Momofuku Ssam Bar Duck Dinner

Going to Momofuku Ssam Bar is kind of like going to your high school reunion. Even though you know what to expect and will see all the same old familiar faces, you still have expectations, want to look good and  go with friends.
And, chances are, you will get smashed and spend the whole night laughing and gossiping.
This time, I didn’t indulge in any libations, but my time was no less fantastic. Momofuku Ssam Bar is David Chang’s first restaurant in an empire that now spans nearly all of Manhattan. Though it has recently undergone somewhat of a rebirth, it is as delicious as ever, and as perfect for a night out with the girls or a first date. The long, high table in the middle provides most of the seating, though there are some tables in the dining room. Be warned that none of the bench seats have backs. Dark, with music blaring and hipsters serving, the atmosphere is somehow cool and not at all obnoxious like it would be elsewhere.
Steamed Pork Buns
The classic. Though they are no longer my favorite pork buns in town, they are nonetheless delicious. Soft, slightly sweet rice buns surrounding crisp cucumber, smoky gochujang and a thick slab of tender, melting pork that is slick with juice and enlivened by a dab of Sriracha. This is so decadent and rich that even half of one satisfied me.
Okay, I lied….I had a whole one.
These are the pork buns of the future. Deep fried pork, impossibly crisp on the outside, and almost creamy on the inside. It tasted like pork confit because it was so totally porky and decadent. Served with juicy tomatoes, tangy pickled radishes and a smoked mayonnaise, it was an innovative take on my favorite sandwich of all times. The smoked mayonnaise was the shocking star here – it made the pork sweeter,the tomatoes meatier and really contrasted well with the bright zing of Sriracha. This is a must for anyone who likes BLTs. It actually surpassed the pork buns as my favorite appetizer of the night.
Duck Dinner
This is why we came. Though Momofuku Ssam Bar has a strict no reservation policy, you sidestep that rule by pre-ordering one of their large format fests – fried chicken, a whole bo ssam, or  – the choice my girlfriends and I made – a whole roast duck, stuffed with pork sausage, served with confit duck on the side, herbs, garlic rice, and chive pancakes

Oh, and gochujang, hoisin and scallion-soy sauce. And  fried shallots and salt. And Bibb lettuce.

And Crispy Duck-Fat Potatoes, served with a smoky-spicy chile sauce that some thought was incendiary but I found more pleasantly warming.

And Braised Swiss Chard, soft but not mushy, in a pungent, salty fish sauce dressing enlivened by crisply fired shallots and a bracing amount of garlic.

It was a lot of food. We ate all of it, save for 4 slices of duck and a few grains of rice. That is how delicious it was. We ate a whole duck.
This is the best duck in NYC – it just is. Moist and juicy, with a mild, non-gamy flavor that is as satisfying as beef but as light as pork loin. The skin was crispy and crackled pleasantly underneath my knife. In between the skin and meat was a pearly layer of fat, glistening and succulent. The skin was lacquered with salty and sweet spices that I could not discern, nor did I want to. I couldn’t taste the sausage, to be honest, but that might be because I was too busy stuffing my face with the confited duck – all texture and pure duck flavor. That crunchy fried skin, bubbling up in cracklings that burst with deep flavor in my mouth. That
moist meat, so delicate and juicy that I couldn’t bear to cover its taste with any of the delicious sauces. I tore at this beast with my hands. I dunked the meat into the sweet and smoky hoisin, the gently spicy gochujang, that incredible soy-scallions sauce. I wrapped slices in crisp lettuce leaves, covered them in fragrant cilantro and folded them into warm, paratha-like chive pancakes with garlicky, sticky rice. I ate until I almost felt sick, and then I ate some more.
And then I felt sick.

And it was worth it. This meal, inclusive of everything except the appetizers, was $140 and could have easily fed 5 people. That would be about $35 per person for some totally incredible food. The service was great, the food was delicious, and the fact that we got a table while other people were shivering outside in the cold, clamoring to sit down….well,  who doesn’t love some schadenfreude? I like Momofuku Ssam Bar on its own, but this duck meal is the best bang for your buck for sure.

If only they were going to serve that roast duck at my high school reunion.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. Looks awesome! I've have their beef dinner at Ma Peche. Also very worth it.


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