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Restaurant Openings

Week of August 28, 2006: Momofuku Ssäm Bar.

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Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 Second Ave., at 13th St.; 212-254-3500

For certain high-flying foodies, the culinary event of the summer was undoubtedly the opening of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel. For others, it’s the opening of l’atelier de Dave Chang, a.k.a. Momofuku Ssäm Bar, slated for this Wednesday in the East Village. Like chez Robuchon, the Momofuku Noodle Bar spin­off has counter seating, an Asian-influenced cuisine, and a star chef or two. (But no spaghetti.) The signature item here is what Chang calls an Asian burrito, a riff on the Korean ssäm, which loosely translated means anything wrapped, like Korean barbecue in a lettuce leaf or, say, Chinese mu-shu pork. “Everyone was hoping we’d go in a fine-dining-ish direction,” says Chang, “but I wanted to do fast food.” Not that the sleekly minimalist space screams Chipotle, although the place is set up for cafeteria-style service during the day: You amble down the line and choose ingredients, like ham-hock-enhanced black beans, Berkshire pork, kimchee purée, and a whipped tofu that stands in for sour cream just like you would at any (Asian) burrito bar. Then a counter guy folds them along with rice into a flour tortilla. Rest assured, there are also Momofuku’s famous pork and chicken buns (you can customize them) and plans to open late night with table service and a more ecumenical post-shift chef’s-hangout menu (raw bar, cured meats, stinky cheeses). “It will be like a real restaurant,” says Chang.


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