Le Cochon//Momofuku Ssam Bar Sunday pig-in

Eight gastronauts.

Sunday at 12pm.

Momofuku Ssam Bar “bo ssam” lunch.

Heaven is a place on Earth…

Bibb Lettuce + 4 sauces. Red chili + soybean paste, ginger + scallion, kimchee, pureed kimchee
Bibb lettuce + ginger/scallion sauce
PORK BUTT. Pinch it.

I’ve been to David Chang’s Ssam Bar a number of times but never for the Bo Ssam. Not until a friend finally held the reins and made a reservation for a long Sunday lunch.

Not much to be said here and that the beauty of it! Wrap tender pork butt in lettuce with white rice, add one of the four sauces and maybe an oyster. Simple and incredibly flavorful. Spicy, salty, tender and crunchy. The genius part is that you get to eat with your hands and doesn’t everything taste better when its utensil free? Ya.

You don’t need to order starters but being eight little pigs, we had to. It would be off brand if we didn’t. Start with the Steamed Pork Buns, Bread & Butter (that butter would be lardo) and the Buttermilk Biscuit which is a glorifed bacon, egg and cheese sandwich –  David Chang doing what he does best – glorifing the ordinary. No underlying pun intended. Sorta.

The Avery “White Rascal” White Ale is tops with all this pork fat.Washs down cold and clean.

I’m still thinking about the pork. Is that sad or what?

from the website:

q: what does the bo ssäm include?
a: the bo ssäm (which is korean for enclosed or wrapped) includes a whole slow cooked pork shoulder, a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce, ssäm jiang (korean bbq sauce), kimchi and ginger scallion sauce. the dish is essentially pork and condiments wrapped in lettuce.

q: how much is it?
a: $200 for your entire party. not including other food and drinks ordered or tax and tip.

q: what are the available time slots?
a: we offer the bo ssäm at dinner and lunch. for dinner, sunday to thursday, 5, 6, 6:30pm. friday and saturday, 5:00, 5:15, 5:45pm and 11, 11:30pm. the lunch bo ssäm is offered everyday at 12, 12:30, 1pm.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500

Faustina//not quite Scarpetta…yet

Hello, Chef.

We knew it was early to be trying Faustina given that it’s been open for 2 weeks but being huge fans of Scarpetta, we really could not resist the temptation of Scott Conant’s wise “Italian-as-interpreted-by-other-cultures” ways on a cold winter night.

It began with five of us in the rather masculine bar area which is interesting considering the restaurant is “named after a Roman empress whose monument is the only building inside the Roman Forum dedicated to a woman”. The decor runs towards the Scarpetta equation of dark leather cocktail seats, tall wood tables and dark tiles lining the undulating ceiling. Not bad considering the team had four weeks to transform the former-and-never-opened Table 8 space into Faustina.

As we were drinking rather delicious but uninspired cocktails in a cold room and mulling over the sharable menu choices, we had agreed to start with the roasted beets with pink peppercorns and taleggio, tuna and avocado “salad”, and Mediterranean octopus with fingerling potatoes and olive oil. These dishes were all about the combination of flavors and the whole of the dishes being more than the sum of its parts: the filthy and stinky taleggio creates a nice balance with the sweet beets while the combination of tuna + avocado has exisited since time eternal. Nice, but again, uninspired.

The second course was all about the pastas: naturally, we had to order Chef Conant’s self-proclaimed “sex-in-a-bowl” pasta with sea urchin and tomato sauce. We also decided on the cannelloni with burrata and baby tomatoes to satisfy the burrata addict in all of us. Surprisingly, the cannelloni won by leaps and bounds. It was hearty, homey, warm and heavy; just delicious and gooey. Everything you want in cannelloni. The sea urchin pasta? Well, if that was “sex-in-a-bowl” then I’ll have to slip out the door quietly at 4am. It just wasn’t that good…but I wanted it to be…

Next up was the grande dame of dinner: the meat course. We tried the short ribs of beef with spaetzle plus the pork belly with potato and grain mustard, and for sides the eggplant with pork shoulder, truffled cabbage and the mushrooms. Seven words for the short ribs: do it to me one more time; the tender texture and flavorful meat coupled with the chewy texture of the spaetzle was a real delight. The pork belly was also rather tasty especially with the texture-lending, crisp piece of bacon it was served with. The sides were just ok (save for the woodsy and very fresh mushrooms).  The eggplant and pork shoulder was overpowered  by a heavy hand of rosemary.The cabbage was as good as anything “truffled”.

The three desserts we ordered were accompanied by a nice bottle of Muscado d’Asti which finished off the meal on a civilized-version-of-inebriation tip. The date pudding with currant compote and prune ice cream was a clear winter winner; the slightly sticky and dense pudding (more of a moist “cake”) wasn’t too sweet and left us with a warm and fuzzy holiday dessert feeling.

I won’t dare to comment on the service. It’s not fair given Faustina is two weeks old and still has a few kinks to work out before it reaches Scarpetta A-list level.

All in all a warm, hearty meal with dynamite potential. I will be back to for short ribs and date pudding. And, maybe, another chance to sneek a peek at Scott Conant.

Faustina @ The Cooper Square Hotel
25 Cooper Square, NYC
(212) 475-3400

In honor of the dearly departed

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This evening, I bring you a special post dedicated to one of my besties, food-in-crime-ing, bike-riding, 9-to-5 hating, photo loving, fame-whore-ing, all around funny man, Emiliano.

Since Emi got smart and departed the shores of Manhattan for the bright lights of Brooklyn, it was only fitting that I send him off with a list of top ten Williamsburg restaurants/dining options:

1. La Superior: The Mexican-est, most fresh, flavorful tacos this side of Cali. Don’t miss their nightly specials cuz they are…special

2. Motorino Pizza: Pizza ‘n things from a wood-burning brick oven. I had one of my last meals here before leaving for Paris. ’nuff said.

3. Fette Sau: It’s meat by the pound at this BBQ joint. Beats out most of Manhattan’s options except for Dinosaur BBQ (one love).

4. Egg: Open early for those who need one of the best, local and organic breakfasts in Brooklyn.  They have their own farm where most of their products are sourced. They rule Brooklyn brunch but there is always, always a line.

5. Roberta’s: More in the Bushwick area, this warm, dark and cozy wood burning brick oven pizza resto is best during the cold months of winter. Don’t miss the Specken Wolf pizza. Oh, and the meat plate obvs.

6. Marlow & Sons: Meats, cheeses, oysters and a good wine list. Great atmosphere and if you haven’t heard of this place yet, you clearly can’t read. Clearly.

7. Diner: The Marlow and Son’s team also have Diner. Featuring a seasonal menu, these guys also publish one of my favorite food magazines called, Diner Journal.

8. Dressler: To be fair, I have not taken a meal here, yet. I have however, known many who have and from the looks of the menu (and reviews), you best not miss this fine-dining-in-Brooklyn option.

9. Papacito’s: Ok, fine. It’s in Greenpoint. But it’s Mexican (surely you know my love of Mexican food by now) so just go ‘k?

10. Fatty ‘Cue: I give this an honorable mention as, again, I have not been here yet as it wasn’t open before I left for the Left Bank of Paris and is slated to open in August. BUT, it’s Zakary Pelaccio of Fatty Crab fame (big love to the Malaysian food!). How can he go wrong with BBQ? Try it and tell me…

Other notables:

Coffee from Gimmie! Coffee

Bagels from The Bagel Store

One of the many taco trucks in Willy Bee

Have fun exploring. Send me a taco…

I’ll have the celery//Name dropping on The City

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Surely you watched The City Monday night. SURELY you did. The ever lovable and vacant Whitney Port has done it: she left everything she knew behind in Hell-ay and headed for a faux job at DVF in NYC. And like any New Yorker, she takes cabs to work and wears stilletos every day (what? you DON’T?). Most importantly, the gals of the The City dine out in style…final roll call for the restaurants they went to in the one hour, double-epi slam: Nero, Cornelia Street Cafe, Cafe Noir, Thom Bar, Soho Billiards, Extra Virgin, Tenjune, and Philippe. More importantly, I want to know if they eat…and if they do, what did they order? The chicken satay or peking duck at Philippe? And what can possibly be good to eat at Cafe Noir? And when will start showing up at Buddakan, Pastis, or Scarpetta? I mean, they work at DVF which is in the Meatpacking district, it’s only a matter of time before they start dining there too. And I simply can’t wait for the faux party scenes at Plumm or Goldbar or Chloe 81. God I love this show. SAVE me. Actually, don’t.

Ahhh//Amaranth

cravings-7
Hi. Je suis Amaranth
Due to a certain Mr. A and his local neighborhood haunts where he pleasantly gets greeted by name, I’ve been to Amaranth quite a few times in the past few months and it’s quickly come to be on my lurve list. 

Located a dangerous block away from Barney’s on 62nd b/t 5th and Madison, Amaranth is a warm, sexy and elegant European deeelight. One of the first notable pluses is that the service is warm, and attentive; not one moment after we sat down did the maitre d’ bring over 2 Bellini’s, who doesn’t love ’em? The French-rendevous-avec-les-Italians menu has something for everyone, including their famed Focaccia Robiola – robiola, tomato and arugula sandwiched between two pieces of focaccia and baked. It totally saved my life. I was starved for cheesy, crispy love. 

Each time I sit down at Amaranth, I insist on ordering the mussels steamed in white wine. The mussels, fresh. The broth,briny, buttery and worth dipping your frites into. My favorite thing to do it let a few toasted slices of french bread sit in the broth to soak up all of its sea brine, white wine, butter and parsley love. It’s a  simple and well-prepared comfort dish and I don’t think twice about ordering it every time. 

The fries are another notable. There is nothing “special” about the fries but that’s the point. There is something familiar about the crispy and slim exterior and the fried, starchy taste and I’m not complaining one bit…

Mr. A always orders a fish and fries combo and never have they ceased to disappoint. Though there are certainly a good number of dishes on the menu that I have not tried, the few that I have were simple European dishes executed with care and fine ingredients (hugs self). 

Cut to the alcohol: The wines are moderately priced at 8-12 a glass. I tried the Oregon Pinot Noir prior to the solid glass of cabernet. Neither was outstanding but both were very drinkable. Annnd. Scene.

What makes Amaranth so special is that hard to find combination of location, atmosphere, yummy bites, attention to detail and really pretty people wearing fur. Seriously. 

Stay sexy. 

Amaranth//21 East 62nd//(212) 980-6700

Hump Day Reviews: hmph. snooze.

Another Wednesday brings us another round of terribly snooze inducing reviews. Can someone inject some speed into the veins of these guys so we can get something interesting going on? I’ll pay you.

meh

– Frank Bruni finds West Village hot spot Bobo predictable and assuming. Calls the gnocchi “arrestingly bland in taste”. Must use that line more frequently. [NYT]

– Sietsema heads over a bridge to Fort Greene’s new No. 7 and finds nothing spesh about Perry Street alum Tyler Kord’s small, well composed-but-lacking-in-execution menu. I have to agree. I’ve had a few things off the menu and found none to be memorable. Ah well. [VV]

– Alan Richman dines at the much hyped Double Crown and finds it…much hyped. [GQ]

– Ryan Sutton praises Drew Nieporent/Paul Liebrandt collabo: Corton. Makes note that if Thomas Keller, Danney Meyer, Wylie Dufresne and Tim Zagat…there must be a reason. To do: Corton.

Dining and Imbibing with: Pet and Snoel, Part Deux

 

Ssam Bar Menu
Hit me baby one more time

Into a cab we went and headed from the West Village to the East and were ushered into Ssam Bar and to a table for 3 rather swiftly. I do believe it was a small miracle (read: recessionista) that we were able to avoid any wait at all. As we sat down, I noticed the and instantly fell in love with the cube seats. People. It was a hollow cube so you can put your bag/coat/shopping bag filled with thrifted items under your seat. Genius. Why can’t more restaurants think about the fact that we do not want to just throw our items on the floor by our feet? Do you hear me? THINK about this the next time you choose the decor of your restaurant. 

I digress.

As Pet, Noel and I perused the many interesting and weird menu items, I felt preggers with excitement, anticipation, glory, anger, resentment, love and passion. Ssam Bar had me at hello with all these ridiculous and strange menu items. I wanted one of everything. No, I wanted two of everything. I had to be held back so we agreed on: Pork Buns, Long Island Razor Clams, Sichuan Beef Tendon and the Crispy Pig’s Head Torchon. 

 

Marry me.
Marry me.

The pork buns (seen above) were hands down the best I have ever had. The pork was perfectly fatty and salty, the bun was airy and chewy (nod to my favorite Asian spesh – rice flour) and the cucumber lent that wonderful and refreshing crunch. 

Next came the Beef Tendon and Razor Clams. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tendon, it was chewy and interesting but did nothing for my palette. The saving grace of this dish was the mango and peanuts it was served with as the tendon wasn’t flavorful at all. The Razor Clams with nigori broth, pickled ramps and grapes was, in contrast, extremely flavorful and delicate. The clams were very well prepared and fresh – no shock there. The gem of this dish was the broth. As any culinary vanguard knows, broth or stock is a key component and base to thousands of dishes. The viscose, gelatinous, salty, bread-dipping-worthy broth was stunning. Noel and I couldn’t get our fat spoons out of the bowl fast enough. If I didn’t have company and wasn’t in public I would have drawn the lip of that bowl to my mouth with no shame. Hear that? NO SHAME. Yes, it was THAT good. Now, there were also frozen grapes in this dish which should have just not existed. It didn’t add anything, it brought nothing to the table. Minus one point. 

And now, to the piece de la resistance….the Crispy Pig’s Head Torchon…

 

Fabulousity
Fabulousity

The photo is a bit dark and could have been shot in more detail but doesn’t it go to show just how good this dish was, that I more or less neglected the photography until the last minute? Yes, babies. It does. The torchon (which means “dishtowel” in French, traditionally a Torchon is something that is wrapped in a towel then poached) was very rich and decadent. The outer layer was crispy while the meat inside was buttery, tender, moist and fatty which is characteristic of the flavorful meat of a pigs head (any chef’s favorite part). There were beautiful leaves of Bibb lettuce which cut the fattiness of the torchon beautifully. There was also a mustard sauce served next to the torchon but I don’t think the dish necessarily needed it as the torchon medallions could stand on their own. 

Finally, we were given two desserts courtesy of Ssam Bar! The pear sorbet with pumpkin ganche and gorgonzola dolce was absolutly horrid. At no time should gorgonzola be used for a dessert. It’s simply too over powering and neither of us could taste any other element of the dish. It stood uneaten. The second dessert, however, was sheer genius: pb & j with pb cookie, heritage station concord grapes and saltine panna cotta. Whoa der. Whoa. First of all, who doesn’t love me a good pb&j? If you don’t, you should be committed. The pb cookie was flaky and crunchy, kind of like a nutter butter cookie but with more sophistication. This paired with the concord grape “jelly” and saltine panna cotta was like eating a deconstructed sandwich that is in keeping with the “kids dessert for grown-ups” trend in the pastry sector of gastronomy. Plus one point.

All in all, Ssam Bar is an affordable luxury in the doom and gloom days of present-tyme USA. You can eat well and have a few micro brewed beers while being adventurous. There are hardly any restaurants that can achieve this holy trifecta and I am purging with excitement at the thought of going back very soon.

XO!