Wednesday, February 18, 2009

momofuku ssam and db bistro moderne, jan 10

so, it's been like six weeks since we got back from new york, and i started wondering why i never blogged about db bistro moderne and momofuku ssam bar. we went to db for lunch, then ssam for dinner the same day.

then, on the same day, two people asked me if i was ever going to post on it. then a couple days later,
pam said she went to look it up and couldn't believe i hadn't yet.

anyway, i figured out why i hadn't: because i had not watched the "food porn" episode of no reservations yet.

in this episode, anthony bourdain goes through some of his more prurient gastronomic endeavours. one of them: momofuku ssam bar. while most things on the episode got somewhere between a passing to 2-3 minute mention, they spent a whole segment at ssam bar. tony sat with chef david chang while they basically brought out the menu, dish after dish. and the weird thing was, i recognized almost everything.

first up: cured hamachi with edamame, horseradish, pea leaves. pam and i went with old-time boca news pal wayne lockwood, who is ranked among the coolest people i know for going on two decades ("send me kelly!"). it was cold that night, and this was wayne's call. i didn't argue, because i want to try everything, but raw fish didn't seem like a great idea on a cold night. it was. very tasty fish, and the edamame puree and horseradish were combined to be very wasabi-like. excellent work, wayne. (this was the first dish on no reservations.)

i think i picked everything else, which pretty much goes to the kind of authoritarian dining partner i can be sometimes. iron-fisted. but benevolent.

next we had the seasonal pickle plate. i don't remember what was on there, but i recall kimchi, possibly more than one kind, and mushrooms and, i'm going to say some daikon. but i don't really recall. we split them, and they were all good. (this dish was not shown on no reservations)

next we had the honeycrisp apple kimchi with burger's smoked jowl, maple labne (a soft cheese) and arugula. crisp, spicy apples. yes. (included on no rez).

next was the pork buns. you can't go to a chang place and NOT get the pork buns. dude made best new chefs list and won a james beard award based almost solely on the pork bun. we had them at noodle bar last year, but we had to have them again. and there was a problem: three of us, two pork buns per order. only rational solution: two orders of pork buns. potentially disastrous situation averted. the pork is decadently slow roasted belly (think: unsmoked bacon) on a pillow-y pancake, with cucumber and hoisin sauce. these were a little fattier than the ones i recall at noodle bar. but this was a night after buttering my bread at del posto with pork fat, so i wasn't in a position to get all high and mighty. (they had these on no rez, as well. because you HAVE to.)

we got the grilled long island monkfish, which, considering the fact that it was by far the most expensive thing we got, i wish i remembered better. we liked everything, so there was nothing wrong with it. the menu says it came with cabbage, kimchi and pistachio. i seem to remember something about the pistachio, like, i forgot they were there and they somehow blew me away. but i forget why. i should've written this a month ago. (tony no help on this one. he didn't have it. at least not on camera.)

our last dish was called spicy pork sausage & rice cakes with chinese broccoli, crispy shallots. this was probably the hit of the night. the shallots were crazy. at first, i thought they were bacon. then i realized they were a vegetable. it is a fine, fine vegetable that can not only make you forget it is a vegetable, but also make you think that it is bacon. also, the rice cakes were amazing. i might have guessed they were marrow. the shape and texture, in a million years, did not say rice to me. they were like eating really dense marshmallows. soaked with really good sausage. everyone was kind of being polite, but all three of us wanted to finish the bowl pretty much from the start. (they had this on no rez, and seeing the shot of it is actually what got me off my butt -- well, technically, ON my butt -- to write this. yum).

i didn't have wine with dinner. they had abita root beer on the menu. i heard about abita root beer YEARS ago and have been looking for it ever since. it is made by a brewery in louisiana and no one in florida gets it, even
places that carry abita beer. i couldn't even find it when we went to new orleans a couple years ago. i was starting to assume it was urban legend. but they had it. and if i ever see it again, i'll have it again. excellent root beer. very rich.

on the show, tony had the everest-like chocolate chip cake and cookies. the menu dessert options are pretty limited at ssam bar, but ssam bar is connected to momofuku milk bar, which is their bakery. so we paid the check and walked back to the bakery where dessert, like dinner, pretty much consisted of "one of each, unless we need two."

wayne and i each got a cup of soft serve. as cold as it was outside, the ice cream actually warmed us up. my opinion of ice cream was forever changed when we went to momofuku noodle bar and had the cracker jack ice cream. they didn't have that, but they had snickerdoodle. went with that. it was no cracker jack, but what is? it was good.

we each had a piece of pie. i had the "candy b
ar pie," which was pretty much a base of peanut butter pie with all kinds of crushed candy bars inside and pretzels on top. why i didn't think of this, i will never know. wayne had the "crack pie," which did not derive its name from a lack of structural integrity. no, i think the thinking is, it's addictive. it was kind of shoe-fly pie-ish. that brown sugar curd, like pecan pie without the pecans. pam, as best any of us can remember, had banana cream pie. but we're shaky on that. it has been six weeks.

they had cookies. a deal on six, and we figured, hey we're here for a couple more days? why not have some hulking cookies in the room? we got two blueberry cream cookies, two chocolate-chocolate cookies -- if those sound good, they were actually even better -- and two "compost" cookies. they were a chocolate batter cookie where they dump remnants of other cookies, apparently. chocolate, butterscotch, pretzels, potato chips and coffee grounds. shouldn't work. totally does. if you are going to new york, bring me back a half-dozen.

wow. i'm so glad i finally did this. i almost forgot what a great dinner that was. and the crazy thing is, i didn't like ssam NEARLY as much as i liked momofuku noodle bar. because, well, noodles. there weren't any at ssam bar. i like noodles. but it was still awesome.

earlier in the day, we had lunch at db bistro moderne. the reason we were going there was pretty simple: i wanted to have the famous $29 burger. but here's the thing: they don't have the $29 burger anymore. now it's the $32 burger. and in an effort to facilitate raising the price in the future, they renamed it the daniel burger, or something like that.

anyway, i wanted to have it because i want to make it. i have looked for the recipe, and daniel boulud doesn't share it. in his books, he tells long stories as to why he doesn't share it. but bottom line, he doesn't.

so here is what it is. there are three layers to the burger. in the middle is a piece of seared foie gras. seared on one side, i have it on good authority, not that i'm revealing any sources. that is encased in braised short ribs. then that is covered in ground sirloin and
seared. it is served on a parmesan brioche. there is a little frisee on it, and there is supposed to be a modicum of black truffle on the entry level burger, then you can upgrade the burger to include more truffle. this is not a cheap proposition to be sure. the $32 burger becomes $59 or $150 depending on how many truffles you want. i decided to go entry level. which meant getting enough truffle that they are mentioned on the menu. i didn't see any.

the burger was good. it didn't change my life. it will be fun to make, when i get to it. it came with fries. when a burger costs $32, its always nice that it is in a combo with fries. they were thin cut. i like that.

i started off with a lobster bisque. it was ok. its aroma was a little rough. that's a nice way to put it. i wasn't crazy about it. i didn't hate it.

pam had the orecchiette pasta with venison ragout, chestnuts and butternut squash. i liked the pasta a lot. very thick and chewy. i didn't ha
ve any of the chestnuts, but pam thought they were mushrooms at first.

i'll talk more about this when i do the story on making the burger.

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