My past week was relatively stressful with final papers for grad school and work. Since the holidays were coming very soon and I’m finished with my semester’s work, I thought of taking my parents out for Sunday lunch to Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Though probably some of you are aware that I’ve been to David Chang’s original restaurant a number of times (his restaurant empire has expanded to the other three locations in Manhattan, one in Sydney, Australia and one soon to be opened in Toronto, Canada in 2012), it’s the one I like the most of the Manhattan locations. I’m trying to shed some light to my parents what’s good (or very good) about David’s original restaurant and why the food obsessed still adores his food. My hope is that I won’t disappoint them since they generally think it’s just Asian style food.
To make things easier for ordering, we’ve ordered the entire lunch prix fixe menu and shared the food.
The first courses were overall great. The spicy honey comb tripe is a different version than what I had a few years ago when I last ate here. This particular tripe kind of reminds me vaguely of Chinese cold beef tendon that I used to eat many moons ago when I used to eat with my family at Chinese banquet-style dinners from the spice/flavor profile. The pickled tomatoes made it a lot more lighter and refreshing and though it’s a lot milder than the previous renditions when you get toward bottom of that bowl, you’ll get that sharp twang of heat.
I’ve eaten my fair share of Chang’s famous (or infamous) pork buns over the years. I love how succulent and supple the pork belly slices are with the sweet hoisin sauce and lightly pickled cucumbers make it all very delicious but I really do think (and my parents agreed on this, as they’ve eaten a lot of Asian-style buns in NYC, Hong Kong and China) that the buns are weakest part of the sandwich. It’s not fluffy enough to make the textural experience sublime.
The wild striped bass with plum, mitsuba, and green peppercorns was one of the best dishes of this entire meal. Its minimalist plating and preparation lets the sashimi grade bass speak for itself and that dish’s flavors still reverberating to my memory as I’m typing this post. The bright green peppercorns, fresh herbaceous mitsuba, sweet plum and the crunchy orbs of rice cracker was pure brilliance.
Progressing to second course, the fried veal sweetbreads were pretty fantastic. The delicious, crisp fried nuggets were sitting on a swath of cool almond purée, sweet-spicy Thai chili vinegar, large flakes of sauerkraut, and a generous sprinkling of toasted peanuts to give some interesting twists making it on the sweeter side of savory, nutty, and slightly tart.
The PEI mussels (PEI = Prince Edward Island) cooked in apple cider, apples, pork jowl and jalapeño were fine. The apple-centric flavors were key to make this interesting enough to keep eating and picking the shells out for mussel meat. Not my favorite dish but it was light and seasonal. I did taste the cider’s alcoholic zing in the background when I ate my grilled buttered toast that’s partially soaked in the pool of mussel cider broth.
Earlier this late spring/early summer, Ssäm Bar forayed into duck that their weekday lunch menu consists mostly of that roasted bird. Fascinated about the buzz, I had relatively high hopes about the duck sandwich. This large sandwich could easily make a person stuffed by this alone. This toasted, crusty roll was stuffed with shredded iceberg lettuce, peppadew peppers, spicy mayonnaise, and lined with thinly sliced duck meat and duck pâté. The sandwich was overall tasty, especially the addition of pâté to make it different than every other sandwich. But I was hoping for a bit more duck meat to really call it a “duck sandwich.”
Finally, dessert. Generally, I’m disappointed with this particular course overall. Back then I used to eat here more often, dessert was well thought out and executed better. To me, today’s dessert was all about deconstructed ice cream parfait – and there’s not a lot to deconstruct from a parfait or sundae. If I had to pick the better of the two available, the chocolate parfait fared out better. The bar of cold chocolate ice cream with dulce de leche, a mound of bittersweet chocolate cookie crumbles, dotted with small hemispheres of tart plum gelée and swath of slightly bitter matcha anglaise was slightly familiar yet kind of odd to have all in one bite.
The sweet potato ice cream was practically a root beer float with dehydrated marshmallow bits (or meringue) with sweet candied orange flakes in a bowl. In my mind, root beer and sweet potato doesn’t really mesh and even tasting this dessert, it didn’t really work for me. The root beer was great by itself (I think it’s the superb Ithaca Soda Co’s root beer) and same applies for the sweet potato ice cream. In all, the individual parts were greater than its sum.
It was a great lunch to share with my parents. They really enjoyed the food and I’m glad to share this meal with them. At the end of the meal, we asked for the check, my parents and I split the meal costs. I logged onto my American Express Serve account and paid them back as I insisted on treating them – and it was done securely and almost instantly. As I’ve mentioned on the title of this post, there’s another contest. More information about this partnership with Foodbuzz and American Express Serve is found at the bottom of this post.
To view more photos of this meal, please scroll through the slideshow below or view my Flickr photo set:
As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a $250 stipend to try Serve from American Express. Sign up for Serve and receive $10 credit towards your first use. Comment below within the next 7 days for your chance to win an extra $100 credit to your account! Official sweepstakes rules and regulations may be found here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/4622317-win-serve-dollars-giveaway-official-rules