Momofuku Ssäm Bar – David Chang’s Gut Busting, But Delicious Bo Ssam (Pork Shoulder)
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David Chang has truly become a celebrity chef and every restaurant he opens seems to turn to gold as they all do really good business. While I am not a huge fan of Asian fusion food and I don’t like every dish David Chang makes, I do think that David Chang has created something good and I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done (he also seems like a nice guy from the TV interviews etc I’ve seen him in), so I’m rooting for him.
I’ve heard about his version of Korean bo ssäm for quite some time and I’ve been trying to put together for a dinner for a while, but given the long lead time necessary for a reservation and people’s constantly changing schedules it took me a long time to finally come here.
The format at Momofuku Ssäm Bar has changed immensely from the first time I came when it was a Chipotle-style Korean burrito type of concept. Now it’s got a full menu and real food and is not some fast food concept with the hallmark being their large group bo ssam and rotisserie duck offerings.
The restaurant is long thin space with tables, long communal seating and an open kitchen. The walls and floors are all dark wood and look reasonably sleek. However, the layout is kind of weird so it’s a bit cramped and definitely on the loud side. The service was reasonably good and everyone was nice.
On to the food:
- Steamed Pork Buns: This dish is one of David Chang’s signature dishes. It consists of a white steamed Chinese bun called mantou with steamed pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumbers and scallions. While many in New York thought that David came up with something totally revolutionary, I originally thought that he just copied a Taiwanese gua bao, which is very similar to this except the condiments are slightly different. However, I read an interview where he explained that he was trying to re-create Cantonese style Peking duck buns except using pork belly instead of duck. This makes sense because while both gua bao and Cantonese style Peking duck buns use a steamed mantou, the condiments at Momofuku are very similar to a Cantonese style Peking duck bun except he uses cucumbers instead of spring onions. Anyhow, the dish comes together nicely, the pork belly is tender and flavorful and the sweetness from the hoisin sauce goes well with the cucumbers and scallions. However, people always want to know what’s better and for me a good Taiwanese gua bao is definitely better because I prefer the condiments. With that said, this is still a very tasty dish and definitely worth trying out. 8.25/10
- Bo Ssäm: This is David Chang’s version of a traditional Korean dish called Bo Ssam, which is steamed pork belly with condiments that is put into lettuce wraps with condiments. The main differences are at Momofuku they give you a whole pork shoulder where as traditionally they give you sliced pork and the sauces and condiments are a bit different as well. Here they give you lettuce, rice, spicy and sweet bean sauce, ginger-scallion oil, chopped kimchi, pureed kimchi and oysters. I liked the spicy and sweet bean sauce a lot, the ginger-scallion oil tasted just like the typical Chinese version meaning it was good, the kimchi was decent, but not great and I wasn’t much of a fan of the pureed kimchi. The oysters were nice as they tasted fresh and briny. The pork was flavorful and tender, however it depended on where the meat was as some of the meat was very tender and delicious and other pieces were a bit dry. I liked it in the lettuce wrap, but after a while I started to like it better with just rice and bean sauce. It was extremely filling and even though we had 8 people, I was almost too full and ended up being a zombie on my couch afterwards. Overall, while I didn’t think it was quite as transcendent as some made it out to be, I did think it was very good. 8.5/10
I thought this was a unique and enjoyable meal. While it’s not something you can eat very often, I’d definitely recommend trying it out. I look forward to coming back to try his rotisserie duck ssäm.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
Like you, ellenost, I only managed to get the dry meat. Also, keep in mind that while Lau did it with 8 people, the group you and I did it with numbered 11. Frankly, I don't think the one pork shoulder was really big enough to adequately accommodate a group that size despite the fact that we ordered several extra dishes to start. And by the time some of those dishes got around the table to me, there was barely anything left to taste. That happened with the buns, so the first time I actually got to eat one was when Mr. R. and I did the chicken dinner with you and your sister at Noodle Bar. In that case, there was such a boatload of chicken that it was way more than even four healthy eater like us could possibly consume.
I am still very glad that Mr. R and I went to the Bo Ssam because it's where we met you and steakrules for the first time in person -- the beginning of wonderful friendships! :)
I think that the only time I've had the Bo Ssam dinner there was about 3 years ago; however, it sounds like you had exactly the same experience with just about exactly the same reaction as I did. Thanks for the update.
Imho, one of the best value for a small party is the Bo Ssam take out. We've done it twice, at different houses and different groups, and it was a hit with the guests. The one time we did at my place, I had Ssam leftovers that kept very, very well with the condiments for 5 days in the refrigerator.