On The Menu

NYC FOOD TRIP DAY 1 (Momofuku Ssam, Perilla, Chicken and Rice)


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After a long drive, that got really slow and scary due to weather once we hit Grenwich, CT, we arrived into a snow covered NYC. We drive straight to our first destination.

Momofuku Ssam.

Ssam is a sort of Korean burrito usually eaten at a street vendor. Knowing this, we looked on the menu...and couldn't find the ssam anywhere on there. We asked the waiter what we should order, thinking he would tell us where the ssam was, but instead he lists off 5-6 items that all sound amazing. Momofuku Ssam is very similar to Myers and Chang here in Boston: small and large plates that you can share with each other, a sort of Asian tapas. We were sitting at a very long bar, with many smaller tables behind us. Once we sat down, I immedieatly knew I would like this place. First the bar had hooks underneath, a big plus. Second, the bar stool was the best bar stool ever! It was solid wood with a sloped foot holder. If you've sat on as many bar stools as I have, you can tell why this is another huge plus. Very comfortable indeed. There is a daily prix fix lunch for $28 and your choices are the following:

kimchi apple salad OR seasonal pickles OR buns

grilled branzini OR spicy rice cakes OR turkey paillard

blonde pie OR pb & j

Abby ordered the steamed buns, the spicy rice cakes and the PB&J dessert. I ordered the cured hamachi and sichuan beef tendon. Of course we were sharing all of it.

The steamed buns came out first. The description says: pork belly, hoisin, cucumber, scallions. And boy was this fabulous! This was one of my favorite dishes the entire weekend, and that's saying something because we did not eat one bad item at all. The bun was the type of bun that one would get with peking duck. The pork belly was fatty and delicious, just melting in your mouth. The hoisin and cucumber was the right amount as to not overpower the dish. A great way to start this lunch.

Next up was the cured hamachi with edamame and horseradish. I'm not sure if I've had hamachi before, though I think I have. These pieces were so delicate, that they were slightly difficult to pick up with chopsticks. No matter. It was tasty with or without the horseradish sauce. I couldn't tell if wasabi was mixed in as well in the horseradish, but I would think so.

Sichuan beef tendon with green mango and peanuts were next. I was expecting this to be similar to the Vietnamese Goi Salad, and in some ways it was but not quite. At first, I don't think I liked this dish very much, but the more and more I ate, it really grew on me. Also, I was very surprised that Abby was eating beef tendon without any care. She said she tried not to think about what she was eating...the way she scarfed down the beef tendon, I would assumed it worked. The beef tendon was used as sort of a noodle like texture in this cold dish. The green mango and peanuts were the right compliment to the beef tendon. After we finished eating it, I noticed I wanted more...guess first impressions can change once you continue eating.

Our final dish was the spicy pork sausage & rice cakes with Chinese broccoli and crispy shallots. I totally was expecting crispy rice balls with sausage mixed in, but as you can tell by the photo above, it was nothing like that at all. What looked like a big mess, was in fact a spicy and scrumptious dish. We had to pull out some of the chilies so that we wouldn't accidently bite into them while eating. This was a dish that I would want after a night of drinking. It was hearty, warm and very, very good.

Our dessert was the PB&J. Now this was a great way to finish our lunch. It wasn't so large that we couldn't finish, but we could both share it with 2-3 bites each.

Momofuku Ssam is a definite must to try out if you are in NYC. The food is good and the atmosphere is cozy and unpretentious. This is the sort of place I wish was in Boston. I'd go every other week, easily. The only knock is the prices, which were maybe a dollar or two higher per dish than I would have liked, but it's worth it. There was another diner sitting next to us enjoying the Banh Mi sandwich. This was made with ham & chicken liver terrine. I have issues with spending $10 on a sandwich that should cost $2, but I'd be willing to give David Chang a chance on his rendition of the Vietnamese sandwich. Overall I give Momofuku Ssam a 4 out of 5.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon


You all know why we went to Perilla. Top Chef. Harold Dieterle was the winner of the first season, a season I really didn't watch. (I didn't get into Top Chef until the middle of season 2.) However, Abby loved Harold and said he was amazing. Watching various episodes on reruns and I have to agree that he definitely seemed to have some serious chops. Would we have found out about Perilla if we didn't know about the reality show winning chef? Probably not. It's located on Jones street off of West 4th Street and we probably would never have been able to locate it unless if we were specifically looking for it...meaning, unless we lived in the neighborhood, we'd probably never know about it. Thank god for reality TV I guess. I'm sure Harold probably enjoys the attention too, allowing for foodies and wanna-be foodies to find his restaurant due to exposure on Bravo.

As we walked into a very handsome dining area, at a very early dining time of 6:15 (no other time was available on such short notice), there is a bar to the right and some nice light work hanging above smaller tables to the left.

We knew that there was one item we had to order: the duck meatballs. They were amazing! I wish we didn't run out of bread before our appetizer arrived, so we could have used it to soap up all of the yummy broth. We were instructed to break the quail egg on top and mix it all together. I'm not really sure what that adds to the broth, maybe it thickens it, maybe it adds a lot of flavor...either way, it was tasty. The meatballs themselves were very moist and juicy. Maybe a little fatty because it was duck, but I like a little fat with my dishes, so it was perfect for me.

For our mains, Abby got:

Roasted Bacon Wrapped Game Hen
spaetzle, chestnuts, persimmons & pomegranate molasses

I ordered:

Poached Maine Lobster
pea greens, crispy shallots & coconut milk froth

Normally I would have gotten the Hanger Steak or the Duck Breast, but I always get steak and we just had duck meatballs, so I decided to go with something new. (I never, ever, ever order lobster at a restaurant.) After seeing a hanger steak dish go to our neighbor, I really wished I would have ordered that. It looked incredible. That's not to say my lobster was bad. It was perfectly cooked and tasty. The coconut milk froth was a little confusing though. I'm not the biggest fan of foams, it really does look like spit to me, but this wasn't too bad. I could tell he was trying to tie in the lobster flavor with the coconut milk flavors, and it really does go well together. I feel like something was slightly missing though from making this dish perfect...not sure. Abby's bacon wrapped (two of the greatest words in the English dictionary) game hen was very, very good. I had a couple of bites and I could tell Abby was really enjoying her dish.

We were stuffed and chose not to get dessert. However, a couple of brownie bites were given to us as compliments on the house. I wish I could say it was only us who got them, but it looked like everyone else had received this nice going away gift.

Now comes our geekiness...We wanted to know if Harold was cooking. He was. We wanted to know if we could take a picture. We could. Abby freaks out. I'm pretty excited that we can go back into the kitchen. I love professional kitchens and when we went to Per Se last year, I was pissed I didn't ask for the kitchen tour. So we head back there and there he was, Top Chef Season 1 winner Harold, expiditing dinner. We thanked him and the kitchen for a wonderful meal, we asked if we could take a picture, he said sure.

Then I made a remark that I didn't think was bad, but Abby said it could have came off insulting. From the TV show, I seriously thought Harold was like 6'8. When we were taking our picture, I said that to him. He said he hears that all the time. However, Harold, if you are reading this, I apologize if I insulted you. That dinner was incredible and the next chance we get to come back, we will.

I give Perilla a very strong 4 out of 5.

Perilla on Urbanspoon

Since our dinner was somewhat early, we had some time to kill before meeting up with our friend Nabeel at 10. We asked the hostess at Perilla what's a good bar in the area, and she mentioned the Blind Tiger. A local spot that had tons of beer on tap and in bottles and it was just down the street. Sounds good to us, since it was freaking cold and the sidewalks were slushy and icy. We enter the Blind Tiger and it was PACKED! Dammit...I was hoping we could sit down at the bar and have a few without being pushed and prodded while people ordered drinks, but nope. Oh well, there are tons of beers, so we decided to give it a shot. I could not get the attention of the bartenders to save my life. I tried one end for like 10 mins...nothing. I asked kindly if i could sneak in between a couple and waited for another 10 mins...nothing. Finally Abby got a seat at the bar, but we had to wait to order as we got passed over by people who just showed up. We get our beers finally and it was slightly uncomfortable. While we drank, we noticed the menu. This was no ordinary bar menu. First, there was a cheese plate paired with one of the many beers. There were tiny bites of caviar and deviled eggs. This was an interesting bar menu indeed. If we had not just eaten, I would have gotten a sandwich and a small bite or two. In any case, we decided one beer was fine and left to find another spot while we killed some time.

Blind Tiger on Urbanspoon

Walking around in NYC in the freezing cold with horrible sidewalk conditions and dress shoes that have next to no grip is a bad idea. We walked around Greenwich Village for a while trying to find a decent spot...after 30 mins or so, I decided the next bar we see we go in, just to get out of the cold. We were on the corner of Gay and Christopher and we arrived at a bar called Pieces. Outside of it, Abby asked me if I was sure I'd be ok going into this bar, since it obviously was a gay bar. I honestly didn't care and really, why should I. I just wanted a beer and to get out of the cold. So we entered, got a little table by the window and ordered a couple of beers. Abby clearly was enjoying seeing the 95% naked men being shown on the screen. I just realized how out of shape I was watching them. The place was dirty, and the bathroom smelled horribly. But overall, it was a decent spot to get out of the cold and get a drink. Once we finished our beers, it was time to meet up with Nabeel for some world famous Chicken and Rice.

53rd and 6th is home to the best Halal Chicken and Rice stand in all of NYC. At least according to our friend Nabeel, who happens to know a few things about good food. Normally there's at least a 45 minute line. Maybe it was the cold, or that it was still early, but there was only a few people in front of us. We got the chicken and rice platter ($6) and proceeded to go to the Starbucks across the Hilton to eat. OMG!!!! This was some damn good street food. It was incredible. The white sauce (I think it was some sort of ranch sauce) was perfect for the chicken and rice. The hot sauce I didn't touch because Nabeel's friend mentioned how hot it was. Abby and I scarfed it down, regardless of the fact that we just ate our self crazy at Perilla a couple of hours ago. If you are in NYC and are in for some late night eats (only open from 7pm to 4am), hit up 53rd and 6th. It'll be the food stand with the long line. (There's one on the other side that had no customers at all...I wonder how they stay alive.) As my buddy Nabeel said, you can tell this is some good food because they have their own plastic bags. Not the generic White "Thank You" bags or the Black "I just got something from Chinatown" bag, but a Halal Chicken and Rice bag for your food. They even have their own website:


I give Halal Chicken and Rice on 53rd and 6th a 4 out of 5.

More on our NYC trip later.


I am so ridiculously jealous that you went to Perilla. Dude, he IS shorter than I imagined, though. Every one else from his season must have been TINY.