Friday, lunchtime, and Momofuku's Noodle Bar (#2) was packed. So Chris and I walked another four freezing blocks - me wondering just when frostbite in fingers sets in - and sat ourselves at the bar at Ssam (#3), with an umlaut on the a. The waitress later said, when I asked, that "someone" had told her it meant bib lettuce. There are several meat-laced dishes under the Ssam heading on the menu. Lettuce accompanies them, for wrapping. My Vietnamese friend Mimi says that it, the word, sounds like ethnic light. Anyhoo - we ordered the pork buns, same as the ones at Momofuku. They were as delicious, though the pork was frighteningly blonde, anaemic, even. At the noodle bar it tends to have a caramelized crust. The number of calories they pack? Lie back and think of England.
Then we both ordered a plate of ham. Mine was the Kentucky ham that Vince and I found on Smith Street at Stinky Brooklyn on a brisk December morning. Prosciutto-like in its velvety-ness and smoothness, and more. Total rival for the real thing. It is its own real thing. It is delicious; similar to Otto and Inoteca's this-is-it presentations, with the added incentive of a hunk of Sullivan Street baguette, which is still my favourite, and a dish of clever black-eyed pea "gravy" mayonnaise. Distinct coffee taste. I appreciated the deferential nod to the south, to coffee being added to the pan gravy...the bare bonesness of the plate. And I liked picking the ham up with chopsticks to lay on my baguette. I had assumed that Ssam is David's take on Vietnam: the ham, the Bahn mi, the rice bowl, the lettuce leaves...Maybe someone can enlighten me. [Ed. 5 minutes later: Huh, always check the restaurant's website...]
Hm, hm, hmmmmmmmmmmm...
To drink - a Nigori (unfiltered) sake, carbonated for Chris, since they had run out of the plain, and the last glass of plain for me. The bubbly one is like sake-pop. Pleasant. The name has escaped me...ran screaming from the room. I'll probably find it somewhere soon, tonight, shivering under a chair.