I know, I know. It was just last week that I reported on Momofuku Ssam Bar's lunch prix fixe and here I am writing about the place again. In my defense, the addition of a number of egg dishes on the weekend menu marks another advancement in a constantly evolving menu. Say what you will about the three stars Frank Bruni gave Ssam Bar recently—and it's an undeniably controversial decision—Chef Tien Ho and David Chang have not rested on their laurels as they continue to advance the art of what Bruni dubbed "incidental dining." Certainly the addition of the Milk Bar and bakery under Christina Tosi has redefined the way I look at breakfast, and also the pants size I wear.
There are a couple of egg dishes on the Milk Bar menu and both are quite addictive—a homemade English muffin slathered in black pepper butter with bacon and an egg that's poached and deep-fried, as well as an oversized rendition of the famed Momofuku pork bun with the same fried egg. Perhaps it was inevitable for the egg to find its way onto the menu at the adjacent Ssam bar, but, in typical Momofuku fashion, they add a creative spin.
Take for example the scrapple, a dish perfectly suited to a menu known for its use of offal and pork fat. Scrapple is supposedly one of the oldest dishes in the American culinary lexicon, dating back at least 200 years. I doubt that the Dutch colonists who settled in Pennsylvania and reportedly originated the recipe would recognize the version offered at Ssam Bar.
Born of austerity, the dish was a way to get as much out of the swine as possible. The version here seems to be born from decadence: served with an over-easy egg, or what a Dutch Pennsylvanian might refer to as a "dippy egg," violet mustard, mizuna and thick rashers of impossibly smoky and salty Benton's bacon. The synthesis of textures—gooey egg, crackling bacon, tender scrapple, and crunchy mizuna—is wonderful and the flavors are equally compelling. The scrapple has a hearty, earthy flavor evocative of the meat scraps from a pork roast. The egg adds a creaminess, while the bacon hits the salty notes.
Crispy Brandade of cod is creamy on the inside but sauteed to a golden hue on top and bottom. It's an interesting contrast in texture, not unlike fried fish. When pierced, the soft poached egg on top blankets the cod in a viscous coat of yolk. At this point the dish devolves into a bit of a mess and would be easier to eat with a spoon than the provided fork. I did not care for the sardine that came with the dish, it was a bit too fishy for such an early hour (I ate there before noon) and I did not think it added anything to the dish. Overall, this was my least favorite dish. Between the egg, cod, and leaks, there was too much going on. I really liked the Brandade but felt it was obfuscated somewhat by the supporting ingredients.
On the other hand, the buttermilk biscuit with scallion laced scrambled egg, ham hock terrine that comes doused in a sausage gravy is sensational. I don't think I've ever eaten a biscuit with such a crisp crust that gives way to such an ethereally buttery interior. The ham hock terrine looks like a patchwork of bacon and is just as crispy and salty. The creamy egg balances it out perfectly. The dish is a triumph, my only criticism it that it needs more of that luscious gravy.
The menu will undoubtedly continue to evolve and I am sure you will see new egg dishes popping up. Now that Momofuku has set it sights on morning fare, one can only imagine what will follow. I would love to see a roast beef hash made with the scraps of the incredible Four Story Hill Farms ribeye that graces the dinner menu, or Tosi's vision of French toast. Although the egg section appears only on weekends for now don't be surprised if you see one or two dishes on the weekday menu. OK I promise, I won't write about Momofuku again for a while, although that new $45 prix fixe dinner menu they have over at Noodle bar looks enticing...
Momofuku Ssam Bar
The "egg" section appears on the Momofuku Ssam Bar menu Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
The breakfast sandwiches are available at Milk Bar 7 days, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. but they do tend to sell out.
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