Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day's tribute: Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar

To be fair, there are lots of great places serving superb food in Hong Kong (especially as far as noodles), so I don't mean to act blase or sort of complain about my present condition. However, I really miss Momofuku's ramen a lot (dashi, berkshire pork, ramen and poached egg make for such a wonderful combination). But, first and foremost, I miss the pork buns: so delicious that even the best cha siu bao cannot compete with them (native HKers are going to hate me for such a statement but it's just the plain truth after all).

I've already had the opportunity to expand on the above dishes and Noodle Bar in a previous post last year but I take the opportunity of this July 4th to pay a tribute to my 2 favorite restaurants in New York. I also wanted to share the vivid memory I keep of the first dinner I had at Ssam Bar when it was not yet on the foodie's radar screen as it is now. I was blown away by the veal head terrine (one of the best, if not the best, I've ever had), Ssam Bar's take on the Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich containing 3 terrines/pates), the simple yet fabulous sweetbreads (just grilled and served with a little sea salt on the top and a wedge of lemon for quick squeeze) and a dish of uni/tapioca/whipped tofu that I still consider one of my greatest food experience ever.

In a sense, I think I also miss Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar because, in my opinion, they represent the best New York's restaurant scene can (from time to time) churn out: great and unpretentious restaurants with (deceptively) simple food beautifully executed, gently priced with a no-reservation (thus democratic) policy. I also love the so-American success story aspect to it where a man makes it although the odds are stacked against him, at least initially.

Of course, since David Chang, the chef-owner at the helm of the Momofuku franchise, has been hugely successful (although still insecure as depicted in the sublime New Yorker's profile) and received prestigious awards, one might argue those places have lost their "underground" touch. But frankly, who cares as long as standards remain uncompromising and food stays consistently delicious. I wish I could have also tried Ko or the Milk Bar before leaving NY a few months ago. Next time maybe. In the meantime, I'll continue to miss you Lucky Peach.


Michael said...

It is good to hear from you. Thanks for the Fourth of July wishes. We are celebrating it in Paris today. Maybe we can go to Momofuku Ko on your next trip to The Big Apple.

Laurent Martinez said...


It's great to hear from you too. Hope you and Linda are doing great. Sorry for not emailing you before but the baby is keeping us busy (and exhausted). Hope to see you soon in NY, France or Asia. Best.