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Robyn’s Super Belated and Super Delicious Birthday Dinner!

November 18, 2007

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Robyn’s birthday dinner at Momomfuku Ssam acutally took place way back in mid-October, but sigh, you know how time fliiiieeees. One week turns into another, and before you know it, you’re ten pounds heavier, and it’s mid-November! Going back in time, Robyn invited a lucky bunch of us out for some major bo ssam action on Saturday evening. Some people like to spend Saturday evenings getting drunk and dancing. We like to EAT. EAT PORK.

photo by Robyn

Here are the eaters…post eating. From left to right: John, Robyn, myself, Tina, Charlie, Amy, Carol, Patricia, Alex, and Bert. Don’t we all just look so happy and deliciously full? ;)

About two hours before this photo was taken, we were all snuggled away inside the restaurant, hungry appetites made even hungrier by the sight of all the food around us. Momofuku was already packed by 6pm that evening, and the crowds would only begin to grow throughout the night. A good number of diners took to standing around the ‘communal’ tables in the back, sharing dining and standing space with strangers. People are really desperate to eat here!

We decided to order a wide assortment of small dishes to share in addition to the bo ssam (thank you Robyn! :) First up was the Santa Barabara uni with whipped tofu, tapioca, and scallions. Oh god, this was very, very good. A base of airy whipped tofu, hidden balls of tapioca pearls, uni (I LOVE UNI) to bring in the briny-ness of the sea and creamy rich mouthfeel. Each component collapsed together so perfectly, both in terms of texture and flavour. To top it all of, furikake! Ahhh. Just seeing the furikake instantly reminded me of home and spam musubis!

I$8 for bread and butter alone was severely overpriced, given that the bread was good, but far from amaaazing. Butter I like. But then again, I’m a sucker for good butter. No wonder I’m so fat! bwahahaha. Fancy butter you know? Two varieties: sea salt butter from Vermont and from England, St. Helen’s Farm goat butter. I wasn’t sure how the refill on bread business worked. I was told afterwards that we could get more bread at no charge…but out waiter never offered it to us! Gah. Oh well. Less calories invested on bread means more allocated to PORK!

The Satur Farms Fried Cauliflower was insane! Holy cow, I’ve never had cauliflower in such a form of deliciousness! I’m used to stir-fried and roasted cauliflower…but this was in another league of its’ own. The cauliflower itself was thoughtfully cut into appropriate bite size pieces (unlike the huge chunks you typically find in dishes), fried to a crispy golden, laced with a childhood memory inducing nuoc nam, mint, garlic, chili and a sprinkle of what Robyn appropriately calls, “something like rice krispes.” It’s true! I dunno what else to relate it too…like the rainbow puff rice cereal we get back home in Hawaii…only not sweet, and not rainbow. Just extra airy and crunchy! :)

Oooh, the Tello’s Chawan Mushi made me sooo happy! I love, love, love fish roe of any sort, this particular one was smoked trout roe, intensely bacon-y in flavor. Chawan mushi was a silky smooth gem, I could imagine recreating a ghetto version of this at home, steaming my own chawan mushi and then topping it off with ikura. A surprising touch was a dabble of maple syrup…not sure if I took to that as well, the chawan mushi and trout roe alone was so good, why put an unnecessary twist?

But my favourite of all the small dishes were the grilled sweetbreads. Um. AMAZING!! I love sweetbread almost as much as I love bread pudding (which is A LOT OF LOVE). And when the exterior is lovingly grilled with a subtle smoky char, and the innards just melt like fat, meaty butter. Like AMAZINGNESS. They go down quite nicely. Then again, fat always goes down quite nicely!

I didn’t get a good taste of the roasted mushroom salad, cause the portion was so tiny, and well, I ate more than my share of sweetbreads, hehe ;) Nonetheless, I can at least tell you whaat it was! A base of pistahchio puree topped with roasted mushrooms, radishes, and crosnes. What are crosnes? Robyn likens their physical appearance to maggots, Tina to insect larvae…I think they look like cheap pearls, but that’s just me.

After polishing off the small plates, our waiter came by to clean the table, and make room for the BO SSAM. A bowl packed with bibb lettuce, four sauces: kochujang, scallion & ginger puree, kimchee puree, and just a good ol’ bowl of kimchee (hard to go wrong there!). The lettuce. WAS SO GOOD. I enjoy my veggies as much as the next guy, but this lettuce. Man. I just wanted to shove it in my face, plain, it was so simple, so clean, so fresh, SO GOOD. Of the four sauces, I was most friendly with the scallion & ginger puree, just cause it was ‘different’ from the other sauces I’m used to eating. They also gave small dishes of maldon sea salt and bowls of rice to go around. Mmmm RICE!

And oysters! Oh I love my oysters, the oceany brinyness, slippery, cold, the smooth chilly texture going down your throat. Yessssum. But I never though to pair oysters, pork, rice and lettuce together! Did you? Well you should have, cause it’s crazy. Here’s how it works: bibb lettuce + rice + sauce of choice + oyster + pork, pork pork (preferably WITH skin!) = dinner!

Oh My Goodness, look at the Bo Ssam!!!!! Meatiness!! Porky!! Glory! The best part is the crisp, charred, fatty skin. IT BEG TO BE EATEN. It was just asking for it. Skin is my favourite part of any animal. And the liver. Yeah. I like skin and liver. Don’t get me wrong, I like the meaty part too! Oh hell, I like the whole animal, down to the hoofs. We tore through the pork at an alarming speed, there was really no doubt that it would get finished…CAUSE, who’d be silly enough to leave pork. Sitting alone. Uneaten.

Post-porking, Robyn whipped out mini pyramids of hazelnut chocolates from her recently trip to Italy. Dangerously delicious! I ate three before telling myself, it’d be good to show some restraint in life…

…and also cause we had dessert in mind! Remember: NO MEAL IS COMPLETE WITHOUT SOMETHING SWEET! We walked over to L’Arte Del Gelato in the West Village, the most awesomest gelateria in the city as far as I’m concerned (though Otto is a close second!)

After much indecision, I opted for a mint and strawberry combo. They always give a little bonus tasting of a third flavour, which happened to be yogurt that evening. Funny thing is, I always end up liking the ‘bonus’ flavour more than the ones I’ve chosen. Why? Maybe it’s a psychological thing. Like. YOU ONLY GET ONE BITE OF THIS FLAVOR. So you milk its’ essence for all it’s worth. I dunno. There are a lot of things I don’t know. But I did enjoy the strawberry, a bit more mellow and less intensely flavoured than I expected, it paired well with the mint, soooo clean and refreshing! Maybe one day I’ll get an extra large cup with a bazillion flavours and call it dinner! :)

Super thanks to Robyn for organizing the dinner and treating us to the bo ssam! =)

Click here for Robyn’s dinner post…
…and here for Tina’s!
Haha, you can read THREE posts on the same dinner!

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003

L’Arte del Gelato
75 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10011



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