Lunch With Steven Shaw at Ippudo & Momofuku Milk Bar


On October 3rd, 2003, I shared my very first piece of food writing ever on a forum called eGullet. The post was called Charlie Trotter Superdud and it set off a storm of comments from hundreds of subscribers, some of whom were well known entities in the food world (Anthony Bourdain among them.)

After that happened, my friends told me I should start a food blog and that’s why this blog exists. So it’s quite clear that I owe something to eGullet and, more specifically, to its creator Steven Shaw. And yet we’d never met or had any contact until, years later, I met him at an offal tasting dinner at the Astor Center. Then we became Facebook friends. And, most recently, we met for lunch to talk about his new book, Asian Dining Rules.

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Perbacco, Scarpetta, & Dirt Candy

Somehow, in the past two weeks, I’ve eaten at three new and relevant New York restaurants. Instead of typing up three separate restaurant posts, I decided to make a video summarizing all three meals. The only thing I think I got wrong is the price of the spaghetti and tomato sauce at Scarpetta; it’s $24, not $26.

Related Links:



Interview with Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy

Grand Sichuan


Do you have a favorite restaurant where you go again and again and always order the same things? We do. That restaurant is Grand Sichuan on St. Mark’s and I can’t believe I’ve never written about it.

Our meal always begins with the dish you see above: pork soup dumplings. “Can’t we try something else?” I ask Craig each time we go but Craig is adament, especially about his soup dumplings. “Nu uh,” he says. “We’re getting soup dumplings.”

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Recent Meals at Adour & Prune


Brillat Savarin famously said, “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

As much as I’d like to believe that most people go through their lives believing this, my hunch is that most people don’t think it’s a character-defining moment when they sprinkle Splenda into their coffee. Instead, I think many people subscribe to a different notion. Their adage might go something like this: “Tell me WHERE you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

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Pylos (A Greek Odyssey in the East Village)

So you live in the East Village and you’re a punk rocker with a mohawk and a nose ring or let’s say you’re not, you’re Natalie Portman–not that she lives in the East Village, but let’s say she does–and you’ve never been to Greece but you suddenly find yourself craving a white sandy island surrounded by crystal blue water with olive trees and Greek gods throwing lightning at you. Where will you go? Look no further:


Welcome to Pylos: home of one of the most transportive restaurant experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I was in the East Village during the week last week, a bit hungry, and walking past Pylos I thought, “Why not?” and in I went. I wasn’t expecting to be tele-ported completely across the Atlantic, yet that’s precisely what happened.

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Dornenburg & Page, Part Two: In Which I Learn About Wine and Eat Terrific Food at Bar Carrera

After my embarrassment at having stood Andrew and Karen up on Sunday (and if you click here you can see they actually wrote a play about it! Funny!) I was sure to be early on Monday for our rescheduled rendezvous. The place, this time, was Bar Carrera in the East Village:


I pressed Karen to choose a place and this is what she came up with. When I poked my head in at 5:45 (we were meeting at six) I saw a peculiar couple sitting at the bar holding plastic bags. Since I’d never seen Andrew and Karen except for the back of their book and their website, I vacillated on whether or not to approach these people with plastic bags. I ultimately concluded that Andrew and Karen, being the gracious people that they are, would not have already sat and ordered food and wine before my arrival. And they would not be holding plastic bags.

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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.]


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


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:


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:


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:


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:


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.