Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Momofuku is not news (although Momofuku Ko, which is opening soon, will be). Momofuku is a nondescript restaurant in the East Village that has been the darling of the New York City food world ever since it opened—and deservedly so. It’s a bit eccentric, very creative and relies on excellent ingredients: a winning formula if done right. What hooked me was the menu. A raw bar with sliced Wild Striped Bass on a bed of huckleberries followed by country hams, steamed pork buns, various ssäm dishes (their trademark) including a Bo ssäm at $200.00 which is a whole butt of pork for 8-10 people, reserve in advance. I guess so! Not something I am going to order spontaneously. I love that it is on the menu, though, because it shows the confidence that comes from a strong point of view. Someone in the kitchen really cares.
The menu at lunch is different from the one in the evenings and yesterday we had a 58 degree day. A sense of springtime in the winter. I wanted to go out to lunch and was feeling the hit to go Momofuku. I started with, of course, the country ham. Let me explain that David Chang, the owner, is Korean-American but was born and raised in Virgina, hence the selection of smoked hams. I had the Finchville Farms’ Country Ham from Kentucky. Smoky, woodsy and not too salty, it was delicious and it comes with a sauce they call a coffee mayonnaise. Odd, but it worked. The sauce also has sriraca in it (hot chili) that gave it a bite. I enjoyed it along with a glass of 2006 Danu Bio’ Gruner Veltliner (Kremstal), a nice match.
Next I had the Cured Hamachi with an edamame and horseradish sauce. I was not going in any particular order here, and maybe I was not doing it right but I was in a weird mood and wasn’t sure what I wanted. The Hamachi was fresh as could be, though I prefer it sliced thinner. The sauce was magical. Perfectly subtle.
Then of course I had to have my favorite Steamed Pork Buns with Pork Belly, Hoisin sauce, cucumbers and scallions. I am torn between the Pork Buns here and the ones at Fatty Crab. I am leaning towards Fatty Crab but don’t get me wrong, these are good. I had a glass of the 2006 Brüder Dr. Becker, Spatlese Scheurebe (Rheinhessen) which was rich and luscious and stood up to the Hamachi and the Pork Bun.
I keep thinking everytime I leave Momofuku that one of these days I am coming back for that Bo Ssäm dinner with a group of friends (and Dominique, one of my favorite hungry girls, says she’ll spring for it). In the meantime I will be checking out Momofuku Ko in the next few weeks. I am very excited about it.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 Second avenue
NYC, NY 10003