Recently, I wrote about my first experience at David Chang’s restaurant Ma Peche in NYC. The food was so extraordinary, that I left there feeling satiated … yet unsatisfied. You see, I wanted more. A lot more. That food left me wanting to further explore the phenomenon that is Momofuku.
So, this time I decided to get a few family members together for a trip to NYC in order to check out another David Chang conception: Ssam Bar. Situated in the East Village, Ssam Bar is right by two other Momofuku’s hotspots. Booker and Dax, right next door, is known to have the most interesting cocktails. And across the street is Milk, Momofuku’s dessert heaven. I thought to myself, East Village could be a dreamy place to live in – for foodies like me. But not to worry. For now, this foodie is quite delighted to be living in Fairfield County… with it’s perfect proximity to NYC.
I was told that most popular dishes at Momofuku restaurants are the steamed Pork Buns and the Ramen bowls. I had already tried ramen bowl at Ma Peche, so this time I was determined to give the Pork Buns a try. This was by far the coolest dish we had there. I can’t even begin to justifiably describe it…. but I will try. So unusual and so very good. The buns were ever so light and buttery in texture. I have never eaten a bun so refined and delicate. It’s light flavor paired perfectly with the pork. The pork meat itself was another dazzler. It was juicy and delicious….oozing wonderful flavors and reflecting pure finesse. Finally, the hoisin sauce was a great accent with its lightly sweet flavor to compliment the pork meat. I am quite certain that I will never EVER pass up on ordering the pork buns whenever I am at a Momofuku restaurant.
We tried the Charred Spanish Octopus. Excellent choice as well. As I was biting into this dish it occurred to me that the genius of David Chang lies in two things:
1. His comprehensive understanding of ingredients and their flavors.
2. His expertise in the treatment of those ingredients – specially the meats, and seafood.
As I explained, the pork in the pork buns were cooked to perfection so that all kinds of tender, juicy goodness oozed out of it as I bit into it. The octopus meat was another shining example, it was cooked so gently – resulting in the tenderest bite of octopus meat I have ever had!
We ordered three other dishes that sadly did not impress me as much. Glad to realize that even David Chang is a human after all (or maybe its just me turning into a total food snob?) The Duck Pot Pie was on the dry side for my taste. When I dig into a pot pie, I like to see the interior ooze out in all its glory. This one did not. The Fuji Apple Kimchi confused me a bit. It was a gorgeous dish to look at though. Finally, the Duck Saam…. their signature dish. I believe its beauty lies in the wonderfully flavorful and juicy Duck meat. I am told it is cooked for hours. I could clearly tell that it was prepared with a lot of love and care. But it was served with a lot of rice and a scallion pancake. I am sure that in the Korean culture, this is exactly what people like, and expect… but for me, the whole dish read “dry”, despite the juicy duck meat.
For dessert we tried the Chevre Sorbet with Beet, Lime and Granola. It was very unusual I was so impressed to see beets successfully being used as a dessert component. Their color contributed to the most stunning presentation. The whole composition was not overly sweet – infact it was like a great dance performance between the sweet and salty. Everyone at our table LOVED the Lemon Meringue Pie with Pistachio and Lemon Curd. Awesome! Lightly tart, nutty and sweet all at the same time. I’d like to declare that every morsel on that plate was licked clean!