Dollar for dollar Momofuku Ssam may be the best restaurant Ive been to. Restaurants held in similar esteem around the world will run you up to $500 a head. We ate a flawless meal for $50 each. Liz and I went there with a group of 10 so that we could order the Bo ssam – a slow-cooked pork butt that needs to be reserved in advance and is only for parties of 6 or more. The restaurant only takes reservations for the bo ssam and for 6-10 people, and only at certain times of the day. But plan ahead and you will be rewarded with porcine riches the likes of which you will not find elsewhere. With 10 people the servers recommended ordering some other dishes to begin with. We obliged and got a variety of courses, as you’ll see below: cured hamachi, pig’s head, fried chicken, rice cakes, steamed buns, country ham (not pictured) and oysters (not pictured). Every bite was delicious with the standouts being the rice cakes and the steamed buns.
Hard to discern exactly how the head was prepared, but the flesh was a melange of unctuous pig-face parts deep fried to a crisp and served with refreshing citrus flavors which cut the fat just right.
For me, this is the winning dish at Ssam. I have been there three times now and have ordered it each time. I’ve always loved the texture of rice cakes – a spongier, chewier gnoccho – and these have a slight crisp around the edges that make them irresistible. The spicy pork, shallots, and broccoli, all hold their own and contribute meaningfully to the flavor. Perfect.
This was just egregious carnivorism. When fried chicken is on the menu at a nice restaurant, you know it’s got to be good.
I love how damn simple these things are. Not too many flavors and not much to them, but the combination is perfect, the pork and bun just melt.
Finally the bo ssam. The accompaniments were trotted out first:
Then came what we had been waiting for. At first glance we didn’t think it would be big enough, but soon enough we were struggling to force down this impressive piece of pork.
The bo ssam comes with several tongs and you just rip the meat off the bone. Rip is the wrong word, though, since a gentle tug will be plenty to get this tender pork on your plate. Then you put your pork in a piece of lettuce, top it with some of the sauce and rice, wrap it up and throw it down.
For dessert we headed next door to the milk bar for unnecessarily large pieces of delicious cake.
On a separate occasion I visited Momofuku Ssam for lunch. The $25 fixed price option of buns, spicy rice cakes, and thai iced tea parfait is an absolutely incredible deal for the quality. Highly recommended.