Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar!

Yvette gathered seven people together to tackle Ssam Bar's order-your-meal-weeks-in-advance porkfest, the Bo Ssam. For $200 (edged up from $180, like all David Chang's stuff seems to be doing recently), you get a huge slow-cooked Berskhire pork butt, lettuce, kimchee, and other accoutrements, and twelve Wellfleet oysters. We started off with a mixed pickle plate, of which I didn't get any good photos because we attacked it so fast.

David Chang's version uses butter lettuce to make the ssams with, instead of traditional red-leaf lettuce. Wooh characterized this as, somehow, an improvement on the Korean tradition, and I have to agree--this sort of lettuce is less spiny, cups perfectly in your hand, and tastes delicious.

The pork butt itself:

We brought seven people and still had an enormous chunk of meat left when we were done--I think it could've fed three more. I had a pork sandwich with ginger-scallion sauce for breakfast the next morning.

I loved the oyster/pork combination--it added a mushy texture and oceanic taste that complemented the sweet, fatty pork really well. Not everyone agreed with me, so I got to eat some extra oysters. The kimchee was not quite as spicy as I would like, but still delicious, especially with the ginger-scallion sauce added in.

Martini and Sy required that we also order some spicy pork sausage with rice cakes, and at first I was like, "We don't need that," but thank God we did--it was, arguably, better than the bo ssam. I love Korean rice cakes, and these were crispier/fried instead of just soft and steamed--very spicy sauce, spectacular sausage.

We nabbed "one of each" of the three desserts, because they all looked so good.

The cornflake-cereal-milk ice-cream pie with strawberries was, of course, delicious. The Thai iced tea panna cotta was fantastic, but really suffered if you ate a bite that included key lime cream--the lime taste simply overwhelmed the delicate Thai iced tea flavor. They need to stop serving it with lime, honestly. The best dessert of all, however, was the beet and lime ganache with goat's milk frozen yogurt, pistachio crumbles, and bits of chevre.

After dinner, we went next door to the Milk Bar to take home some extra desserts for later. Priya bought us some cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookies, and we also tried a new cookie: blueberries & cream. I ate it later that night, and it was outstanding--the same soft crispiness that a really good chocolate chip cookie has, but with the flavor of a blueberry muffin. No idea how they pulled it off.


last week of school is always a time of huge amounts of going out and spending money eating out (because we can't do it during the year at all).

to celebrate Tiffany's imminent wedding, we went to 'Inoteca, a wine bar on Ludlow/Rivington. We declined their offer of $30/person prix fixe and only one person got wine, so I think they were all like, "Bleh, teachers."

for $15, I got polpi--an octopus tentacle (over a small amount of salad made of charred celery, tomatoes, and leaves). It was delicious. I used to hate octopus, thinking it was "rubbery", until I realized that if you have rubbery octopus, it was COOKED WRONG. This had been braised and then grilled and was as tender as chicken and very flavorful.

The waiter gave us some bullshit about how it's braised with wine corks to keep it tender, which is a myth on par with the "silver spoon in champagne bottle to preserve the carbonation" myth. Too bad the cook's apparent skill was ascribed to a mystical cork.

Monday, June 22, 2009

new fruit from Chinatown

$1 for 3. I think they're called "rose apples".

Garlic scapes omelette & guanciale for dinner

quick dinner...omelette with garlic scapes and cheddar cheese, cooked in ghee...slabs of fried guanciale...rye toast.

I was trying to use up a bunch of stuff I had in my fridge, and the results were decidedly mixed. I had only a little piece of the guanciale slab left and wanted to get rid of it, so I thought it might be interesting to treat it like bacon. It was only OK--too salty, too fatty, too heavily flavored, not a good texture...

the scapes omelette was delicious, though; it was also an experiment, preliminary to an event Priya and I are planning in which we scramble eggs in ghee (as per Kenny Shopsin's advice). the butter didn't brown at all and the omelette had an outstanding texture.

the guanciale WAS good, however, when I tore a small piece off and ate it with egg & toast. nonetheless, no more breakfast guanciale for me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mesa Coyoacan

Priya sniffed out a new Mexican place in East Williamsburg that just opened--Mesa Coyoacan, located in the famous "fishtank" building on Graham (the former location of the defunct Pampa Grill). We belatedly celebrated her graduation (and return from Virginia) by trying it out one night.

The menu looked great--interesting, inexpensive, lots of stuff I wanted--but the restaurant itself was not as pleasant. It was loud, crowded, and hip--like Sea Thai or something. There was a 45-minute wait for a table for two!

The food, however, was excellent. We got some pretty good (but oddly under-onioned) guacamole and I ordered three lamb tacos for $9. They were simple and delicious, and the price was right. For a few dollars more, Priya got mole enchiladas (of course), and, while they weren't the best we've ever tasted, they were more than good.

It was too dim to take photographs, so no pictures. But we'll be back, assuming we can dodge the crowds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sui Ren

after many months of construction work, Sui Ren, the Japanese place underneath my apartment soft-opened for business yesterday (?). I popped in to try it out and get some first impressions.

The website seems unfinished, so it was a real crapshoot. I found that the place had completely changed from the dirty office where I signed a lease last year--it was beautifully appointed, with a nice-looking backyard garden, dark wooden fixtures, and a chalkboard-wall bathroom covered with "We'll be back!" and "Good luck!" graffiti (clearly the work of opening-night friends).

I'm not very well versed in Japanese food, but it appears to be an izakaya-style place (a drinking establishment that serves snacks) with fancy snacks and no liquor license (until next month, according to my server). There were hot and cold dishes, but most of the food took the form of skewers (so is this considered a yakitori place?). Most of the skewers were prices between $5-9 (with two skewers per order), although their was a foie-gras-accented unagi dish that was $11 (for three skewers) and a $4 skewer of grilled iceberg lettuce (sounds unappetizing).

the menu actually looked pretty great overall, and I immediately saw six or seven things I really wanted to order. I limited myself to two, though--a cold skewer and a grilled skewer. I snapped some quick pictures with my enV; it was really dark and of course they look horrible, so just consider them to be for reference purposes only.

First they brought out bachi maguro to udama (marinated bigeye tuna, boiled quail egg with a runny yolk, and korean seaweed). The tuna alone tasted excellent, and when consumed with the quail egg (which was cooked perfectly, the albumen not rubbery at all, and the yolk not even close to overcooked; I could almost swear it was sous-vided or something) and seaweed, it was pretty awesome. $8 for three skewers.

Second, an order of shishamo (grilled Japanese smelt, salt, and something that made it spicy). For $5, I received three whole smelt impaled on two skewers. Larger than sardines, the bones were a clear presence in the dish, imparting a crunchy texture that took me some getting used to. By the end of the third smelt, though, I decided I would probably order it again.
again, I apologize for the horrible-quality pictures.

so, the verdict? The food was indisputably very good. The service was pretty fast and friendly (little kink: they gave me change for my meal with a $5 bill, so I had to ask for $1s before I could leave a tip. that's the mark of a new waitress, right?). I'm still weighing the value...the bang for the buck. I spent $17 on a fairly light meal (no drinks). I can't justify making this a regular place, but it would be a nice place to splurge on with some friends, get a few drinks, five or six plates of skewers, etc...

well, they're right underneath me. hope they're not too loud!

Chicken tagine

Chicken tagine, a fusion of two Claudia Roden recipes, including whole roasted tomatoes, home-made preserved lemon, honey, Priya's shallot couscous, etc. Not difficult; very delicious. In the background: more of the corn and garlic scapes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

garlic scapes!

definitely not making the best use of these so far, but...

nontraditional "bucatini" (perciatelli) all'amatriciana (using scapes instead of garlic, and with parsley); sweet corn cut off the cob with chopped raw scapes; salad.

pretty simple meal, but just the kind I like. the scapes remained kind of crunchy and added a nice mild garlic taste to the perciatelli. I fished around for suggestions and I want to try to make garlic scapes soup, maybe a scapes omelette, etc...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Experiments with pork

Priya is away for a week :( and so I've been taking chances with stuff that just might suck. Last night I went to the midnight showing of Drag Me To Hell (didn't suck, but not quite her cup of tea, I think) and today I futzed around with super-thinly-sliced pork (which had a very large chance of cooking too dry).

I partially thawed some boneless pork chops and sliced them rreeallly thin on my mandoline (the partial frozenness made it much easier to slice them cleanly). I got 10 or 12 paper-thin slices out of 2 chops. Then, I brined them all for several hours (cider vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard powder, etc.). When I was ready to make dinner, I rinsed off the brine and divided the pork into two piles.

The first pile I marinated in a mixture of olive oil, honey, and coriander powder (using up some honey/oil mixture that we had accidentally made a couple of weeks ago). After an hour or two, I put them on a metal grill and stuck them under the broiler for a few minutes. I didn't quite nail it, and I think they came out a little too dry (but with a great sweet flavor).

I laid out the second pile on a tray and sprinkled both sides liberally with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice powder). Then I floured each piece, put it in an egg wash, coated it with panko, and dropped it in a pan of hot olive oil to fry. (Basically, I was using a method I usually use to fry chicken cutlets, but with different spices and using pork instead). They came out fantastic! Sweet and tangy (from the cider vinegar) and also spicy (from the powder), they were great on a soft roll as a sandwich (with corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, and cucumber-dill salad on the side).