The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three delicious meals sans photos because the camera stopped working or I just forgot: Momofuku Ssam Bar, Brio, Snack Taverna

Snack Taverna: This is the slightly fancier older sibling to Snack, a tiny Greek inspired place in Soho. It's not much bigger than Snack either. Our table ordered a two small plates to begin: Pikilia, a trio of melitzanosalata, taramosalata and tzatziki served with warm pita and dolmades, and the pan cried cod cakes.

I never pronounce it correctly, but wow, do I love taramosalata. There's a jarred version that's sold in stores in case you can't get to a Greek joint. I usually say, "taramotsola" or "taramasala" by accident. Whoops. I love the way the tiny beads of roe feel against your tongue. They are like some ancient, piscine version of pop rocks. Pita arrived cut in quarters and warm, as promised. We quickly polished off the first basket and asked for a refill. I could eat warm pita and dips all day long. The cod cakes were pretty good but didn't blow me away. I did especially liked the tangy dressing that accompanied the greens the two cakes sat atop.

For our mains, DMR had the pastitsio, which came in an individual crock making it look like a gigantic french onion soup. Nils ordered the roast pork tenderloin with orzo in a spicy avgolemono sauce. I had the enormous whole roasted branzino filet served with an equally large portion of roasted fingerling potatoes, mizuna and two roasted tomato halves. The potatoes were a little bland, but the tomatoes were bursting with sweetness and, I don't know how better to describe it, but intense tomato flavor. As I had filled up on bread, as usual, so I was not able to finish my fish. Actually, I put up a really weak showing, which was unfortunate because it was perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Momofuku Ssam Bar: Can I tell you how excited I was to eat here and take photos? This is the night my camera died. It refused to take a single photo. This is the story of my life. Anyway, this was a dinner with a bunch of work people, including super special guest star Emma C. all the way from the UK.

I think David Chang is awesome. He's kind of the first celebrity chef of Korean heritage, right? I guess there's Edward Lee who used to own Clay in Noho, before moving to Louisville to start Magnolia, but he's not nearly the household name that Chang is. I love his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, even though it's cramped and sometimes the a/c is on so high it cools down your soup way too quickly. I don't care. I love that he doesn't cook Korean cuisine but inputs lots of Korean personality and history into his food.

We ordered a whole mess of plates for everyone to share, with the exception of Molly, the lone vegetarian, who managed to find an heirloom tomato and tofu dish she could eat. The pickle plate was a rainbow of colors and tastes featuring shitake mushrooms, cucumbers, hot and spicy radish and cabbage kimchi, carrots, beets, tangy fennel, celery and even some pickled melon! Edward's Wigwam smoked ham from Virginia was served in paper thin slices, a la prosciutto, and along with a little dish of what our server called a red eye gravy. It was not your typical red eye gravy. In the dark light of Momofuku, it looked like a mustard, but it was actually mayo based. It sounds gross, but the combo of coffee, drippings and Kewpie created this savory butterscotch flavor which I became I addicted to. The ham came with two warm pieces of bread and we immediately asked for more and to that we were told we could order the bread and butter dish. Well, they told us. Their bread plate was basically a warmed baguette with two types of butter: sea salt from Vermont and St. Helen's Farms goat butter from England that definitely tasted like it came from a goat. I preferred the salty butter. A plate of cured hamachi featured nearly translucent pieces of one of my favorite fishies in the world. We were informed it was one of the house specialties and it did not disappoint. Toasted seawood, edamame and wasabi sauce rounded out the plate. There were also these round, pale yellow, circular mystery crunchy bits. I have no idea what they were, maybe from a furikake mixture? These too were pop rockish and I hope I wasn't being too rude as I picked them off the plate. To meet our vegetable quotient, we also got the roasted cauliflower, with came sprinkled with toasted puffed rice and bathed in a light fish sauce. I've become a recent convert to cauliflower. I had no idea it could taste this good.

Then came the mains, three porcine variations: spare ribs, steamed buns and saam. I'll start with the steamed buns, because this is the homerun dish at both Momofukus. A hunk of braised Berkshire pork belly with glistening fat that melts in your mouth is tucked into a white, slightly sweet bun. It gets dressed with a little hoisin and cucumber slices add a necessary crunch. It is a magical combination that sadly disappears in like two bites. Onto the pork ribs, a pile of meaty bones slathered in a subtly, spicy sauce that recalled the kochujang (red chili pepper paste) based concoction my mom would slather on her ribs, which she'd cook on an aluminum foil covered pan in the oven. Did I mention the ribs were sprinkled with toasted shallots, which is another one of my favorite things in the world? The ribs came with a small dish of pickled green tomatoes and a creamy potato salad.

The third dish was probably my least favorite, but still tasty. Eating this variation of ssam is like eating Vietnamese spring rolls, but instead of a spring roll, slabs of coarse ground pork sausage (kinda in the shape of SPAM, no less!) served as the centerpiece. You could pack your piece of bibb lettuce with pork, pickled carrots and radish and then dip into the fish sauce based dressing. To drink, a couple bottles of Hitachino Nest Ale for me, of course. Just like its sister space, Momofuku Ssam bar is loud and crowded. They cram in too many seats and you don't have any leg or elbow room. But it also serves some of the tastiest food ever.

Brio - We were served an enormous amount of cheese, including two plates of burrata, which I had never had before and now can't stop thinking about. There was also a plate of sopressata, prosciutto, and bresoala. For my main, I got the parpadelle with sausage, cherry tomatoes and cremini mushrooms. But since I had stuffed my face with burrata and Parmigiano-Reggiano, I barely made a dent. I managed to rally to try the assortment of desserts: ricotta cheesecake, panna cotta with balsamic, tiramisu and an addictive Napolean cake.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home