Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City and on that prior visit, detailed in Duck Extraordinare, I was thoroughly impressed. So, on my recent trip back to NYC, I wanted to return there, to hopefully experience once again the delights of their rotisserie duck. There is always a little trepidation when returning to any restaurant after a number of years has passed. You worry that it might have changed, that it might not be as good any longer.
However, I was willing to take that risk and in the end, after my lunch there last week, I feel that the restaurant may even be better than my prior visit.
Momofuku, which is Japanese for "lucky peach," has grown greatly since 2011, a culinary empire with additional restaurants now in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Toronto and Australia. Adam Japko and I stopped at the Momofuku Ssäm Bar for lunch, both of us excited for what we hoped to come. In Korea, ssäm refers to "wrapped food," indicative of their main lunch entrees, meat which is wrapped in either lettuce or chive pancakes.
Their menu has grown since my last visit, especially adding more meat options. You can start with Country Ham (5 types priced $12-$20) or a get a Ham sampler for $37. Under Etc., you can select six different appetizers ($7-$19) such as Togarashi Chicarron or Honeycrisp Apple Kimchi. You'll also find Sides (8 choices at $4 each or 5 for $16) including Pickles and Tea Eggs. For entrees, there is a selection of Meats, including Stuffed Rotisserie Duck, Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder, Seven Spiced Beef Brisket, Gochu Glazed Pork Ribs, and Spicy Ginger Scallion Porgy. These meats can be ordered Solo (meat & cucumbers, $11-14), Ssäm (Solo plus rice & lettuce, $14-$17) or Plate (Solo & two sides, $16-$19). There is an additional charge for Extra Lettuce ($1) or Chive Pancake ($1).
Their Drinks menu is eclectic and interesting, including beer, cider, wine, Sake, soju, and more. The Wine list, with 15 available by the glass, will appeal to geeky wine lovers who love more unusual choices, and mark-ups generally are reasonable. The Wine list is primarily French but there are plenty of other regions represented as well, from Italy to Lebanon, California to Germany. The Sake list is small, though they have some good choices and also carry 5 Sakes in large format, 1.8 Liter bottles. They also have plenty of spirits and intriguing cocktails.
Once again, Momofuku Ssäm Bar presented an amazing lunch, its quality not having diminished a single iota over the years. If anything, with its expanded menu, the restaurant is even better. Their Rotisserie Duck remains one of the best duck dishes I've ever eaten. What makes it all the more compelling is that most of these dishes are relatively simple, comfort foods that are perfectly executed. If I lived in NYC, I'd probably be having lunch at Ssäm Bar every week. It receives my highest recommendation.