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Apr 16, 2007 07:48 AM

Momofuku Ssam Review

I had very high expectations for Momofuku Ssam. Often when this happens, it results in utter disappointment, as I have built up the experience in my head far too greatly, which hinders my experience. Not so this time.

Perhaps it was the company (which included my friend, Mike, whom is a wonderfully sweet person and my uncle, for whom I admire greatly and have not seen in months AND the person that introduced me to chowhound). However, the food was phenomenal – each dish had extremely vibrant and distinct flavors.

We started with the cured hamachi, which came with edamame puree, whole edamame and tiny “crunchy” items that reminded me of rice crispies (but more dense and flavorful). This was DELICIOUS. All of the flavors blended together beautifully.

Next came the fried brussel sprouts with chilies, mint and fish sauce. I love brussel sprouts, but I never imagined they could be like this! It was like candy…just melted in your mouth.

Then they brought us the apple salad with bacon, lychee fruit, lychee gelatin and peanuts. It was shocking, yet admirable how well these items complimented each other. Even by themselves, each slice of apple had strong hints of smokiness and bacon. YUM!

The rest was brought out a bit faster and became a bit more blurry: a combination of the sake and being overwhelmed by all of the delicious food! It included:

Bahn Mi, which I enjoyed – very rustic bread with various offal insides. This was one of my uncle’s favorites.

Grilled sweetbread: amazing – very smoky and melt-in-your-mouth quality.

Ssam grilled lemongrass pork sausage with fish sauce and bibb lettuce – came in the form of make-it-yourself lettuce wraps. Several sliced of sausage, many pieces of lettuce, marinated shredded carrots, marinated shredded cabbage, and a sweet, clear fish sauce with floating sliced green onions. No shocker – this was excellent as well.

Momofuku Ssam: simply, a flour wrap/burrito with shredded pork, onions, shitake mushrooms, edamame and red kimchee puree. It was one of my favorites, but here’s a hint: pour a LITTLE bit of the clear fish sauce (from the lemongrass pork sausage ssam) onto each bite – makes it even more stellar.

Service: excellent. It was a very friendly, neighborhood-type of feel, which I love. I look forward to going back and having the rest of the items that I missed. What an amazing menu.

(Thanks to Halo, Ichang and Kobetobiko for their recommendations!)

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  1. Man that sounds good. I'll be using your report as a list of things to order. How much did all the food come out to, if you don't mind me asking? Kind of on a budget here, but dying to try the dinner menu out. I'd tried the ssams when they first opened, and wasn't terribly impressed, but the dinner menu sounds amazing.

    3 Replies
    1. re: janethepain

      I'll field this one since I paid (I'm the uncle). Was under $100 (not much under) for three not including the bottle of sake. A bargain because - as Mel says - it was really fun. If I was gonna skip anything it would be the pork sausage ssam - was good but not as amazing as the rest. Tell ya what - just get the brussels sprouts and the apple salad. And maybe the banh mi. That'll work.

      1. re: BIM

        Hi Uncle BIM,

        I am so glad to hear that you and Melanie enjoyed the meal. She worked hard to impress the foodie uncle! =D Anyway, if you have a chance to visit ssam bar again before you leave, I recommend order the rest of the menu as they were also very delicious! The warm veal head terrine is one of my favorites, and the honeycomb tripe is spicy and goes very well with the rice that comes with it. Pork rib in clay pork as another comforting and hearty offering which I enjoy very much.

        Do you have any plan to visit another other restaurants over the week? Free feel to let us know and may be we can suggest something for you and Melanie!

        Hope you enjoy your stay in NYC!

        1. re: kobetobiko

          Tripe? Did you say tripe? I love tripe!

          Would have ordered it last night but didn't want to freak out Mike. He wouldn't even try the sweetbreads.

          Since you ask, yes - I would love the hounds advice on where to eat the rest of the week, though in a way I already have it. I've been combing the Manhattan boards (OB's too) for the last few weeks and have a not so short list that I'll never get through in a week. But please chime in: I love places with exotic menus - plenty of meat, innards are good. Hole-in-the-wall ethnic works. We got good mex, chinese and sushi in LA so that's probably not what I'm out here for.

          Oh - we're working at the Brill Building (near Times Square) so I need some rocking midtown lunch options we could do in an hour. Hate to miss a meal opportunity. You know how it is.


    2. hi melanie,
      fantastic review! you really captured the essence of what i love about this place. and i know all too well the curse of high expectations but i'm glad to hear yours were met in this case! i will definitely try the sweetbreads on my next visit. thanks.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lchang

        Thanks nice family of foodies. I was thinking of going tonight, now I'm definitely going tonight. Glad you enjoyed : ).

      2. Hi Melanie, The crispy bits on the hamachi were probably fried seaweed. You ordered some of my favorite plates :). Next time you go, give the chawan mushi, asparagus with a japanese style poached egg and the veal head terrine a try - they are all amazing. The sea urchin is also really good, but small and would not have been ideal for sharing.

        6 Replies
        1. re: lauren mok

          I'd like to make a trip there on Thursday. Anyone have an estimate of how long the wait would be at around 7:30? Horrendous?

          1. re: foodie4life

            depends on the weather. i was there a few thursdays ago...slid in at 6:50 and had 2 seats at the bar. we left around 8 and there were about 12 people waiting for space out front.

            1. re: foodie4life

              Even if they quote you a long wait, it often ends up being pretty short. I walked in on a Sunday around 9 a few weeks ago, the place was full. They quoted 30 minutes for a party of 2, and it ended up only being around 10. And you can order something to eat or drink at the island in back while you're waiting.

            2. re: lauren mok

              It's actually furikake - a mixture of dried fish bits, salt, seaweed, sesame seeds. I'm certain because I saw them pour it out of the container on Sunday night. :)

              1. re: kathryn

                The furikake is the mixture that is sprinkled over the whipped tofu in the sea urchin dish. This is different from what is on the hamachi. I do believe that what is on the hamachi is a fried seaweed, although it could be that it's a dried seaweed. Didn't exactly catch the first consonant as the server explained the dish. In any case, I do love the furikake that is on the sea urchin :) Loved it so much, I bought myself my very own container at Whole Foods :)

                1. re: lauren mok

                  I'm convinced the seaweeed's fried in bacon fat...