Momofuku… a review.

June 9, 2010

I recently took a short trip to New York.  like 24 hours short.

A few days before the trip I got ahold of the most recent s.pelligrino 50 best restaurants 2010.  I was surprised to see momofuku ssam bar made 26 on the list.  I’ve previously been to the momofuku noodle bar, which was tasty; and the milk bar, which I absolutely loved.

I had visited the Ssam bar before because the milk bar is located in the back. I was intrigued by the newest review so I made a point to go eat there before we left.

I arrived with my mom a little before 6:00, through the unassuming doors before the Tuesday dinner rush and my mom and I got two seats at the bar.  we weren’t starving so we kept the meal light and wanted to order just a few dishes.  Here we go…

(Excuse the photos… taken from my mom’s iphone in bad lighting.)

first dish was a fuji apple kimchi; when I read the menu I believed I was getting their traditional hand pickled kimchi ( the best I have ever had! tired it last year at the noodle bar), with the addition of apples.  This was however just apples, replacing the cabbage entirely.  Served with a creamy dressing, a strip of bacon and a few leaves of arugula.  It was tasty, and the components worked nicely together, however I was craving the juicy and spicy kimchi I had had before and this couldn’t stand up to my expectations.

This next dish was a special of the night of something.  It was some sort of firm, raw fish with cucumber, candied mustard and green onion.  The sauce it was paired with was like a thick gelle, with a subtle flavor.  Honestly, I didn’t think this was worth the money we spend (probably like $12 or something).  The candied mustard was nice and surprising, but that was about it.

Next, we ordered a stuffed, deboned quail served with cabbage and a savory chinese broth.  This dish was the star of the show, the quail was delicately moist and tender and stuffed with a sticky rice that was perfectly sticky.  The broth had tones of five spice and star anise.  It was warming, comforting and delicious. 5 stars.

The last dish brought to us was the soft shell crab recommended by our waitress.  Was served with a few asparagus tips and I can’t even recall anything about the sauce at this point, so not very memorable.  The crab itself was perfectly fried, but that didn’t make up for the cost.  At 20-some dollars I could have gotten a perfectly tasty deep-fried soft shell crab at any Japanese restaurant in San Francisco for half the cost.

Dinner was decent, but from what I ate it wasn’t quite worthy of 50 greatest restaurants in the world.

Now of course I went to the milk bar, but I’ll tell you about that later.