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Momofuku Ssäm Bar

photo by Dominic Perri

Like a Botox-addled phoenix, David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar has undergone more nips and tucks than Jocelyn Wildenstein, but it has come away better for it each time. The place launched as a Chipotle-style canteen serving pork fat-slicked, whipped tofu-filled burritos in 2006, only to transform into a fine-dining establishment a year later, when it topped that whipped tofu with uni and tapioca. Dessert superstar Christina Tosi made a name for herself here, eventually occupying the back room for the first iteration of Momofuku Milk Bar (let us never forget her peanut butter and jelly dessert with saltine ice cream). Ssäm also helped lead the large-format menu charge, when Chang began plying groups with whole bronzed shoulders, plunked down on the table with briny oysters, sauces, and lettuce for wrapping. It remains one of this city’s great group feasts. And while Chang helped usher in the rise of a certain kind of downtown restaurant (the type that combines ambitious kitchens with relaxed atmosphere) with the advent of Momofuku Noodle Bar a decade ago, it was Ssäm that cemented his rep, giving him the springboard to global domination.