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.
Time Out NY has an article on why there aren’t more women gaining fame in the restaurant industry. This horrid article reads like a bad issue of US Weekly. Some speculate that it’s because the restaurant industry is like any other where there are less women at the top, other say that it’s because women are less aggressive about seeking publicity than men (hi, have you MET me?) Here’s an idea: Quit complaining about this sexism nonsense. It’s passe and cliche. The reason that not as many women get recognized is that there aren’t as many women who want to work in a kitchen and the industry is always focused on what’s next, what’s new and what’s hot and more often than not, it’s focused on the antics of kitchen princes like Paul Liebrandt and David Chang (ish). There are a number of talented female chefs out there like April Bloomfield, Anne Burrell and Anita Lo who are doing great things with the food they prepare minus the controversy and diva-behaviour displayed by many well known male chefs which leads me to wax poetic on the virtues of women and how mature we are.
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.
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.
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…
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.