MANH January 2009 : Page 72

SSÄM BAR COURTESY OF RESTAURANT; KEE’S CHOCOLATE COURTESY OF KEE’S; RYAN SKEEN BY EVAN SUNG BEST FOOF OD Chocolate Rain We’ll avoid every sweet cliché and reveal three ways in which the precious bean is used to decadent eff ect. FOR GIFTS Candy lovers know that tiny,unassumingKee’sChocolates is the best place tobuy a beribboned box of bonbons. Proprietor Kee Ling Tong uses unusual fl avors like T aichili, jasmine and black sesame in elevated ways. 80T ompson St.; 212.334.3284 or keeschocolates. com BUTT IN: The feast at Ssäm Bar. Main Dish T ere are millions of diff ering opinions as to Manhattan’s best meal: Is it an overwrought, four-fork, formal aff air, or a spectacle of molecular wizardry and slick interior design? In our humble opinion, the city’s best eating experience involves a slow-roasted pork butt and six to ten friends. T e delectable feast served at Momofuku Ssäm Bar goes by the name of Bo Ssäm(ssäm refers to the Korean practice of wrapping food in lettuce leaves), and requires a bit of advance planning—you must call ahead to reserve, as the swine itself takes a day to cook. Start with a plate or two of the house- made pickles, as their acidity will off set the lardy intensity to come. When the whole butt arrives, it’s so tender that knives are unnecessary—just reach up with tongs and pull off the meat. Accompanied by raw oysters, kimchi and chili sauces, bowls of rice and large pieces of lettuce in which to wrap your own bundled bites, the whole presentation is a bit of a shock. What’s even more shocking is when only the licked- clean bone remains. $200. 207 Second Ave.; 212.254.3500 or The Mad Hatter Lover of all things porcine, rising star Ryan Skeen is settling in nicely at Irving Mill, the American bistro just off Union Square. Skeen made his reputation at Belgian spot Resto, where his burger was immediately praised as one of the best in town. Skeen will surely prosper here, where his charcroute platter, roast chicken for two (served with an insane mac and cheese that’s covered in pork, of course) and yes, that famous bloody burger, are the get-me- a-reservation-now highlights. 116 E. 16th St.; 212.254.1600 or TOP CHEF: Ryan Skeen at Irving Mill. By Jane Lerner SHOW BALLS: Kee’s toasted-coconut truffl es. FOR DRINKABILITY We decree City Bakery’s hot chocolate to be Manhattan’s best. Sure, this “drink” is heart-stoppingly thick and rich, but remember, it’s also available in a shot-glass size for a quick dose of straight- up chocolate and cream. 3 W. 18th St.; 212.366.1414 or FOR DESSERT Jean-Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini’s lineup: warm chocolate gnocchi, the famous molten chocolate cake, aerated chocolate sponge and an old- fashioned egg cream. 1 Central Park West; 212.299.3900 or jean-georges. com I love Wallsé in the West Village—it’s Austrian food, but it’s not. And I’m really in love with Commerce now. It’s where Grange Hall used to be and it’s the greatest restaurant space ever in New York City. —Kristen Johnston, actress

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