Must-See East Village
by Julie Besonen, 02/08/2012
Cured hamachi at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Photo: Gabriele Stabile
Mediocrity has no place in a David Chang operation, from Momofuku Noodle Bar and its spin-offs to Lucky Peach, the brilliantly in-depth, quarterly food journal founded by the Korean-American chef and his collaborator, Peter Meehan. Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Chang's second restaurant, has been open since 2006 and is more compelling than ever. At lunch, his variations on duck are ravishing: fried duck dumplings, duck sandwich with spicy mayo, rotisserie duck with chive pancakes. The menu expands at dinner to include fish and grilled steaks but remains a casual, easygoing experience. A stop across the street for dessert at Momofuku Milk Bar is a must for candy-bar pie and cereal-milk ice cream. For a serene, formal dinner, Kajitsu is genius. Japanese chef Masato Nishihara meditatively crafts vegetarian dishes based on Zen Buddhism, presented in vessels made by master Japanese potters. The menu changes monthly, and come April, month-long stints by on-the-rise Japanese cooks will add some zest. The restaurant will relocate to Midtown this summer, so get here while you can. Even David Chang loves it, writing in a piece for The New York Times that Kajitsu is the best restaurant in town, not just the East Village.