Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney

http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/seiobo
The Star
Pyrmont, NSW 2009

One of the most anticipated openings of the year and a restaurant to really get Sydney noticed. A lot has been seen and written of David Chang, the man behind Momofuku. My introduction to him as I took my seat at the open kitchen was him telling his brigade to: “kill, kill, kill”. A few days open and you’ve got to hit the ground running. Every evening is an opportunity to impress and convert.

Objective Achieved. I really enjoyed this meal, not only because the food was excellent, but because the restaurant had a real swagger and many elements that made for a social and stimulating experience. Food appreciation. was in hindsight only half of the appeal.

What appeals to me is brevity. I love the lack of menu and obsequious waiting staff. I can’t even remember seeing an indicator of menu cost. You’ve booked online. You were informed then, so why repeat? My kind of place.

We start the meal with a few snacks, while we get stuck into a decent reisling, from the brief (of course) wine list.

Snacks – shiitake chip, nori, mochi

More about textures than flavour it was perfectly pleasant, but honorable mention to the shiitake chip.

Next up: steamed pork bun- pork belly, cucumber, hoisin

A gorgeous slab of pork on the softest of buns. It’s strange to me that this is a signature dish, being just very well made, comfort food, but it is excellent. NB. It’s easy to get over-enthusiastic with the hot sauce, but I urge restraint in preparation for the delicate next course.

striped trumpeter belly, samphire, warrigal greens, furikake

The raw fish course, proudly using an under-rated Australian fish with strong garden (chlorophyl) and sea flavours. It’s great to be reunited with samphire again. A good find.

The meal moved up a gear with: white asparagus, marron, lemon, shallot

A lovely dish. Again excellent sweet and fresh local ingredients and a nice lemon sauce with a bit of bite from the shallots.

And on to: Wagyu beef, radish, fermented black bean

A bit of  a puzzlement this dish. The radish & black bean dominated the plate, with the beef a complimentary taste. Yet it came together a little bland and desperately needed salt to lift it. The quality of ingredients could not be faulted, but they were more muted than harmonious.

A dual course next:
eel brandade, freeze dried apple

eel dashi, garbanzo, chive blossom

Subtle, delicate and light. A good contrast and change of direction from previous. The playing around of light and big flavours made the tasting menu quite a ride, instead of the normal linear progression.

spanner crab, butter, pepper, yorkshire pudding

One of the meal’s highlights. Crab rocks, butter sauce and yorkshire pudding, no explanation needed. The business.

Egg, toasted rice

Perfectly set, moreish and wobbly. Liked the subtle shards of rosemary. Japanese in execution, but seemed to fit perfectly into the cross-cultural journey.

And on: hand torn pasta, goat cheese, chilli, mint

We weren’t expecting much from this. It seemed random. Chef reminded us this was Asian in origin. We weren’t going to argue. It was sharp, sweet and intense. A bit of a pasta revelation. Haven’t had a pasta dish as good as this for a while.

A return appearance of the trumpeter: striped trumpeter, broccoli, horseradish, potato, trumpeter & fennel soup

Like a good comedian riffing and returning to a good gag, it was a welcome appearance. Also very much liking the accompanying ‘soups’. Adds greater variety and interest to the meal. A really good meaty texture.

The ‘main course’: lamb neck, daikon, pickled turnips

A fatty cut with a sharp vegetable. Pickling always keeps the meal lively. It said a lot that this can be seen as just another dish, since there’s no sense of progression, more a collection of really interesting dish. Good lamb.

And on to the desserts: pecorino, honey licorice, bee pollen

A welcome cheese course. Terrific flavours and like the radish course, hides a pleasing whack of pollen. Really nicely balanced

Wattle seed, malt, crispy milk

A truly great dessert. Great soft and nutty textures. It was an ice cream that you could really get your teeth into. Can’t wait to have this again.

(Almost finally) miso, pickled fruits, toasted rice,

Brought me back to my school days and having to eat rice pudding. Not a good thing. I love a bit of salt in my desserts, but the soy flavours or consistency didn’t work for me. Just as well that wasn’t the final taste of the meal….

Petit Four – bo ssam

As rock’n’roll as it gets. Gorgeous, indulgent; the sweetest of slow roasted pork. It was random and perfect, setting the benchmark for petit fours, that won’t be beaten any time soon. The glaze and crust was a thing of beauty. Something to tear and eat with your hands. This dish would have been worth the trip alone.

And so that was that. An exhilarating meal. A dining experience that was fresh, social and exciting, giving a wake-up call to the traditional notion of fine dining. A meal based on real skill and confidence that journeyed from US to Asia to Australia with a real focus on getting the most out of local ingredients. Sure there were dishes that didn’t totally work (in my opinion), but that’s part of restaurant that’s cooking for itself and you’re along for the ride. Yup, it’s pricey, but worth it. Just go.

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