Momofuku does very little wrong and I’ve been a fan of their food for years yet had never been to Ssam Bar. Normally when Matt and Jen visit, they like to hit up new places, but when they realized I had never been here, they decided repeating was permitted.
There were six of us, so we ordered a large chunk of the menu. We started with the pork buns, of course. I’ve had these at their other restaurants so I knew they’d be good. They were, but no surprises there.
Next up for apps, we got a sampler of cured hams and let me just say that any restaurant that has an entire section of the menu devoted to “country ham” is good in my book. We also started with an order of the fried head-on shrimp in spicy chili salt. I’ve never eaten anything like this before – they’re small and crispy and you eat the whole thing, head, shell, and all. If you can get past that part (I could) it was a great snack. Can we make head-on crunchy shrimp the new potato chips?
We ordered brussels sprouts, which is the only thing I didn’t take a pic of because it was the only thing that wasn’t really memorable. They’re good but not much different from what you see on many a menu nowadays. It seemed everyone preferred the rice cakes with spicy sausage. It definitely packed some heat and I enjoyed it, but it was the Maine uni & scallop over rice with trout roe, and sesame furikake that I found most memorable of the small plates. Honestly, if I could have a slightly larger bowl of this all to myself for my meal I’d be very happy, indeed.
Everything here is very sharable, including the mains, of which we ordered the pork chop (with mutsu apple, perilla seed, and doenjang) and the whole roasted fish (served as tacos or lettuce wraps with ginger-scallion, bean sprouts, and herbs). Both of these large items were really really good and very filling. The pork was very tender and the fish was seasoned beautifully.
It’s been on the block for quite some time now, but Ssam bar seems to still know how to turn it out. There’s enough on the menu to satisfy the adventurous eaters (get after those shrimp heads!), but also enough that the simpler eaters won’t be terrified (who doesn’t enjoy a hanger steak or DIY fish taco?).