Sunday evening, I finally made it to Momofuku Ssäm Bar in the East Village. I’d been inspired by two of my favorite bloggers. Winnie, a great food writer and friend, is an expert on all things pork in NYC and she has often remarked that Momofuku is one of her favorite places (I love the motto of her blog, ad astra per alia porci). The other is Lyle Fass, whom I really only know through the blogosphere and a few emails we’ve traded but whose wine knowledge I really admire and whose sometimes stinging straightforwardness and genuine humor I greatly appreciate.
I’d learned that Momofuku allows corkage (thanks to Lyle’s blog), and so Winnie and I made a plan to meet there, me with a bottle of 2003 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo by Edoardo Valentini in hand.
Above: spicy squid salad and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo… the wine held up well with the spiciness and intense flavors of the dishes we ordered.
Menu as follows (I asked Winnie to order):
steamed buns stuffed with pork belly
these were great, the buns warm and puffy, the hot pork fat melt-in-your-mouth gelatinous…
spicy squid salad
this was also very good, and, if I recall correctly, there was also some tasty baby octopus in this dish…
Mutsu and Macoun apple kimchi with crispy pork jowl and arugula
here we began to veer slightly into NYC too-precious foodland… the dish wasn’t exactly unforgettable and Winnie explained “kimchi” was a little bit of a misnomer since the apples weren’t really fermented…
from what I could glean, this is the classic Vietnamese sandwich and it was fantastic… highly recommended… it was billed as a “three terrine sandwich”… I’m not sure of all the ingredients but this is rightly one of the joint’s signature dishes…
underwhelming, flavorless, and hard to eat with chopsticks!
spicy honeycomb tripe with poached egg and frisée
I loved this dish and its harmony of flavors and textures — caramelized tripe, poached egg, and the crisp bitter frisée lettuce — came together gloriously…
Above: seems that tattoos are not required but encouraged for staff at Momofuku.
Our servers were polite and attentive and all sported impressive tattoos and piercings. The decor is modern downtown chic and the atmosphere is New York hip.
I’ve read on Lyle’s blog that he has opened old Nebbiolo there (even some 1950s Oddero). I’m not sure that I would go that route at Momofuku since the cuisine is so spicy and the stemware is cheap (the glasses arrived at our table warm, right out of the dishwasher).
If you’ve ever had Valentini’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, you know that this is no ordinary white wine. Its rich mouthfeel, its subtle tannin (yes, in a white wine), and its intense aroma and flavors sang out over the medley of ingredients that tap-danced their way to our table. Winnie said it was probably the best white wine she’d ever tasted and I believed her… it’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever had.
When we stepped out on to Second Ave., we were both surprised by how cold it is already (or suddenly) in NYC. Fall has finally arrived. Me? I’m California dreaming right now.
I’d be safe and warm
if I were in L.A.
— The Mamas and the Papas
sento solo freddo
sento tanto freddo
fuori e dentro me
fuori e dentro me
ti sogno California
e un giorno io verrò