Tasting the famed pork buns for the first time at Momofuku ssam bar in New York is one of my favorite food memories. When my friend M (who I shared the said pork buns with) told me they were recreating their 2007 Ssam Bar menu at Momofuku Seiobo as part of Good Food Month's Hats Off Dinner, I thought this was one opportunity not to be missed. The event was on for one week only, from October 13 to October 18.
Having heard about the massive queues through the week, M, my bf and I arrived just before 5, on a Saturday afternoon, and were happy to find ourselves near the front of the queue. Luckily, there was a Gelato Messina nearby to help us kill time (any excuse for Messina!). Time in the queue also gave us plenty of time to ponder what to order from their a la carte menu.
We started with the Tasmania sea urchin and whipped tofu. The light texture of the whipped tofu was a wonderful contrast to the rich intense flavour of the sea urchin. At the base of the dish were some tapioca balls, more commonly found in pearl milk tea, which was a hidden surprise in the dish. It was an appropriate first dish as it whetted our appetites for more.
The famous steamed pork buns quickly arrived. The buns were as soft and pillowy as I remembered and the pork belly just melts in your mouth. It's such a simple dish when you think about it - pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumber and bun. But there are few places that do it as well as Momofuku, especially in Sydney.
Deep fried Brussels sprouts was a surprising highlight of the evening. The fish sauce vinaigrette had the classic Thai combination of sweet, salty and tang, and the puffy rice just added the right amount of pop to the dish. Who knew fish sauce and brussel sprouts could be such a great combination! Charred just the right amount, this side dish was highly addictive and I could not stop eating it.
The Apple, lychee and bacon salad with chilli sauce was very refreshing. The peanut added just the right amount of crunch. There was even lychee jelly to add another textural element to the dish. Will definitely try to make this at home some time!
I am a big fan of Chiwan mashi - Japanese egg custard. Momofuku's version comes with snails and truffle. The aroma of the black truffle is simply divine and the snails had a real meatiness to them. David Chang is known for his out of the box food combinations, and this was no exception.
The Marinated hanger steak Ssam was on every table and is fun to eat. We took the lettuce cups and packed them with the beef, the shallots and ginger scallion mixture and kimchi. The ginger scallion sauce is something I normally have with white cut chicken in Cantonese restaurants, but worked just as well on the steak. The beef was juicy and tender, and packed an incredible amount of flavour.
The finale to the meal was the Spicy honeycomb tripe. M and I had a tripe salad dish at Ssam bar in NY, so it is clearly a much loved ingredient at Ssam. This was a very different variation. The tripe was quite tender and the curry sauce as very flavoursome. The soft boiled egg added more richness to the dish. I would have loved a bowl of rice to soak all up the sauce.
My extremely high expectations of this meal was met and exceeded. I could easily eat all those dishes again and again. The service was fast and furious. Not your typical three hat restaurant standard as it turned into Ssam bar for the week, but it definitely did not detract from the overall food experience.
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