Momofuku Saam Bar Revisited

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Thérèse keeps reminding me that I am not nearly as flexible as I was a few years ago and she is not referring to my golf swing.   As such, it is difficult for me to reconcile the fact that my favorite restaurant in NYC is Momofuku Saam Bar, which is located at the corner of 13th Street and 2nd Avenue.  First of all, I hate monotonous thumping rock music piped-in at sound levels that would make any sane man turn off his hearing aid.  Secondly, I like a little “space” so you can enjoy an exchange of words between sound tracks.  Thirdly, if you are going to pay $50 or more a head for dinner one deserves a little ambiance – a table and linen napkin usually does the trick.   Finally,  I insist on restaurants that accept reservations.  Momofuku has none of these amenities.

David Chang’s Momofuku simply has the most interesting and delicious food in NYC.  It’s not a meal – it’s an experience.  Momofuku’s menu gives you a clue that something is clearly afoot at this crowded and hectic restaurant.  I mean, how many restaurants feature baguette + pretzel bread – sea salt butter (from Vermont) and whipped lardo as a “small” course?  I could go on, but simply scan through the menu and even the most jaundiced foodie would soon be salivating and planning their next meal.

Things have changed at Momofuku since our last visit in August, 2010 so Thérèse and I were quite happy to pay a return visit.  Gone was the Milk Bar adjacent to the restaurant.  The move happened a few days before our arrival and the Milk Bar was replaced by a far more interesting “Wine Bar” complete with an enthusiastic sommelier.  Thérèse and I shared an order of steamed buns (see below) and I had the house Sake while Thérèse had a very nice California pinot noir.  Little did I know that they also had quite a few special cocktails.  Interesting cocktails I might have enjoyed:

  • Penicillin:  Asyla Scotch, lemon and honey ginger
  • Ramp Brine Martini:  Plymouth Gin, ramp brine and dry Vermouth

What we had to Eat

Kusshi Oyster from British Colombia served with umezuke vinegar  (sweet and quite special)

Steamed Buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers and scallions (the signature dish at Momofuku)

Veal Sweetbreads for Provitello Farms served with almond, sauerkraut, thai chili (could have used a little more salt)

Bev Eggleston’s Pork Shoulder Steak with ramps, hominy and queso Oaxaca (inspiring combination.  The steak was pink but not tough and chewy and had a great grilled taste.  It was served on top of the hominy and draped in charred ramps.  Quite unique and delicious)

Dessert:  Grapefruit Curd with lavender, honey and black tea (I’m not a big dessert eater, but the combination of tastes was sublime)

These menu items tempted us:

Braised Oxtail Dumplings with turnips, satsuma and shia kombu

Fish Ball Hot Pot – littleneck clams, sepia and young coconut

Spicy Port Sausage & Rice Cakes with Chinese Broccoli, Sichuan peppercorn (a big favorite at the restaurant but quite spicy)

The Milk Bar has moved across the street and it was jammed.  It is tough to describe this “milk” or dessert bar, but you can probably form your own opinion by perusing the menu.     The “crack” pie is considered the highlight of the menu.  Someone told me that the crack pie crust tastes like corn flakes soaked in milk.  Doesn’t sound appetizing, but I have come to believe that David Chang could make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

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