I’ve always heard much hype about Momofoku, be it the Ssäm Bar, Noodle Bar, or the ever elusive Ko, but never seemed to manage to try any of them. This past Saturday evening, a friend recommended trying Momofuku Ssäm Bar. I was curious as to how hard it would be at 8:30PM on a Saturday night to get into the restaurant. We initially walked into Noodle Bar, which was ridiculously packed, before realizing we had the wrong restaurant. We then made our way accidentally into Ko, where we were somewhat condescendingly informed we were likely looking for the restaurant a few doors down. Thanks. Ssäm was definitely not dead, but after about a 20 minute wait in their bakery area, we were seated.
Ssäm Bar is set up primarily as a series of several long communal tables, surrounded with tall chairs. My seat was located up against the bar since that side of the table stopped just at the beginning of the bar. Interesting. The set up though made it easy to check out what surrounding patrons had ordered and assess the best of the options available on the menu.
To start, we ordered the steamed buns, which was pork belly, hoisin, cucumber, and scallions. I was a little anxious, as the term “pork belly” has never been one I found to be appetizing. However, thankfully my friend encouraged me to indulge. This was one the highlights of the meal. The sandwiches came in fluffy thin wraps, similar almost to an arepa but slightly more doughy. We also got the beef tortelloni, which were described to be similar to ravioli, but slightly larger. The tortelloni was served with pine nuts, black garlic, and Gruyere cheese. A fan of ravioli, I liked this pasta form better. Pasta starters tend to be on the small size, but we found this dish to be quite ample for sharing.
For my main, I chose the spicy pork sausage and rice cakes, a favorite of one of the patrons to my left. It came served with Chinese broccoli and crispy shallots. I wasn’t sure what I thought about rice cakes being in my dish, but I have to say that I thought it was a nice balance to the spiciness of the sausage (an excellent dish if you are suffering from some lovely cold weather sniffles). The broccoli as well seemed to take on some of the spiciness of the sausage. My friend ordered the angus hanger steak, which was served with a romesco sauce and was a top fingerling potatoes. The chef recommended the dish served rare and before I caught it, that was what was on its way out (I’m a medium well to well done kind of girl). I can’t say I’ve been converted to the pink meat side of the fence, but I will admit the meat was quite good and perhaps the degree to which it was cooked factored into its intense flavor. I am, after all, much better at eating than cooking.
I’d definitely recommend Momofuku Ssam. Great food for the price.
Momofuku Ssäm Bar- 207 2nd Avenue (at East 13th Street) – 212.254.3500