Decided on trying something different tonight with hopes of getting out of my immediate neighborhood but walkable and limited to a "cheaper" budget. Ssam seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
So two stops on the 6 train and a few blocks of walking later, I see my dining destination.
My first impression was that this was designed or modelled after Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. And if that's true...it was a good idea. Both are or will be gold mines.
Simple but pleasant, differing "wood" strips layed horizontally cover the walls. Faux or composite stone tiles finish the floor and a not-really mahogany bar stretches nearly the entire length of the space with recessed lighting above. There are also a few tables and chairs.
Much like Rickshaw, a metal vat provides water for guests and can be found on the service table with utensils, plastic cups, napkins and dedicated holes for garbage and recycleables.
Like Rickshaw, you order in the back from a very limited but entirely satisfying menu for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. And like Chipotle and Rickshaw, the "cooks" assemble your meal right in front of you.
I ordered the first thing on the menu:
Flour pancake, rice, onions, hoisin with berkshire pork. This also came with bacon black beans, kewpie slaw and red kimichi puree. I also ordered one steamed bun with Berkshire Pork and one with organic chicken (pickled cucumbers, onions, hoisin) but backed off when I saw the size of the ssam.
It was fantastic. All of the ingredients worked well together - the standout being the pork. Wow. Not only was the pork remarkably flavorful but the texture was great. Some parts smooth and shredded, some parts crispy. Fantastic. The essence of Berkshire pork was really defined. I was skeptical, but was surprised at how well it came through. Reminded me, albeit slightly, to the berkshire pork they raise and serve at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
The other part was the kimchi. This was sweet, as opposed to spicy, which I think will allow a greater following - you can add extra Srirachas (chili) hot sauce at your discretion.
Lastly, the flour pancake was the perfect texture, taste and had just the right amount of "give" when biting into it.
Overall, this is a fantastic sandwich and one I look forward to having many more times. If I can ever get past it on the menu, I'm sure I'll try everything else except for the vegetarian options, which simply don't look appetizing to me. This dish, with a Dr. Pepper (which went very well with the dish) came to $11 and change.
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