Roll It Again, Ssäm

I don’t have my finger on the pulse of anything. really. A few posts down you’ll see my big expose on “Milk and Cereal” which, it turns out, has been on the web for years. This proves my theory that who you are in high school is essentially who you are when you grow up. I was funny but I wasn’t hip to trends or what was cool. I listened to “A Chorus Line” in my car and wore “No Fear” t-shirts. I’m the same way today minus the No Fear t-shirts. I’m not very cool but I have a talent to amuse. Luckily, I have friends who know when cool new restaurants are opening.

James Felder (of Snapshot Artifact) declared his intent to dine at Ssäm on Thursday, the day after it first opened. We met Kirk and Stella there at 12:30 Thursday afternoon and discovered that Ssäm, like a cool new nightclub, had no sign: [Note: these pictures are by James.]

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When you get close, though, you see a menu taped to a window. The menu tells you where you are:

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Ssäm is the highly anticipated new restaurant of David Chang, award-winning chef at Momofuku. I like Momofuku: I was there two nights earlier with my friend Mark of I Totally Hear That (his boyfriend Andrew is going to be on Cash Cab tomorrow!). We shared a pork bun, an octopus salad (with mini octopi that looked like the ones Meg expressed fear over on her site), and cold noodles. We both enjoyed it. We then had cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery and we definitely enjoyed those too.

Where was I? I’m losing my train of thought. Oh yes: Ssäm. (Note: Unlike some food writers who write about Ssäm, I make an effort to put the dots over the “a.” That puts me in the running for a James Beard Award.)

So we went into Ssäm and there was no line. It was empty but for four people eating at a table near the front. (Again, it was early and only the second day of it being open. If it’s anything like MomoFuku it’ll be packed on a regular basis before you know it.) James sat down at a table but Stella declared that this was a serve yourself place. And so it was. We approached the counter:

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If Chipolte met a man in Korea town, got pregnant and implanted the embryo in the East Village, out would come Ssäm. You make choices like you do at Chipolte only the choices you make are with exotic ingredients like “pork, “chicken” and “mushrooms.” Ok, those aren’t exotic ingredients. I chose the number (1) Flour Pancake, Rice, Onions, Hoisin with Berkshire Pork–bacon black beans, kewpie slaw, and red kimchi puree.

James neglected to take a picture of mine but he took a picture of his own, a (2) Bibb Lettuce, Rice Bowl, Onions, Ssäm Sauce and Pork:

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As you can see, it’s a nice mix of the exotic and the familiar. And everything tastes dynamite. Apparently the meat is cooked in ovens that cost $50,000 each (I read that somewhere.) So it’s incredibly tender and moist and flavorful. And not terribly expensive.

Here’s Stella with hers:

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Stella is a fussy eater but she enjoyed this. “I enjoy this,” she said. (Hers had mushrooms because she’s a meat-hating vegetarian.)

Kirk of The Daily Kirk (who is moving in two weeks! We will miss him) had a flour one with chicken:

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He enjoyed his too. We were all content with our food and at being at the forefront of the media blitz that is sure to happen unless it’s already happened and I missed the boat yet again. As I said, my finger is on the pulse of nothing: nothing except my appetite. And my finger says that Ssäm had my pulse racing so you should go there too and if you have no one to go with, take your pulse. Zing! Sigh. I haven’t changed from high school at all.

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