On the Wednesday before the Sydney weekend, I realised, almost belatedly, at 11.35pm, holy shit! There’s that new Momofuku that just opened late last year in Sydney! I need a booking!
Five minutes later, I somehow scored myself a booking for one for that very Saturday night through their online system at 8pm on the very first and only try. Do you know how giddy that made me feel? There. Is. A. Momofuku. In. Sydney. And. I’m. Going. There.
Now I can tell you this in the strictest confidence that I went to bed that night unconsciously heaving a massive fangirl sigh and uttered, ‘oh David Chang…’ right before I fell asleep.
(They seem to have an obsession with wiping every single plate until it shines)
The day arrived and I got myself into a cab and ended up at the Star. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t catch me dead at a casino complex otherwise. If you have been there, you’ll recall this bright, open, neon, Willy Wonka-esque bubblegum pinkness that is the I LOVE ZUMBO store and opposite there’s the imposing bars of steel and gold that is Momofuku Seiobo, the youngest in the Momofuku empire and a nod to its peach theme by being named after a Japanese goddess who is a guardian of a wonderous peach tree that only fruits once every three thousand years. Special. It is meant to be. Shame about being housed at the Star but I suppose it does well with the other Momofuku theme, luck.
I had never been on a solo fine dining before. Armed with my aunt’s SLR that I had taught myself to use a couple of hours earlier (forgot my camera at home in Melbourne, total fail), I just knew that as a F.A.B. (Female Asian Blogger – apparently a there are so many in Sydney that there is an acronym for us), noone would bat an eye lid at a single diner and her massive camera. I was totally right. And I have to say, being an SLR wanker for the weekend was so much fun.
(Snack plate from 12 o’clock – mochi, nori cracker, smoked potato with apple gel, shiitake crisp)
I think sitting at the counter is a must when you go to Momofuku Seiobo, half of the great fun about dining here is watching every move of the kitchen staff and anticipating what is coming up next. The very first course was a snack plate full of joyful little things. There was nothing exciting about them – just morsels of good, honest umami hits to whet your appetite. They succeeded. The shiitake crisp was crispy and shiittake-y. The smoked potato and apple gel reminded me of Collon. (just Google it)
(Momofuku steamed pork bun)
The second course of Momofuku pork bun arrived with a cute little bottle of Vietnamese chilli sauce (I refuse to call it Sriracha. It is not.) Everyone has heard of the Momofuku pork bun. Fortunately, you no longer need to fly all the way to New York for one. Unfortunately though, you still need to fly to Sydney. The bun was everything it was promised to be. Incredibly soft rice flour bun that just melts in your mouth with a lovely piece of fatty pork belly flavoured with hoisin sauce. It was good but it didn’t blow me away. I somehow thought it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the menu and the setting of Seoibo. This is the type of food that belongs on the bar menu (which it is, did you know there is a bar menu – no booking required, five seats only – at Momofuku Seiobo now? What are you waiting for?)
(Sea mullet sashimi with blood orange and nori powder)
The next course was three pieces of lovely sea mullet sashimi with a drizzle of blood orange and a sprinkling of nori powder. The freshness of the fish was undeniable and the blood orange lifted the freshness of the sea mullet but in the end it was just sashimi. Albeit very good sashimi.
(West Australian marron with fennel and squid ink puree, pickled fennel and dill)
The forth course was when the wow factor really hit. Fresh, plump piece of marron served with fennel and squid ink puree and pickled fennel slices. The marron was so fresh and sweet. So much oomph in a small piece of this lovely crustacean. It was served with a little quennelle of fennel and squid ink puree which strangely enough didn’t quite taste so fennel-ly (I had to check that it really was fennel and was confirmed). It was definitely more squid ink than fennel which was a real complimentary marine lift to the freshwater marron. So good.
(Seared wagyu with burnt watermelon oil and salted blackbeans with radishes)
The fifth dish was presented in a lovely deep green bowl with fresh discs of radishes entirely covering the little cubes of seared wagyu floating on a layer of weird, grainy, thick black sauce. I was informed it was burnt watermelon oil and fermented blackbeans, it looked a bit like something had gone wrong in the kitchen but it tasted all right. I can’t say I got this dish. Nothing was wrong with it, obviously. Technically everything (and every dish) was perfect but I just didn’t get it.(Smoked eel with Jerusalem artichoke, pink grapefruit with a side of dashi)
The next course (#6) was mightily fine. Small pieces of lovely, delicate, fatty smoked eel served with grilled jerusalem artichoke, pink grapefruits and quennelles of what tasted a bit like tahini but not quite with clear dashi to wash it all down. A big nod to its Japanese influence. Outstanding.
(Yorkshire pudding with crab marmite, mud crab with Old Bay sauce)
This next dish (#8) was a surprise and dare I use the cliche, also a delight. Yorkshire pudding with very love mudcrab in Old Bay sauce. Yorkshire pudding with seafood, you say? That’s what I thought too. It would have kinda worked and I would have had the time to ponder it a little more if I wasn’t completely blown away by the morsels of beautiful, sweet mudcrab. I have never had mudcrab so good. Not even the one I once caught myself. The Old Bay sauce was fabulous with the crab. This must be the American culinary sensibility come in to play. It didn’t at all diminish the sweetness of the crab but rather really accentuated it. The Yorkshire pud had a strange caramelised seafood note to it that I didn’t quite peg out until I heard one of the chefs explained to the next diner as crab marmite. Right you are then.
(slow cooked egg with brown butter, green tea and roasted rice (genmai cha))
Number 8 was slow cooked with brown butter and genmai cha. I was expecting a whole egg with liquid yolk in the middle but instead it was a nod to the lovely chawan mushi and a sprinkling of genmai cha. Chawan mushi and brown butter? Genius.
(Pea agnolotti, Serrano jamon, parmesan)
The pasta course (#9) was fluffly pillows of pea agnolotti. Warm pillows of pea puree with generous tiny cubes of ham and parmesan. I was instantly reminded how Agnes and I Hua put up a fuss about how they hate peas at our Christmas in July dinner last year. This would convert them. Yum.
(Mulloway with grilled lettuce, smoked salmon roe, pickled kohlrabi and breadcrumbs)
At this point I went back through all the photos on the camera just to find out that number then is coming up. Definitely a lot of food, fifteen courses but when they are all this marvellous, one had to suck it up and soldier on. The mulloway (apparently an Aborginal word for ‘the greatest one’ – cool huh?) was cooked just perfectly and went swimmingly well (see what I did here?) with the flavoursome smoked salmon roe mousse. And if you have never had grilled lettuce before, it’s about time you try.
(Lamb neck with onions, mustard seeds, grilled spring onion and puff barley)
Number eleven was lamb. Beautiful pink blush of lamb. Pretty as a picture. What I have found strange is that the lamb wasn’t the flavoursome lamb that I’m used to. I encountered this exact same problem at Jamie’s Italian (more on that soon) the night before. There must be something about NSW lamb that just didn’t taste quite as good as the Victorian one. Who knows? At this point though I have to say, I was starting to struggle. Partly because it was my fault for having three lunches before this wonderous dinner. Yes three lunches that day. I love Sydney.
(Pecorino, honey licorice, bee pollen)
An unusual ‘cheese course’ (#12), of fluffily grated pecorino covering tiny cubes of (cider? sake?) jelly and topped with a crisp honeycomb look-alike sheet of honey and licorice followed. Very lovely.
(Wattle seed meringue, malt ice cream and crispy milk skin)
This was the dish I most looked forward to after having seen it served to some of the other diners. The crispy milk skin looked spectacularly graceful just like a sea fan on a bed of coral rocks. Just gorgeous. With wattle seed meringue that and impossibly smooth malt ice cream. The whole dish was then coloured with a blowtorch and some of the meringue turned gooey and marshmallowy. Loved, loved, loved it.
(Miso ice cream, pickled cherry and black sesame crumble)
And if I was wowed by the last couple of ‘dessert courses,’ this last one was even more special. Whereas the last one was had the looks and texture, this one had all the lovely flavours. Again impossibly smoothy and creamy, slightly salty miso ice cream was served up with a few pieces of tangy pickled cherry and topped with what I could only described as black sesame crumble. An excellent way to end the sweets.
(Slow roasted pork shoulder)
But wait there is more. We rounded off with a small slab of slow roasted pork shoulder, to be eaten with my hand. It was announced as, ‘here’s your final petite four. Slow roast pork shoulder.’ She smiled as she said it. I have to hand it to her, if she doesn’t get tired of telling that joke night after night, she must love her job. And that was the one thing I noticed about Momofuku Seiobo kitchen. Everyone in their routine, quick efficient and relaxed. The music was a fun mix (notable examples being the Beatles and Joan Jett) of mostly rock of various ages with a bit of occasional hip hop thrown in. I sat there mersmerised, partnerless for the whole two and a half hours and not once was I ever bored.
It was a great meal. Worth every single cent. To boost, I didn’t have any trouble with their famous booking system either. All was luckily peachy for me.
Address: The Star, 80 Pyrmont St., Pyrmont NSW 2009
Phone: 02 9777 9000
Tasting menu $175 pp. Reservations through their website only.