Sep 2, 2007

Menu Tasting Testing : Momofuku Ssam Bar (I)

Momofuku Ssam Bar is a famous hype fusion Korean food restaurant located in Manhattan, East Village. Here is what Adam Platt, from, has to say about the chef/owner : "Chang—a Korean-American, raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.—mines his own ethnic background for inspiration. The past couple of years, he has been demonstrating his talents on a more modest scale at his madly popular original restaurant. But the newest Momofuku (the word means “lucky peach” in Japanese) is larger and more ambitious than the original, and after a period of bumbling experimentation (at first Chang insisted on selling only a form of Asian burrito called a ssäm), it has grown into a showplace for the chef’s unique brand of earthy, Asian-accented Meat head cuisine".
David Chang, alumni of The French Culinary Institute, was recently honored with the Rising Star Chef of the Year award at the 2007 James Beard Foundation(1) Awards Ceremony.

After the graduation ceremony at The FCI, my wife and I went for dinner to that place to find out what was all about...

The first appetizer we ate was Caraquet Oysters with a Consommé flavored with Kimchi(2). We thought the idea was original but the taste was not very special (or maybe we were already too familiar with the Kimchi taste) ...

Our second appetizer, Poached Shrimp - cantaloupe, cucumber, mint, lemon basil, was very colorful in the plate and very tasteful in the mouth. Really refreshing, smooth (the cantaloupe velouté) and full of flavor thanks basil, mint. Really great choice !

For entree, we ordered the traditional and inescapable bulgogi (Korean BBQ), Marinated Hanger Steak Ssäm(3) - ginger scallion, Kim chi, bibb lettuce and rice. The dish was great too with amazing quality of meat and an unusual sauce made of scallion and ginger, probably binded with yogurt.

We were planning to make another try at looking at the menu when we turned fed up with the "so-rushy" service, being interrupted in our discusion by waiters asking us if plates could be taken away (several times, last time hardly 10 seconds after the last bite...). Tant pis...pour eux! (sorry... for them), we decided to ask for the check !

Brief summary : great originality in the choice of flavors for dishes, amazing quality of meat, vegetables and seafood, poor service and decoration too dark (black wood used for furniture and walls).

Definitely worth a try if you don't mind being pushed in a restaurant (victim of its own fame and success)...

(1)The James Beard Foundation is a New-York-based national professional non-profit organization named in honor of James Beard that serves to promote the culinary arts by honoring chefs, wine professionals, journalists, and cookbook authors at annual award ceremonies and providing scholarships and educational opportunities to cooking hopefuls.
(2)Kim chi is a traditional Korean fermented dish made of seasoned vegetables
(3)Ssam (Korean food) refers to various leaf vegetables which are used to wrap a piece of bite-size meat, along with hot pepper paste and some rice into a bundle

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