207 2nd Avenue corner of 13th Street
$9 for one, with a drink, without tip
â™¥ â™¥ ♥
Remember when the Lambs were all over 5th Street opening up to five restaurants in the area? Two of them, a Korean grill, now Degustation, and Makimono, now occupied by Jack Oyster Bar that was around the corner, have since closed. So can the east Village only be conquered by one person–or one couple–at a time? And is it David Chang’s turn this year?
Every time I walk by Momofuku, it’s packed. I like my Berkshire pork as much as everyone else, but spending $13 on a bowl of somen is hard to swallow at times. Besides, when I am in the mood to spend that much for a bowl of noodle soup, any one of my white guy friends are not available to eat with me–a white guy is the accessory-du-jour at Momofuku if you’re an Asian girl. (Look up from your sticky steamed buns when you go.)
I wish Chef David Chang all the luck now that his second restaurant has opened. From bowls of noodles made fancy by adding Berkshire pork and seasonal ingredients come Korean burritos called ssam made fancy by adding, well, Berkshire pork and other seasonal ingredients. To me, though, a burrito is a burrito: a whole mess of rice, beans and meat wrapped in soft tortilla even if there are Asian touches to it. At Momofuku Ssam Bar, edamame, shiitake mushrooms and kimchi are the culprits. I was ready to surrender towards the end of my heavy lunch but I was with three other boys who thought another half would have made the $9 worth it.
Momofuku Ssam is so much better for dinner. After an hour wait in a pub down the street, we returned to be seated at the bar. The warm veal head terrine reminded me of Babbo that I almost forgot David Chang became famous because of his noodle bowls. The sweetbreads were grilled, complete with burnt stripes, and were excellent beer food with pickles. I loved the roasted mushroom salad with crosne, or Chinese artichoke, in a pistachio-based sauce. The grilled lemongrass pork sausage was much better and lighter than its soft tortilla counterpart. The lettuce is fresh and crunchy, and like Korean kalbi, is used to pick up the soft sausages. David Chang just can’t help but go back to his Asian roots and I commend him for that.