"ANTHONY BOURDAIN. IN THERE." Her eyes were aglow with the fiery passion that is, "I Am In Love with Anthony Bourdain."
"Yeah, David Chang's in there too, looks like they're taping some—"
"ANTHONY BOURDAIN! OH MY GOD." Her eyes went up one notch crazier to, "I Am Going to Kidnap Anthony Bourdain."
"ANTHONYYYyyyy Anthonyyyy Anthonyyyy..." She trailed off with some foaming at the mouth.
I mean, in her mind she was probably foaming at the mouth. In real life, she appeared to be mentally stable. But then again, don't we all? Don't we all?
LUNCH MENU, win
Although I consider Ssam Bar a splurge meal, their semi-new prix fixe menu of three courses for $28 is a great deal that'll leave you stuffed for half the price of dinner. Kåre and I each ordered from the prix fixe menu and got different items to maximizing our diversity. You'd be dumb not to. Since Olivia is a newly christened celiac (insert sad face), she just ordered ham and brussels sprouts and shared whatever non-gluten-tainted dishes we had ordered.
For my appetizer, I chose the charred squid salad. I never order squid unless I know it'll be awesome. And I knew. Yes. Soft, slightly chewy rings-o-squid dressed in some sweet-spicy-tart dressing with salady things that I can't remember because all I really cared about was the squid. Altogether, it was a great balance of squid and vegetable matter. To answer the grand question, "Would I eat a bucket of this?" the answer is, "Yes."
BUNS OF PORK
Kåre started with the pork buns, one of David Chang's most beloved dishes. While each bite is mostly a blast of porcine fat, every component is crucial to the magical "pork bun" experience—pillowy bun smeared with sweet hoisin sauce, juicy pork belly chunks glistening with 50% fat, crisp, paper-thin slices of cucumber, and a sprinkling of chopped scallions. You could add Sriracha for a kick of spiciness, but otherwise I can't imagine why you'd change anything. Kåre said this was his favorite dish of the meal.
Spicy rice cakes
Spicy rice cakes with pork sausage, crispy shallots, and other vegetable-like things, is one of my favorite dishes ever. Most glutinous rice cakes I've had are just chewy and soft all throughout, but these are also crispy on the outside. Kåre had never eaten these kinds of rice cakes before; he approved.
Each bite of crisp lamb belly oozed with fat, mixed with some lamb and lamb juice. It was like the deep-fried meat equivalent of biting into a sweet, ripe, juicy apple, if that makes any sense. Maybe not. Whether or not you know what I'm talking about, you must order this. And you must like it. Only failures dislike crunchy, breaded, deep-fried slabs-o-fat.
My favorite part of the Benton's smoky mountain country ham with red-eye gravy (coffee-flavored) and Sullivan Street Bakery bread is probably the bread, not because I dislike ham (not that I'd order it either) but because I really like chewy, crusty Sullivan Street Bakery bread. The ham is nice, considering that I'm not in love with the ham family. Soft and...porky...and...um...stuff. I'm not a ham connoisseur.
Behold my favorite form of brussels sprouts: fried. Satur farm's fried brussels sprouts with mint, scallions, and fish sauce vinaigrette isn't on the prix fixe menu, but you should order it anyway. Tiny wedges of crispy cruciferous layers await you.
PB & J
The desserts are interesting and are a nice way to end the meal, but I have yet to love any Ssam Bar sweet. What I mostly remember about the PB & J—panna cotta atop salty. crunchy peanut buttery thing with concord grape jelly—is the panna cotta. The salty panna cotta. I suppose the saltiness is less apparent when you eat it with everything else.
I'm a bigger fan of the cashew blondie pie, with white chocolate shavings, although like the last time I ate it, I still thought it was too sweet. It also tasted heavier than last time (Kåre and I couldn't finish it), maybe because I was eating it during lunch instead of dinner.
During the meal we periodically looked towards the front table to see what was going on in Bourdain-Chang world. At some point they brought out a huge-ass cake. There it is.
Olivia is happies
As Anthony walked by our table after taking photos with the rest of the Momofuku Ssam Bar crew, Olivia declared her love for him said she was a fan and shook his hand. Then she blushed and glowed with the power of a thousand rainbow unicorns who just smoked pot.
How often do I run into famous food celebrities in the city? Uh, like never. Kåre got pretty lucky for his first "real" meal in the city. Or maybe I got lucky by eating with Kåre. Hmm!
Deli of LIFE
Next door to Ssam Bar is Sambas Deli, THE DELI OF LIFE. OF LIFE. It's not a lofty claim; it's the truth. Olivia and Kåre basked in its unearthly, conveniently located powers.
We also stopped by Porto Rico so Kåre could buy his favorite thing in the world: COFFEE BEANS.
If you miss this sign, you're probably blind
STATEN ISLAND OR BUST?
And then Kåre and I went to Staten Island. Because when you put yourself in Robyn's hands, she takes care of you—by bringing you to the most suburban borough in New York City.
Of course, the real point of going to Staten Island was to ride the free ferry. While I thought it was my first time riding the ferry, as soon as I stepped into the ferry memories from my childhood came flooding back. "I have definitely been here before. ...This is weird." The snack area and the windows tipped me off. It's strange to discover what memories are wedged in the back of your mind, stuck between other useless memories.
Tourists like us
We made our way to the front of the ferry to stare at the other people at the front of the ferry.
And to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
And to take photos of the other person taking photos.
And to breathe in the non-city air.
When we got to Staten Island, we didn't immediately get back onto a returning ferry; we briefly roamed. You can't really roam for much longer than that. The brief roam, plus more, are coming up in the next entry.