Dara writes:

I love it when most people leave New York City and I can pretend I have it all to myself. Such is the occasion on the Friday of Christmas weekend--especially when the rain pours.

James and I took the opportunity to revisit the more casual restaurant of David Chang, he of Momofuku Noodle Bar, which critics worship. You might remember that I was negative on the Ssam Bar here. In fact, I have changed my mind; the workings of the Bar have changed.

When I first went to the Bar a few months ago, I ordered a Ssam (a Korean burrito), and while I liked some of the ingredients--the pickles, cole slaw, and spicy sauce--the next day I felt a bit less happy to have ordered it. Now the process has been deconstructed, so that when you go up to the counter and place your order, you can pretend you are at Subway and really make your meal as you go.

Now I get the rice bowl instead of the Ssam. The rice bowl is just rice and you add a protein. I always go for the Berkshire pork because it is tender, high-quality, and delicious. Then, because I can order as I go, I avoid beans, edamame, and others bits that don't agree with me. I pile cole slaw, ginger-scallion sauce, and portobello pieces on the rice and am satisfied. Also: as far as I am concerned, David Chang makes the best pickles in the city. Tonight I let James eat some of my bowl but absolutely insisted he not touch the pickles.

In case you were surprised up there by the word counter: yes, this restaurant is cafeteria style. You stride in past the burnished wood bar on one wall and the roomy wood communal tables along the other wall. You pass the big picture of John McEnroe and place your order at the counter. You pay and then, since every time I have been I have shared the restaurant with only a few others, you take a whole "communal" table to yourself. I once met a fellow teacher here to plan a week of lessons and the space and quiet proved essential to the success of our meeting. Not that it's completely quiet: the Rolling Stones invariably mix with hip-hop and rock on the playlist. And by the way, the restaurant does get busy, and on weekends stays open until 2:30am--at which point table service gets the job done.