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Momofuku for one

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I'm thinking of getting dinner at either Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar tonight. I'll be dining alone at around 8:30 or so. Does anyone know if I will have trouble getting a table (or a seat at the counter)? Also, any recs as to which one for a solo diner (meaning fewer dishes to sample)?

Thanks.

Lloyd

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  1. For a party of one sitting at the counter, it should be relatively easy. They probably won't want to sit you at a table.

    Additionally, Noodle Bar has a prix fixe dinner that changes daily, which might be easier to order there, than at Ssam Bar, which only has a prix fixe lunch. Also both of them sometimes have daily specials -- be sure to ask the server.

    My only other note is that a lot of ramen-o-philes don't think highly of Noodle Bar's ramen. The other dishes, however, are more in line with what Ssam Bar offers.

    1. ssam bar would be no problem, and you could get a lovely assortment of small plates

      1. The best thing at Ssam is the Bo Ssam and you obviously cannot order this alone. Personally, this is the only thing that is really alluring at Momofuku. For a solo diner, I'd go somewhere else.

        8 Replies
        1. re: steakrules85

          Actually, I think the Bo Ssäm is one of the least interesting items on the menu. There's plenty of ground to be covered for a solo diner.

          1. re: hcbk0702

            Agreed. The rest of the menu is much better and more interesting

            1. re: ESNY

              I'll 3rd this.

              1. re: prdct

                I concur.

                I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried at Ssam Bar. However, I'd recommend going with a group, so you can try more items!

                1. re: monamiestephanie

                  i agree. the ssam was about the least favorite thing ive had there. the menu is always evolving and there are usually a few good off menu items as well

          2. re: steakrules85

            There's been a few additions to the menu and changes recently as well.

            The brussels sprouts have been replaced by fried baby artichoke and sunchoke served with a bottarga and pistachio puree. The buttermilk flan is now breaded and fried but served cold in an apple dashi with greens. The pig's head is no longer breaded and deep fried but served on top of cavatelli pasta with grilled baby corn, with a spicy cream sauce, topped with cheese.

            I believe the tilefish and whole grilled porgy with ramps and chive pancakes dishes are also new. So is the corned beef terrine served with a tea egg salad, and the baby quail stuffed with sticky rice and morels.

            The dishes I named, aside from the fish, are pretty solo diner friendly in terms of portion size.

            1. re: kathryn

              The fried baby artichoke dish and buttermilk dishes you describe are both excellent. The buttermilk was my favorite dish of the night but no one else at the table seemed to like it. It had the consistency of a loose tofu and went really well with the sour, sweet dashi. A real winner but something I could see as a love it or hate it.

              The artichoke dish was well conceived too. A nice harmonious blend of textures and flavours. My only issue was that the artichokes were sliced a little too thin. this made them crispy but I think I would have liked a little more substance. Still a very good dish.

              1. re: MVNYC

                Yeah, I usually describe it as a "buttermilk flan" so that people know what they're getting into, and I totally see how it would remind you of tofu! Glad you had a good meal.

          3. A lot of those dishes sound good, and personally I would love the bo ssam (or the fried chicken dinner at Noodle Bar), but I am unfortunately dining solo. My main reason for chosing Ssam Bar was to try the pork buns, and just generally I've wanted to try a David Chang restaurant for a long time.

            I'll report back what I actually order wherever I go.

            Thanks.

            Lloyd

            13 Replies
            1. re: LloydG

              Pork buns are nothing special.

              1. re: steakrules85

                i disagree. the pork buns might be one of my fave pork dishes in NYC

                1. re: thew

                  thew, I've seen photos on flickr, but have never tried the pork buns. How does their flavour differ from good char siu bao?

                  1. re: phoenikia

                    Different and derived from Japanese/West Coast style of serving Peking duck. It's soft bread surrounding fatty pork with a sweet sauce and crunch from pickled cucumbers. The pork is two or three big slices, it's not crumbled.

                    Pork buns a la Momofuku use a different kind of Chinese bun from a char siu bao. It is called a He Yeh Bao aka lily pad wrap and is open like a taco. I'm from California and I more commonly saw these buns being used in Peking Duck (even though the more traditional wrapping is more tortilla like). Momofuku's "steamed buns" are served with hoisin, scallions, and pickled Kirby cucumbers, but substitute the roast duck for pork (which is brined and roasted).

                    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Story...

                    Chang said that in Japan the "awesome" and "delicious" buns are made with Peking duck, but he makes it with pork. "It was one of the few dishes that just sort of happened, and I was like instead of Peking duck, what if we just sort of stuck pork belly into that sort of bun."

                    (See also: Taiwanese hamburger aka Taiwanese Gua Bao, which is similar to the Momofuku steamed pork buns but with peanuts and mustard greens so it has a fatty, nutty, bitter taste profile. It can be found in Flushing, Queens or BaoHaus on the Lower East Side.)

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Thanks for the thorough description, kathryn.

                      I already had Baohaus on my list, but it looks like I should probably include an order of Momofuku pork buns while I'm in town.

                      -----
                      BaoHaus
                      137 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

                      1. re: phoenikia

                        You should - they are really great!

                        You can pop into Milk bar at get some - and also make sure to get a piece of candy bar pie and crack pie as well!! (To die for IMO!)

                        1. re: NellyNel

                          thanks NellyNel! Have been meaning to try crack pie, thanks for the heads up re: candy bar pie ;-)

                          1. re: NellyNel

                            NellyNel- thanks for mentioning the candy bar pie.
                            Wasn't wowed by the crack pie, but I loved the candy bar pie. Also liked their compost cookie & peanut butter cookie.

                2. re: LloydG

                  I strongly suggest bringing along earplugs. The noise level, especially at Ssam Bar, is deafening!!!

                  For future reference...

                  Photos of the Bo Ssam: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                  Photos of the fried chicken dinner: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                  1. re: LloydG

                    The pork buns are fantastic. You can also get them next door at the Milk Bar if that's all you're planning on trying.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      I also love the pork buns. And the spicy sausage and rice cakes.

                      1. re: lexismore

                        Oh yes I almost forgot about the sausage and ricecakes!!
                        They were incredible - I loved them...

                        I would agree with Thew that the pork buns were great as were most of the dishes I tried on my one visit - and that the Bo ssam was ok, but nothing to write home about...
                        I loved eveything I had at Milk Bar (Candy bar pie, pork bun and I forget which cookie I tried...but all were yummmmm

                      2. re: Boston_Otter

                        I love getting pork buns or pork and egg buns at the Milk Bar. I'm not a huge fan of pork, but I find those buns delicious.

                    2. I ended up at Noodle Bar, where I was able to get a seat at the counter right away although there was a wait for tables and parties of 2 or more. I had the pork buns and the grapefruit/duck confit salad. I thought the pork buns were okay, but I don't know that I would order them again. The salad was very good, with a nice balance of different flavors. I also really enjoyed sitting and watching the chefs work. On the way out, I had an olive oil soft serve to go, which was very good (I prefer unusual ice cream flavors to normal ones) - sort of like a tart frozed yogurt with a mild olive oil taste.

                      There were quite a few other things on the menu that I would like to try - the turnips, the kale, the chicken wings, the ramen, the noodles. I think I'll have to go back soon.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: LloydG

                        Told you about those porks buns. For some reason it is just one of those dishes that has been so hyped and people have been drinking the proverbial "kool-aid" over it. To each his own but I was not impressed either.

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          Given your user name it's obvious you have a bias towards certain species of animal over all others! :)

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I'm sure steakrules will speak for himself. But based on the dining experiences I've had with him, I can say he is definitely not in any way biased against piggy things. In fact, we shared the maialino a few weeks ago, and you can read his rave review here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6979... And, btw, we agreed that it was superior to the bo ssam.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Thanks RGR. Kathryn, she speaks the truth. While I admit that steak is my favorite food on the planet, I am a lover of many great foods and the list is quite long. A great piece of duck, pork, veal, fish, pasta, dessert, or even a great vegetable dish can definitely be just as satisfying to me. Many of the best things that I have eaten and some of of my favorites are not steak. I have had many pork products in my young age and those pork buns just didn't do it for me especially at the price which I found to be quite ridiculous. Give me the thick cut bacon from many venerable steakhouses like Peter Luger, Old Homestead, or Keens anyday. Or the pork belly from Craft. Or the pork chop from Babbo. You get the idea.

                              That Maialino al Forno was terrific (maybe my favorite pork dish to date) and agree that it was much better than the Bo Ssam. If anyone has read my posts on my feelings for Momofuku they would know I am not really a huge fan. That being said, if I HAD to go my choice would be the Bo Ssam because it was the best thing I had there and best bang for the buck.

                              And by the way I have had the ribeye for two at Momofuku and thought it to be quite disappointing. They overcooked it and gave me a huge attitude when I requested some melted butter. Overall, the place just lacks soul to me and after experiencing it (which I am glad I did) I really don't have any desire to return with so many other terrific options.

                              -----
                              Maialino
                              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                            2. re: steakrules85

                              isn't it possible that some people like them because they like them, and not because of the hype? I do not questioning your liking them, or saying you like them to be contrary to the buzz - why do you say that for me to like them i must be drinking the cult-juice?

                              1. re: thew

                                I never singled you out to say you are drinking the kool aid. It was just a general statement. That is my personal opinion that the pork buns are overhyped thats all. Like you said youhave yours and I have mine.

                                1. re: steakrules85

                                  oh i didn't think it was pointed exclusively at me. i have no problem with your not enjoying them.

                              2. re: steakrules85

                                One can say the same thing about your favorite food, a porterhouse at Peter Luger's.

                                1. re: ESNY

                                  Peter Luger... and yes maybe they could say that and that is fine.

                            3. Don't waste your time...

                              there are better places to eat at the bar...D.Chang seems to thing think that foodies will be wowed by the combinations of Ok-Local-Charcuterie paired w/ Less-Than-Ok-Korean-Kimchi/Pickles/Assorted-Sourness paired with Disgustingly-Overcooked Noodles/Buns paired with Something-His-Chefs-Want-to-Hype, will net him some stars...

                              (sadly, he may be right, in terms of the business side of things)

                              they are dismal places....what are you looking for in your bar-dining experience and i'll suggest other places...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Simon

                                I wasn't really looking for other recs in this post. I had always wanted to try one of Chang's restaurants, and I finally had an opportunity. I was looking for advice on whether I would be able to get a seat, which I was. It certainly wasn't a stellar meal, but I did enjoy the experience.

                                I often find with overhyped places that it is sometimes impossible for the food to live up to expectations (same with overhyped movies), but of course you don't know that until you go. I did enjoy sitting at the counter and watching the chefs work, and I could certainly imagine going back to try some other dishes, but I don't think I'll have a craving the way I do for some other places.