Thursday, May 31, 2007


So I sort of had my steak dinner last night. My friend Brian called and asked if I wanted to grab dinner and I did so I said yes. To "grab dinner" typically implies a quick bite in the neighborhood, nothing fancy or memorable, but I realize now that whenever Brian and I get together to "grab" anything, whether it's dinner or a drink, we turn into crazy hedonists for whom those Hedonism resorts were not invented, because our kind of hedonism does not involve fuck swings (or any kind of swinging, for that matter). It involves either inebriation and/or too much food.

He wanted to try Momofuku Ssam, and I was totally game, having been there once -- before it turned into the Pleasure Den Of Sin it is now. Literally. Because Momofuku Ssam, which used to be a laid-back Asian burrito bar, is now a Skinemax-Style Food Resort devoted to pork parts (bellies, butts, and ribs), shellfish (oysters, soft-shell crabs, crawfish), and offal (veal head, tripe, sweetbreads). It's completely insane, and I'm only talking about the menu. The menu being all the evidence I need to make this statement: recent James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang HATES vegetarians AND kosher people. Like, if you're either, you are aggressively not welcome at his restaurants. Like, NOT AT ALL. Triple like, his menus have these charmingly hostile warnings: ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTITUTIONS, and NOT VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY. Gotcha, David. P.S. I am in love with you.

We had to wait for about 20 minutes because the place was jammed, but we passed the time by drinking alcohol. Brian had OB beer and I had the house Momofuku sake which was totally delicious, as was its subsequent buzz. Then we were seated on some high stools against a long bar and pondered the menu. I was kind of fucked by it. Seriously: I am not eating pork or shellfish right now...

(short version of long story: I'm Jewish and even though I'm not religious I have no living grandparents and I miss them very much. As such I impulsively decided to eat the way they ate, according to their traditions, as a way to honor and remember them. I thought this homage would last about a week but I've been doing it since December and I can't seem to stop!)

...and the menu was almost exclusively both. Brian was dead-set on getting the steamed pork belly buns and pork ribs, which meant we couldn't share those dishes. And I'm a big-time sharer. So, to start, Brian got his buns (loved them), and I got the assorted seasonal pickles, which are way more delicious than that sounds. It was cucumbers, turnips, jicama, fennel, beets, and maybe parsnip? served like the most high-brow Korean kimchi, which ate like the ultimate astringent, crunchy palate-cleanser. I also made us order the hamachi appetizer because I wanted to try something from the sea and oysters (one of my old favorites) were out, because, sadly, they are traif.

No tears, though, because the hamachi was thick-slices of yellowtail sashimi, cured in a light brine, with a horseradish cream, pea shoots, and a scattering of edamame peas. It was pretty awesome in my mouth. Maybe not oyster awesome but few things are. Brian ordered the ribs for his main, and I was relieved to see hanger steak on the menu so I got that. Which sounds like enough food, right?

Well, I also forced us to get the Warm Veal Head Terrine because A) I wanted to try something crazy and B) I am a bottomless pit of hunger and C) veal head is kosher!

Okay, I am so glad I am me because this dish was FUCKING AWESOME. I've never had veal head and before you get grossed it's not like, a baby cow's head on a plate. It's basically the gelatinously fatty gooey cheeks thinly sliced over a warm plate, and you spread this gooey gorgeous mess onto crisp wedges of bread and top it with some lightly braised fennel. Then you mouthgasm for five uncomfortable minutes and almost pass out from the pleasure. Good thing I didn't pass out, because my hangar steak arrived and it was also FUCKING AWESOME. It was cooked medium rare (they didn't even ASK, they just KNEW), served sliced (I like to cut my own meat but whatever) on a bed of wilted, transluscent onions, with a pile of bibb lettuce on the side. Two sauces, a red spicy kimchi and a green, garlicky one were also on the side. I made little ssams (burritos?) by putting the steak, onions, and two sauces inside the lettuce and rolling it up. Then I put this in my mouth and ate it. Crazy yummy. I offered one to Brian, who had the nerve to accept it, even though he was nice enough to insincerely lament that he couldn't share his ribs with me. I didn't mind, because at that point I had food up to my trachea and my attractive stretchy dress was unattractively stretching. I'm pretty sure Brian loved his ribs because he ate every single one, but by the end of the meal we were both so uncomfortably full we almost couldn't high-five each other. Almost.

I should add that throughout our meal David Chang, who is my age, was in the kitchen, causing Yours Truly to become starstruck. Even though I've seen him multiple times at the original Momofuku. And: he's just a chef. But still! This is why I know that I will never be James Dean Cool. Another reason why I know? Because I kept asking Brian to dare me to congratulate David on his James Beard Award, and even though Brian did I was too scared to do it. Hold on, James Dean? Shit: I will never even be Velma Dinkley Cool.


Blogger Keir said...

You know how sometimes some actors will be blocking out a scene and, just because, they'll smoke a cigarette as a prop? It's a weakness and the worst is when it makes its way into the film or play or whatever. This schlemiel with his food Oscar is like that with his veal face and mercury-laden harbor dredge. I'm sure it was tasty but if the guy really knew anything about food he'd fix you up some g.d. spinach and lentils and stfu. I think you're avoiding traif for all the right reasons...we honor best our ancestors by continuing their wisdoms and avoiding their ignorances. I don't think I've ever been to the dude's restaurants---again, I'm sure it's all tasty---but all I need to know is his disdain for people who make even remotely "responsible" food choices, and he's our age, and I just don't like this guy. My dinner obviously had less animal protein and more fermented hops in it than yours did. Because it was beer.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

awww, don't be a wet blanket! it's the reason carnivores disdain your kind!

the truth is is if anyone should be cooking meat it's david chang. that's because i have a solid hunch that he purchases the majority of his meat from independent, local, farmers. which IS "responsible".

and: there ARE vegetables on the menu, just not many.

3:01 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home