Set foot in any quintessential NYC restaurant, and expect to be greeted by patrons in subtly trendy fare, lighting just low enough to calm your senses, and savory aromas designed to simultaneously pique them. Momofuku Ssäm Bar does not disappoint in any of these respects, while bringing along a name that promises a particularly unique culinary experience. We sat down with chef Matt Rudofker to talk about bringing his bites out of the restaurant, and into the homes of Caviar fans.
The Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes is a huge favorite with Caviar fans. What’s the story behind it?
The Spicy Pork Sausage and Rice Cakes is a Ssäm Bar staple. The original dish was created years ago, but we are constantly asking ourselves how we can make this dish — and any dish we make at the restaurant — better. I remember a couple of years ago, Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese Food) came in and asked me why the rice cakes taste even better than he remembered. I told him we looked deeper into different techniques we could use to cook the ragu and ways to build upon the flavor while keeping the same ingredients. Ultimately, we focused on using the highest quality product, and we changed out the already high quality ground pork to a custom grind of purebred heritage pork. Quality of product can really elevate a dish.
Seems like NYC can’t get enough of your food. What do you love about serving folks in Manhattan?
It’s an honor that so many people enjoy dining at our restaurants either in person or through Caviar. One of the best parts about cooking in Manhattan is being able to serve guests with a diversified palate. This has allowed our kitchen teams to be able to play with unique flavors and techniques.
It’s late and you just get home from a long day. What meal arrives at your door to make everything better?
I try not to eat too much before I go to sleep. I usually will either pick up a salad or eat a simple piece of grilled fish and vegetables at the restaurant before I leave work, which is often times between 1–3am.
You’ve got some great company among Manhattan chefs pushing the limits on food in the borough. Who’s inspiring you?
While it is great to push the limits and experiment in cuisine, I think that the people who are aiming for consistency in all aspects of the restaurant — food, beverage, and service — inspire me the most. At the moment, Nick Anderer (Marta) and Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern) are two great chefs who I think are doing just that. Their restaurants (coincidentally, both owned by Danny Meyer) are two that I like to eat at and often recommend to friends.
What would be your last meal on Earth?