Rotisserie Duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar
Today was our long awaited visit to Momofuku Ssam Bar – a return visit for me, and a chance to introduce the troops to one of my favourite restaurants in New York.
During one of our many pre-trip briefings, while discussing restaurants, iMac’s eagle eyes seized upon Momofuku’s rotisserie duck option. Required: 4-8 people and a booking. Well – I was able to confirm five people, I just needed the booking. Thus began my initiation into and negotiation of the Momofuku system – which many people know about. First you have to be registered with Momofuku, and then you have to stalk the website so that you can be first to grab your preferred time slot when it’s released. Thankfully, since we were booking for a very quiet Monday lunchtime, and I’m a great stalker, we had no problems securing our spot.
Now… even though we had the duck coming up – we had to have the famous, cult developing pork belly buns. They are one of the most awesome things on the planet. This was a non-negotiable. I quickly asked for other volunteers and there was only one abstainer. So four were ordered.
Momofuku Steamed Buns
As per my memories – these buns were gorgeous. Softest, softest white fluffy bun; two slices of melt-in-the-mouth pork belly; a generous slick of sweet hoisin; and some lightly pickled cucumber to foil all that richness. Amazing!! I have to say that the pork in these buns had a little more fat than I remember – but they were still luscious and delicious!! We all groaned in delight!
And then came the main course… Oh. My. Goodness…
Whole rotisserie duck
First the duck was presented to us prior to carving – it was a beautiful thing, burnished and bronzed it almost shimmered in the early afternoon light (or was that the effects of our wine??).
Then a whole myriad of things happened. Included with our duck was two sides – The first one was the broccoli salad (which we actually didn’t order – we had ordered the corn, but it never turned up). This salad was divine though – perfectly cooked broccoli florettes were tossed in a light, creamy vinaigrette flavoured with smoked bluefish and topped with crumbled crispy duck skin. That’s right people – crumbled crispy duck skin! Hello!!
Shanghai Bok Choy
Then we received our Shanghai bok choy which came with XO sauce, and gorgeously crispy fried shallots. It had a bit of a kick and was a lovely fresh foil to the richness of the duck dish.
And of course, our accompaniments turned up – butter lettuce, chilli sauce, hoisin sauce, shallot and ginger sauce, and some crispy fried shallots.
Your duck is served…
And then the duck arrived…. You could see the pork mince that had been stuffed under the skin, which was roasted through, and the pink flesh of the duck. There were also pieces of thigh meat which were sticky and meltingly tender. Underneath it all was steamed rice which soaked up all the beautiful juices. Chive pancakes and fresh herbs completed the ensemble.
We got stuck straight in – it was absolutely delicious. We first wrapped our duck in the pancakes, and when they were exhausted we moved to the butter lettuce and piled that high with duck and herbs and the beautiful sauces. It was amazing.
Gratuitous duck close up
Try as we might – we could not finish the meal. Maybe it was the steamed buns (but they were non-negotiable) – or maybe it was because the dish is designed to feed 4-8 people!! Anyway – it was a delicious orgy of duck. We loved it.
Then right at the end – once the shattered remains of our communal eating were removed from the table, we were presented with this beautiful, rich yet clean tasting duck broth. It was delicious! I loved it!! So good!
Some notes for new Momofuku initiates:
- I noticed on the menu you could order the duck as individual serves anyway, so you don’t need to have 4-8 people if you want to enjoy it as a smaller group. But you won’t be able to book.
- They also have a rotisserie of the day – I’m not sure what it was on the day we visited, but it could be another option which is no doubt as delicious as the duck.
- You will be charged the same amount regardless of how many people are dining – $140. It’s the wine and the steamed buns that will up your price. But other than that – it’s actually great value!
After our very indulgent session… we meandered along 13th Street until we got to Union Square. We needed to walk a bit to let our duck settle!! Union Square was alive with activity – even though it was 3pm in the afternoon!!
Chess aficionados ready and waiting to take you on. I love that some of these guys had huge ergonomic office chairs! Professionals!!
Organic farmers market
The amazing Flat Iron Building watching over Union Square
Our next destination was a rooftop bar just across the road from Union Square. Of course, we had to walk through Eataly which was amazing. It was such a pity we were choc-a-block full of duck because this place was special and is definitely on my list for when I return. Not only did it stock the most amazing amount of Italian produce – it had a deli hall where you could pick from all sorts of cured meats and cheeses to make yourself a little platter and you could stand at one of the counters and eat it up with some wine!!! Divine. Definitely coming back.
The rooftop bar was called Birreria – and I quickly spied what I wanted at another table. I didn’t know what it was but thankfully Pinot P is wonderfully versed in all things alcoholic and knew exactly what it was.
It was a really cool way to round out our afternoon of indulgence!! After we refreshed ourselves at this brilliant bar (correction… Birreria),… and some of us literally when iMac accidentally tipped her iced water all over the Lovely K, we then wandered off to our hotel for a little break before another Broadway show… stay tuned…