This venue has closed.
If you too mourned last year’s closure of modernist Korean bistro Ssam, there’s good news. Chef Andrew Ahn has transformed the Sanlitun SOHO space into a new concept: One Pot.The science lab-like white interior remains – a visual metaphor for his manic culinary experimentation if ever we saw one – but Ahn is now focusing his attention on reinventing Korean street snacks. Hopefully with a similar abandon that Ssam brought to his motherland’s cuisine as a whole.
Due to the more honed direction, prices are lower than the former incarnation. One Pot’s menu also feels comparatively sober – no more overly-elaborate concoctions with long-winded names – but the ‘street food’ being served is anything but pedestrian. For example, the miso stew (38RMB), served in a military-style metal crock, is modest and hearty, while the half a crab in the soup adds the trademark pizzazz. The ‘Carpaccio’ (20RMB) – actually a thick slice of raw beef presented cradled in a spoon – is also a creative combination of flavours. The truffles, pine nuts and a sweet pear are layered to make the flavour change as you chew.
The kimbap (a Korean cousin to sushi rolls) are light and punchy, particularly the savoury bacon-seaweed roll (28RMB), and the dense spring onion pancake overflows with fresh seafood (48RMB). The glass noodles fried with mushrooms (48RMB), and slices of pork neck (68RMB) are both minor slips; the noodles bland and the pork loose and overcooked. But these minor flaws are forgiven thanks to the magnificent tteokbokki fry-ups: Ahn stuffs the chewy rice flour cylinders with cheese and stews them tableside, imbuing them in sauces ranging from sweet pumpkin gravy to a thoroughly spicy red sauce with pork (78RMB).
The masterpiece is an entire chicken, cooked using a bizarre stand come-funnel contraption that flavours the meat with cherry beer from the inside (118RMB). The fruity notes are welcome but it’s the wispy skin and tender meat that steal the show –achieved through a process of roasting and broiling which requires the better part of an hour. Best book in advance or bring a chatty dinner companion.
To finish, Ahn has recruited a wayfaring coffee master to approach tables once chopsticks are retired. He imports his own beans from all over the world and hand-grinds them tableside (38RMB) for a brew better than you’ll get at most of the city’s coffee shops. Fortunately, not everything on the menu has changed with the re-brand. Ssam’s signature tiramisu (38RMB), made with a soju reduction, is as crunchy and boozy as ever. The success of this new incarnation mirrors that of the inventive dessert:enough has changed to make the restaurant feel new, but there’s still a reassuring sense of the familiar. Ahn’s on to a whole new hit with One Pot.
By Sean Silbert