Just a tribute

Rising star Houston chef honors New York culinary roots with special pop-up menu

Rising star Houston chef honors NYC culinary roots with pop-up menu

Momofuku ssam bar tribute menu UB Preserv Nick Wong
Order this entire meal for $85. Photo by Nick Fine

Nick Wong is paying tribute to his roots. The chef de cuisine at UB Preserv will present a special menu in honor of New York restaurant Momofuku Ssäm Bar, an establishment he worked at for six years.

For three days this week — Thursday, June 4 to Saturday, June 6 — UB Preserv will feature five dishes inspired by the groundbreaking establishment where chef David Chang earned a James Beard Award for Best Chef: New York in 2008. They are: 

  • Steamed pork buns with cucumber, hoisin, and scallions, two for $13
  • Country ham with redeye gravy and baguette, $15
  • Apple kimchi with bacon and maple labne, $15
  • Fried Brussels sprouts with fish sauce vinaigrette and crispy rice, $15
  • Baby bo ssäm for two with lettuce, sauce, and toppings, $40

UB Preserv's popular ca phe sua da carrot cake ($10) rounds out the offerings. Diners may also purchase the entire menu for $85.

The timing of Wong's pop-up menu stems from Momofuku's decision to relocate Ssäm Bar as part of a number of operational changes the company made in response to the coronavirus pandemic. For Wong, relocating Ssäm Bar from the East Village to the South Street Seaport prompted him to reflect on his time at the restaurant. While he acknowledges that his six years there "turned me . . . into the chef I am now," he finds the change in venue to be bittersweet.













This hit a little harder than I was expecting. Probably cause I wasn’t expecting Ssam to close, or that it would affect me the way it did. This was also hard to post, but mainly because I’m pretty sure I’m in a small minority when it comes to this unpopular opinion: I wish that Ssam Bar's closure was permanent instead of a relocation. I can’t begin to imagine what sorts of conversations were had to come to this decision, and I know it was not made lightly. So I absolutely respect the decision that was made. I obviously don’t understand all of the factors that went into it, and I have the privilege of both physical and emotional distance at this point, so it’s easy for me to not agree with it. I can’t fault the decision or the decision makers. But the Ssam Bar in my head and my heart will be a hard act to follow. It was the restaurant that thrived on hiring misfits in an industry already filled with outsiders. It was the kitchen where you could quack like the Mighty Ducks in an open kitchen while also getting demolished on a Saturday night. It was the place you could play the dumbest of all frat boy games so that people would feel like they were part of the kitchen. It was the bakery where if no one gave you a shot at making cookies filled with chips and coffee grounds, you could start there. It was the bar that was both the tech-geekiest and coolest low-key experience ever. It was the FOH that gave you a shot at being a captain on their side of the pass, even if you started in the kitchen with no English. It was the place where you learned that if you wanted to win both the trophies you had to do more than just show up to rehearsal. A crew where you could yell “two-oh” in a crowded room and bet that at least one person would call back “seven”. It was the stubborn mindset that took in cooks that would have been outright fired at nicer, better, more finesse restaurants within a month, but instead invested and built them up to be leaders in their own rights. It was the place that turned me, for better or worse, into the chef I am now. I didn’t mean to write a eulogy, but I guess I wasn’t expecting my heart to break either. 207 is dead. Long live 207.

A post shared by Nick Wong (@_nickwong_) on

May 19, 2020 at 5:53am PDT


Those interested in trying the offerings should place their orders early. Quantities are limited, and last weekend's run sold out quickly. The pork belly buns have been copied endlessly, but the apple kimchi — an intriguing mix of sweet, tart, savory, and smokey — serves as a powerful reminder of the various ways Ssäm Bar shaped the way people eat today.