Momofuku Ssam Bar

I’m still not sure I know what a ssäm is, but I assume it’s some Asian (possibly Korean) wrap type thing that involves meat, rice and some other stuff. That’s based mostly on my lunch here at David Chang’s casual East Village eatery. Where I had, not to my surprise, meat that I could wrap with a tasty ginger scallion rice in a chive pancake. In fact, I did this wonderful thing called the “total package platter” that got me one of these mysterious ssäms, two sides and that aforementioned chive pancake. It also came with some beautiful-looking lettuce, which I quickly jettisoned for that same pancake, which probably doubled my calories for the day.

The funny thing is, I started with an appetizer, which turned out to be the best thing I ate. I mean, who knew fried brussels sprouts in fish sauce with herbs and puffed rice would taste like heaven? Like something that I could eat once a week and want more. Always. It was salty and tangy and had a really bangin’ texture. It was straight awesome. For my sides I got a broccoli salad with ranch dressing, because why the hell not, and a potato salad (which is something I really hate in its picnic form) with mustard and herbs. Both were a great complement to the brisket I ordered, and the whole thing, with the soft rice, the crunch of broccoli, the insanely good pancake and the punch of the vinegar just made everything sing. Add to that a nice, bright Tiger Beer, which just gets out of the food’s way, and you have a pretty excellent lunch option. And a not very expensive one at that. Shit, I paid $11 for a pretty sucky sandwich the other day in midtown, so this is ultimately not a bad deal. Plus, the joint, especially at lunch, is super-mellow, but downtown cool. And the waitstaff is accommodating and equally chill. It’s overall a very enjoyable experience and a great place to hang with a friend to eat some flavorful and inventive food that you definitely won’t find at your typical Asian restaurant — or anywhere else for that matter.

207 2nd Ave (bet. 12th St & 13th St)