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Momofuku Ssam Bar Rotisserie Duck – Korean – East Village
January 25th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

Momofuku Ssam Bar‘s large format duck dinner is a whole rotisserie Long Island duck served with chive pancakes, bibb lettuce, hoisin, duck scallion sauce, crispy shallots, and two sides of your choosing. It’s $140, feeds three to six people, and is The Best.

This and the bo ssäm (pork shoulder) dinner are the only ways to get a reservation at Ssam Bar, and that alone is enough to make the dinner worth it, as the wait at Ssam is regularly two hours in my experience. (Get there before 6:30 or after 9:30 on weekdays if you want to avoid the line.) My group of six included a couple of people who can really eat (obviously I’m including myself here), so we started with some regular menu items to supplement the duck:

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
veal sweetbreads, almond, sauerkraut, Thai chili

It’s really hard to say “this thymus really melted in my mouth” without rolling my eyes at myself, but if I didn’t know this was offal, I’d think it was dessert. It was sweet and creamy inside, spicy and crispy on the outside, with a kick from the lemon segments arranged on top. It’s like fried chicken, if chicken had the texture of custard.

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
spicy pork sausage & rice cakes, Chinese broccoli, Sichuan peppercorn

This was my second time having this dish, and I’d have it a third time, too. The rice cakes are this perfect spongy, chewy consistency, and I love all of the spicy peppers and the crisp of the shallots over the meaty sauce.

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
bibb lettuce, sambal sauce, hoisin, crispy shallots, duck scallion sauce

The lettuce and sauces arrived just before the duck did and were the ultimate excitement-builder. I felt about these the way I feel at a concert when the lights dim after hours of standing around, listening to crappy opening bands. Not that our starters were crappy. You know what I mean.

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck

The duck arrived on a platter the width of the table with scallion pancakes, rice dripping with duck drippings, and what must have been every herb in the kitchen. From my vantage point, it looked like a glistening little duck breast lost in the forest:

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck

I took a few slices and tried to keep them intact as they threatened to separate into pieces in all of their tenderness. I grabbed a scallion pancake and found it pleasantly salty and soaked through with oil, like a funnel cake. The duck scallion sauce was just adding duck to duck, and the sambal sauce was too vinegary for my taste, but the crispy shallots and hoisin were just the right combination of crunch and thick stickiness. The skin wasn’t crispy, but it had a layer of pork and duck sausage piped underneath it that was a fine substitute.

The duck thighs were apparently cooked confit and served to the side of the breast, but I couldn’t see what I was doing amidst all of the basil, cilantro, and mint, so I grabbed whatever I could with the tongs and thought it was just a pile of the fatty, fatty skin. Well, even if I missed out on the confit thigh, the skin was shockingly melty, and I wish I could feed it to anyone who’s afraid to eat fat.

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
herbed fingerling potatoes

Our sides of fingerling potatoes dripping in duck fat and broccoli salad just couldn’t compare to the duck, perfectly adequate as they were. The potatoes had a nice crispy-on-the-outside texture, but the flavor didn’t knock me out. The broccoli salad, on the other hand, had too much fish flavor for me. I wouldn’t order it again for myself, although I’m pleased to have had the two sides that aren’t available on the regular menu.

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
broccoli salad

Clearly the duck was the star of the meal for everyone, because while half of the potatoes sat uneaten at the end of the night, my dining companions were clamoring to finish the fatty rice:

Momofuku Ssam Whole Rotisserie Duck
the aftermath

We counted about 26 slices of duck in all, which meant four to five slices per person. And honestly, I could’ve eaten twice that. So next time, I’m bringing half the friends.

Just kidding, friends.

(But not really.)

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

This dinner will stick with me for a while. I’ve had some good duck, but this was some good duck. A couple of my dining companions were also at the Wong whole duck dinner with me, and they both thought Wong was better because of the diversity of the duck dishes. The creativity at Wong wasn’t lost on me, and I seriously love a good Chinese bun, but I think I may have liked the scallion pancake and hoisin sauce with the duck more at Ssam Bar. It’s a toss-up. Go to Wong for the full-meal experience, but then go to Ssam Bar just to tear into some really well-done plain, ol’ duck.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003 (map)


12 Responses  
  • Cheeryvisage writes:
    January 25th, 201210:16 pmat

    Great write-up! I actually wished there were more duck breast meat and less of the sausage. It felt like each slice was 30% original duck meat and 70% sausage. But yeah, still an amazing meal! That pancake was really good.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      January 27th, 20126:16 pmat

      Too much sausage?! Girl, you crazy. But I like all of my meats processed beyond recognition, so maybe I’m not the best person to argue this. Agreed about the pancake; they should be serving those with the fried chicken, too. And how.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    January 26th, 20123:43 pmat

    I’m not even that big a fan of duck, but this review makes me crave it.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      January 27th, 20126:17 pmat

      Yeah, as much as I’ve had good duck, I’ve also had not-good duck. (And just wrote “fuck” both times I tried to write “duck” in that sentence.) I guess it must actually take some skill to prepare.

  • Cassie writes:
    January 26th, 20124:53 pmat

    OMG. Your photos are fantastic. I mean, forget the food, that’s art, girl! JEALOUS!

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      January 27th, 20126:14 pmat

      Hey, thank you. This comment was really meaningful to me, because my pictures came out looking REALLY DIFFERENT from those of everyone else who ate with me, and I was all, “OMG, I’m doing it wrong! I have no idea what I’m doing and am terrible!” So I appreciate it.

  • Rodzilla writes:
    January 27th, 20128:28 pmat

    I’m not a huge Chang fan, but I can’t deny how good this looks. At least your sticking it to him by taking tons, and tons, and tons of great pictures haha.

    as for NYC – an opportunity came up in SD that I couldn’t pass. I’m sure I’ll make it eventually – but you should definitely come visit my neck of the woods!

  • han writes:
    January 29th, 201210:52 pmat

    Great pics! I find the rotisserie duck at Momofuku generally good, but I felt the same about the fingerling potatoes – I had a few pieces in my last order and left the remainder. Sad!

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » wd-50 Attempts the Reinvention writes:
    August 10th, 20122:06 pmat

    […] from them but also just not that pleasant. When I think sweetbreads, I think of the ones from Momofuku Ssam Bar, which I described as “sweet and creamy inside, spicy and crispy on the outside, with a kick […]

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » Cereal Milk, Crack Pie, and More at Momofuku Milk Bar writes:
    August 28th, 20123:30 pmat

    […] you’ve finished licking the fat of a whole rotisserie duck off your fingers at Momofuku Ssam Bar and your friends claim they couldn’t possibly even look […]

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » Momofuku Noodle Bar Fried Chicken Dinner writes:
    December 17th, 20124:11 pmat

    […] in NYC, so it was no surprise when my group of dining friends loved the whole rotisserie duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar and wanted to follow it immediately with the fried chicken dinner at Momofuku Noodle […]

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » North Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, and One of the Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten writes:
    February 6th, 20144:01 pmat

    […] the pieces were chicken breast that they had wrapped chicken sausage around, just like the duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar here in NYC. And then they were deep-fried. So there was this perfect white meat chunk in the […]


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