I'm sad to say that I recently experienced a disappointing meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar. Over the past years, it has grown into such a phenomena;friends visiting have it first on their list for places to eat, there might as well be a half hour wait for dinner starting at 5 PM almost every night, and now it has expanded into Midtown. Their subtle flavors, Milk Bar and service are what I love, but this meal did not deliver. At 5:30 one table was available, the bar only had two seats and they would not seat me at a table until my friend had arrived. I don't mind sitting at the bar because it is just as uncomfortable curved over the bar as it is curved over a table with a backless chair. My young back can take it and it was not before long I was distracted by food and good conversations.
Of course I needed to start with an order of Pork Buns.
These will never diminish in flavor. I will always compare nameless meat served in my college cafeteria's to this taste. Hunched over our bar stool chairs, my friend and I shared the dish and savored our single serving. Even though we can easily buy a $2 pork bun in Chinatown, I am willing to sacrifice my pay check for hunks of pork belly adjacent to a slab of fat drenched in Saracha. Scallions provided a nice subtle back-tone to barbecue sauce, and the bun is not too doughy, but just enough. With so many slippery ingredients, our cheeks were hovering over the table, trying to catch ingredients tumbling from the bun. Of course it is messy to eat, but that is half the fun. I was accompanied by a good friend who is also a brave foodie. We opted for Pigs Ears, a smaller portion, with wild sorrel and white poppies.
I am not afriad to eat much of anything. I was pretty excited to try these, until my second bite. The first bite was crunchy, a little tough to chew but tasty. The second bite my toungue ran over the edge of an ear, the meat was tougher to separate, and it wasn't crunchy. The wild sorrel added a rather sour taste to the already gelatinous texture of the ear. I kept eating though. I'm not sure why. It must have been one of those foods I expected to become better with more chewing? Uhhh, i just didn't, maybe I couldn't taste the added flavors of the poppy? Perhaps my inner Asian-self was not appreciating the flavors? I mean this is Momofuku. For some reason I expected every dish to satisfy my tastes, but I guess not.
Regardless of taste, I was not full and I knew this would happen for the Pig's Ears were not an entree. Good thing we ordered Whole Lamb Sausage. This would surely fill us up, I mean sausage, usually you get more than one, so we would surely be satisfied. Well mashed water-chestnuts were hearty, but there was one whole sausage on the plate. In flavor the licorice anise transformed the gamy taste of the lamb to a subtle sweetness. The sausage was very good, but we were not satiated. Now, I know we should have ordered more, but our bill already was over $60. Pretty pricey! Guess I'll need a real job to keep eating there. Hopefully our next meal will be with the parents or at the Noodle Bar. Until then Happy Eating
Momofuku Ssam Bar