Momofuku institution Ssäm Bar reopens its doors today at its new home in the South Street Seaport. The restaurant — which shuttered its longstanding East Village spot last May — is coming back to life under the leadership of chef Eunjo Park, who formerly spearheaded Momofuku Kāwi’s successful debut in Hudson Yards.
Ssäm Bar is taking over Bar Wayō’s former space, another Momofuku restaurant that permanently closed after a nine-month run to make way for the move. For now, the company has kept much of Bar Wayō’s interior the same, but the updated menu, which is served under a covered patio, is the main draw here. Park attracted plenty of early praise at now-closed Kāwi for her “stunning” modern Korean fare, as Eater New York chief critic Ryan Sutton wrote in a 2019 review. She put Kāwi on the map with items like fancy, inventive kimbap using ingredients like foie gras, and made standout tteokbokki, or spicy rice cakes, that were cut tableside with golden scissors and instantly became a crowd-favorite dish.
Now, at the South Street Seaport, Park is merging some of her top hits at Kāwi with Ssäm Bar’s own rich history as an iconic NYC establishment.
“I think of Ssäm Bar as a ‘New York Korean’ restaurant,” Park tells Eater New York in an email. “Back in the East Village, Ssäm Bar started as a Korean burrito place and evolved so much over the years. It really became known for its New York energy. That’s what I want to bring to this Ssäm Bar — the Korean flavors, of course, since I’m Korean-American, all informed by my experiences cooking and living in New York.”
Ssäm Bar’s popular large format dinners won’t be available to start, but diners will find a variety of kimbap, rice cakes, ssäm, and more on the menu. Below, Park walks us through her three top dishes from Ssäm Bar’s opening lineup.
Soy-Marinated Salmon Kimbap
“You wouldn’t know this but this was inspired by one of my favorite foods: an everything bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese. The salmon is coated in a soy marinade that I used for the raw crab dish at Kāwi. That goes on top of horseradish cream to balance out the salmon. We top that with everything seasoning I made that’s based on furikake.”
Sizzling Steak Ssäm
“Ssäm Bar in the East Village always had great meat dishes on the menu and I wanted to continue that tradition at this new location — and it’s a ssäm which was important to keep that tradition alive as well. This is galbi-marinated and we serve it sizzling on a platter with watercress, onions, garlic, and ssämjang.”
Chili Jam Popcorn Shrimp
“I had the idea for this dish from dak kung jung, glazed nuggets of fried chicken that are a popular street food in Korea. I’m very inspired by Korean street food — it’s super creative and open to Western influences. The glaze on these is inspired by that and the chili jam rice cakes that we made at Kāwi. But I didn’t want to do Korean fried chicken. We’re right on the water here so I swapped in shrimp. Fried seafood is such a classic summer food. We fry these twice so they’re super crispy.”
Ssäm Bar is open Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. There is only patio seating available to start, with indoor dining to follow. Reservations are available here.
This email interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.