Friday, November 13, 2009

Momofuku Ssam - New York

New York and London are alike in many ways. Both are a sprawling multi cultural metropolis, with many of these influences drifting in and out of everyday life. But one thing remains, this great mix of ethnicity tread these pavements as New Yorkers.

This ethos was also quite clear within much of the food of New York and none more so evident than in Momofuku Ssam. Part of David Chang's Momofuku "brand" of restaurants, it markets itself as selling delicious "American" food. What you find is a menu heavily influenced by Asian flavours.


Highly recommended by the masses, I needed to find out what all the fuss was about so dragged my cousin out down to 2nd avenue in search of Ssam Bar. When we got there, I was happy to see a reasonably priced set menu with a choice of three dishes for each course. Bypassing the rather unimaginative sounding pickles, we went for a portion of their famous buns and beef tendon.

Beef Tendon

I really don't know what possessed me. Not normally known for my adventurous tastes, I somehow convinced myself that I would enjoy beef tendon. And in reality, they were OK, and only OK. And in fact, that OK only lasted a few mouthfuls. The texture was soft and gelatinous but the sprinkling of rock salt just made it feel incredibly grainy. I just couldn't get to grips with the texture and it was just far too salty.

Those famous buns

And so to the buns. When anybody mentions Momofuku, the buns are sure to follow. Slices of slow booked belly pork in a light bun with cucumbers and hoi sin sauce. Simple and delicious. As with everything that has tonnes of hype attached to it, this wasn't a life changing experience but were very nice. No ordinary buns, but hardly stellar.

Rice Cake with Chinese sausage

So far, I wasn't really too sure what all the fuss was about. That was until my simply named "Rice Cakes with Chinese sausage" turned up. Small cylinders of rice cakes, flash fried to gain a crispy exterior, whilst being squidgy in the middle. These were smothered in a spicy szechuan style sauce, with mounds of sausage meat and crisp greens for company. Bite after bite, we just kept on coming back, a real winner.

Beef Brisket

The beef brisket was perfectly pleasant but nothing to shout about. Generous pieces of beef steeped in a tasty but simple broth. Our attention had very much been on those rice cakes.

Thai Iced Tea ParfaitPeanut Butter and Jelly Pie

The desserts were much more of an east-meets-west affair. A Thai green tea parfait was pleasant with lots of different textures and flavours but it was the peanut butter and jelly pie which blew me away. The grape jelly pie was more of a grape sorbet in pastry but was so fresh and sweet. Served with the pie was a smear of peanut butter and nuggets of peanut butter clusters, both together were a very enjoyable way to end an interesting meal.

So that was Momofuku. I can't help but feel slightly disappointed by it all, but I guess that's what happens when hype starts to overtake the food. On reflection, it was a perfectly good meal at a very affordable price. The P&J pie was memorable, whilst the beef tendon I would rather forget. It does come recommended, just beware of the hype, those buns are just buns.

Oh! And before I forget, make sure you pop to the bakery next door. It serves top notch sweet goods including the infamous crack pie (I am well aware of the irony of this statement) and some ace cookies. The cookies I can definitely vouch for, get many.

An array of cakes in the bakery next door

Momofuku Ssam (website) - 207 2nd Ave. New York 10003

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon


Hollow Legs said...

That's a shame - I've heard a lot of good things about Momofuku, especially those buns. Leong's Legend's version looks better...

catty said...

Oh my goodness, I am struggling to take my eyes off the P&J pie! YUM!! They've probably used gallons of purple food colouring (does that even exist?) but I don't care, I mean, dude I did bake seriously RED red velvet cupcakes. But anyway the P&J looks awesome. Beef brisket in the bun looks good too. Well at least now you've been... so you can rest in peace :)