with its big empty communal table and unfilled bar. They only served ssäms: call it an Asian burrito... and call it too garlicky and sweet and filling for me at that hour of the day. We didn't really get the point.
Seven months, a new dinner menu, and two Bruni stars later, I returned to Momofuku Ssäm Bar, this time with my dad, and had one of the great meals this city has to offer. If Chang's Noodle Bar is my favorite walk-in restaurant in town, Ssäm Bar is now a pretty close (though definitely much more expensive) second.
This is the type of place where you order a bunch of different things and then share, and Dad and I started with an early contender for the best dish of the year: generous slabs of Sea Urchin with fluffy Whipped Tofu sprinkled with bonito flakes and sesame seeds atop fruity, chewy Black Tapioca. The combination of flavors and textures was just incredible; like having the perfect little party in your mouth. Next came the terrific three terrine Bahn Min, composed of ham, veal head cheese and chicken liver pate. In fact, Chang's version on the classic Vietnamese sandwich was so delicious—moist and crunchy and rich and deep—that if this was the only thing he served, it'd still be a great restaurant.
The dishes kept coming, and there wasn't a miss among them. The Grilled Rice Cakes with collard greens smothered with a kind of pork bolognese was outstanding, the soft, gnocchi-esque cakes (more like little tubes) pairing beautifully with the sweet and spicy pig meat. My dad and I are both big fans of brussels sprouts, and our final dish of the night was the best take on that often misunderstood cabbagy vegetable we've ever had. Roasted to a crisp, liberally punctuated with Benton's bacon and apple, then slathered with spicy kimchi and topped with crunchy toasted rice, this was total heaven.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar is on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 13th Street. It does not take reservations, and, on the Tuesday evening that Dad and I feasted, every seat was taken by 6:30. I can't wait to go back.