Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Momofuku Ssam Bar

I received the Momofuku cookbook as a Christmas gift and immediately read it from cover to cover - it was one of those cases when the narrative is more interesting than the recipes. Not that the recipes weren't interesting, exactly, it's just that most of them are a bit much for the home cook. Author David Chang has been a food-world darling ever since he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar, and while I had used Chang's recipe for short ribs a few times in the past, and I've made his version of brussels sprouts, I had never eaten at any of his restaurants. That changed on my most recent visit to Manhattan.

Upon dumping my luggage off at my hotel near Grand Central Station, I hopped the 6 train and headed to the East Village to visit Momofuku Ssam Bar. It was early lunchtime and I was able to score a seat at the bar. After asking my server for suggestions, I got my pork on. (Kevin Gillespie, eat your heart out.)

First I had the famous pork buns - pillowy soft steamed buns stuffed with slices of pork belly, cucumber slices, and hoisin sauce. A mini bottle of sriracha was provided to add heat.

The pork belly was so tender and unctuous, it dribbled clear fat onto my hands and the plate. Um nom nom! I could have eaten ten of these babies. As far as I am concerned, they lived up to the hype. Here's a recipe, if you're curious enough to make them yourself.

For my second course, I went for the "crispy pig's head" accompanied by pear mostarda, a lightly cured sauerkraut, and a tiny pile of watercress in a tart dressing.. The patty was comprised of various meat bits from a pig's head, rolled in panko, and fried. It was tender and juicy and not at all like "head cheese" which is what the waiter called it. The pear mostarda was incredibly tasty - very much pear, very much mustard. And a lightly cured sauerkraut is much better than the stuff from a can. Much. And I grew up eating the stuff.

After lunch I went next door to Milk Bar and picked up a compost cookie and a blueberry cream cookie. They were far too sweet for my tastes (and I like sweet). The compost cookie had a weird gritty texture (from crushed cereal). But...they made for a decent dessert that evening and breakfast the next morning.

One Momofuku restaurant down, three to go.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500

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