Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review - Momofuku Seiobo

When David Chang opened his first restaurant outside the U.S.A in 2011, I was pretty damned excited that he chose Sydney to do it in. The maverick Korean-American chef has gained an almost cult like status over the past few years, for his free spirited way of creating food and his willingness to throw out the rule book when it comes to restaurant dining. He is the chef that other chefs talk about.

Momofuku Sieobo (Lucky Peach) opened in Sydney late last year but it has taken me a few months to finally get around to paying it a visit. Getting a reservation can be a bit of a hassle, given that the whole restaurant seats less than 30 people, you can only book 10 days ahead and that reservations are secured only online (which involves setting up a log in on their website to access the reservation area) Was it worth the palaver? Well, in a word - yes.

David Chang

When you arrive, you are seated up a long counter that surrounds the central kitchen area which gives you an up close and personal view of the action in the kitchen. Dishes are created before your eyes. It makes for great entertainment but also creates such a sense of expectation about what you are about to eat. The atmosphere is not like any restaurant I have ever been to. The beat of rock and roll music pumps out and the rhythm of the kitchen creates a buzz that feels like a party to me.

There is one menu - and no a la carte. The meal is comprised of 15 dishes, chosen by the chef on the night from seasonal produce. I love it - no menu choices to agonise over, just delicious morsels arriving one after the other. The dishes range from casual to formal, simple to complex, with influences from everywhere. And yet somehow it all works together.

Momofuku has become well known for it's super soft pork belly buns, which kicked off our meal. I can see why - I would have happily munched through a tray of them and left happy! Beautiful textures and such succulent pork, served with your own bottle of chilli, for that warm chilli buzz. 

Steamed Pork Belly Bun

A dish of Trumpeter sashimi followed, served with parrot green pistachios and the citrus tang of pomelo. The dish tasted clean and fresh after the voluptuousness of the pork belly buns. Next on the menu was an amazing dish of marron and rhubarb - one of the dishes of the night for me. Teamed with an ultra smoky emulsion of "burnt" eggplant, it was sweet and luscious. The marron was cooked perfectly and the pairing of flavours was pure inspiration.

Marron, Burnt Eggplant & Rhubarb

A beautiful dish of tiny cubes of Wagyu beef, fermented black bean and almost translucent radishes that looked like cherry blossoms on the plate followed. Then a beautiful dish of buttery smoked eel, caramelised artichoke and a wonderful eel broth that warmed the cockles of my heart.

Smoked Eel, Eggplant, Jerusalem Artichoke
Eel Broth

A beautiful pairing of crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle Yorkshire pudding  and crab was next, served with a zingy bay and chilli sauce that had me wanting to lick the plate. Then, on to a sublime slow cooked egg dish, teamed with toasted rice, brown butter and the beautiful savoury character of Sencha tea leaves. The textures were just amazing and the egg "shivered" on the spoon. Swoon.

Slow Cooked Egg, Toasted Rice, Green Tea
Brown Butter

Next came hand made pea and ham agnolotti, creamy and smoky and full of flavour - made with the silkiest of pasta and served with a delicious buttery sauce and parmesan foam.Then came a dish of succulent pork neck served with baby turnips and stormshells, drizzled in a salty, flavour packed broth.

 The Kitchen

The following dish - Mulloway with smoked roe and grilled lettuce was the standout dish of the evening for me. I love the French style of cooking lettuce - it is so delicious and works beautifully with the Mulloway. The smoked roe added a whole other layer of flavour to the perfectly cooked fish. Simply stunning.

Mulloway, Smoked Roe, Lettuce

Before we knew it, we were on to the cheese course - clouds of impossibly finely grated C2 (raw milk, hard, cooked curd made from cow's milk) teamed with a fine glassy shard of honeycomb licorice, bee pollen and a cider jelly. Perfection.

The first dessert of pear with yoghurt, sultana miso and whey arrived - and although I'm not a big fan of cooked pear, it was beautiful. The slight saltiness of the miso worked a treat with the sweetness of the fruit. Dessert number two reminded me of the malty old fashioned milkshakes of my childhood - except this took things up a notch with the best tasting salted butter caramel I have ever eaten, pooled at the bottom of the dish. **Sigh**

Malt Icecream, Brown Sugar, Coffee
Smoked Butter Caramel

Now the next dessert and final dish of the evening proved to be rather controversial for one of our neighbouring diners - a "suit" who took exception to the fact that a) it was served without cutlery so you had to eat it with your fingers and b) it was meat. He kicked up a bit of a fuss about this but soon shut up once he saw his dining companions demolishing the dish and licking their fingers with euphoric expressions on their faces! He soon got the hang of it.

Now I know we don't usually expect pork as a dessert, but after eating this sticky, unctuous brown sugar glazed pork, I actually don't care what is expected. As we watched it being prepared , Andrew turned to me agog -  "Ummm..... are they cutting that pork with a spoon??" Why yes they were. Because it was that tender and that succulent. So dark with caramel flavour. And sweet. So, so sweet. Brilliant.

Dessert Pork with Brown Sugar

So,is Momfuku worth the cash and the David Chang hype? I would say, absolutely. Although Momofuku is an eating experience that isn't going to suit everyone, if you are willing to go with an open mind then I think it is a trip well worth taking. And believe me, I plan on taking it again.


For Reservations go to:

You will find Momofuku Seiobo at The Star
80 Pyrmont Street, level G | Sydney, NSW

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