Friday, October 16, 2009

momofuku: to blog or not to blog

i have been having an internal debate on whether or not to blog about my visit to two of david chang's momofuku places.....the ssam bar

and the milk bar while i was in new york.

the reason being that once i returned to the bay area, some of the local food press had their panties in a twist because of some shit talking that david chang made about sf......basically a reference to the subset of the sf restaurant/food scene that focuses on ingredients speaking for themselves. my instant reaction when i read about it in grub street posting was pretty instant reaction was basically "fuck you and the horse you road in on".

i feel a bit protective of the city in which i was born.

then i thought about how small minded that comment is (which may or may not have been taken out of context in the food press) as there are many components to the sf bay area food scene that are not just about "rustic" cooking or showcasing high quality produce and food without too much fiddling. while restaurants such as NoPA have made quite a name for themselves in the area for doing this sort of food....what about what humprhy slocombe is doing with ingredients? what humprhy slocombe is doing is pushing boundaries with complex tastes and is actually making it accessible. humphry slocombe is just one example. there is a huge amount of food diversity and styles in the bay area.

i was annoyed and thought that i would pass on writing about my experience at the ssam bar and the milk bar because of his comment. then a couple of days went by and folks such as linecook (of NoPA) tweeted about not wanting to be tupac'd because of an email he wrote about the whole thing and took this pic. i laughed really hard when i saw it. then i also thought about how the ssam bar and the milk bar encompass a lot more than david chang. for example, when i was at the ssam bar and the milk bar, i didn't see david chang, this is who i saw in the kitchen at the ssam bar....

and the food was absolutely lovely. i had the infamous pork belly buns, this beef tendon salad-like dish that reminded me so much of vietnamese food, and this duck dish that included chunks of foie gras, duck breast, and a slab of duck that reminded me of carnitas. it was all excellent. truly lovely. not to mention the attentive and friendly service i received....sitting at the bar no less. despite the crowds, the service didn't make one feel rushed and was not at all snobby....i was half-expecting there to be some major snobbishness given the ssam bar hip factor.

there were some touches that i really liked....for example, as there was a wait to be seated, i was able wait in the milk bar section and order a drink. i enjoyed this part as it allowed me to do some people watching and order drinks out of their "drink book" which was a moleskin journal with paper drink menus pasted in. when my "search for deliciousness" cocktail arrived, there was a single huge ice cube in it (the cocktail is the top image) and and it was very delicious. after having the dinner at the ssam bar, i went back to the milk bar to try some of their infamous desserts. again, not a hide nor hair of david chang at the milk bar kitchen area.....

but there were quite a few milk bar folks working the crowds and serving out the sweets quite diligently.

i particularly wanted to try the "crack pie" which is pecan pie without the pecans. this is the stuff that american childhood fantasies are made of.

i was able to taste someone's cereal milk soft serve, which was pretty tasty and spot-on in terms of execution. yet,
i also tried a sample of the salty cucumber soft serve....

which was interesting, but i didn't think it was anywhere in the ball park of what humprhy slocombe does....or bi-rite creamery in terms of melding sweet/savory flavors.

after i calmed down a bit, i decided to write about my experience because there is a lot more to the ssam bar and the milk bar than david chang. while his slew of restaurants may be his overall vision....there are his "lieutenants" (i.e., chef de cuisine, sous, etc. etc.) and the folks actually in the kitchen that are putting out great food......not to mention the attentive front of house staff.....that made my experience quite memorable and very enjoyable.

i think i'll just focus on them.

ssam bar and milk bar (right next door to each in separate rooms in the same place): 207 2nd ave. nyc 10003 | corner of 13th and 2nd;

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