“This is the cleanest restaurant kitchen I’ve ever seen,” claims The Pom. I concur, the immaculate stainless steel kitchen is indeed squeaky clean with chefs wiping down the benches the second food are plated and served to the twenty-odd diners around the open plan kitchen. It is spotless. Momofuku Seiobo offers diners not just a glimpse, but a full orchestrated spectacular of what’s happening behind the kitchen right in front of you as part of the dining experience at this three-hatted fine dining restaurant at The Star.
Sometimes work can get in the way and forgot how important it is to spend quality time with your loved ones. Both The Pom and I are workaholics, to the point where we spend more time together in the office ploughing through the work than actually getting out of the house and doing something fun together. With my new cookbook hitting the store soon, I can already see my calendar filling up fast and the next two months will be extremely busy running around with book launch.
The inner-romantic side of me thought I should do something special with the other half while I have some down time, in another words – I better do something now before he start whinging and complaining that I don’t spend enough time with him down the track. I guess I was at the right time, at the right website, and I managed to secure two seats at Momofuku Seiobo only a day prior for a Saturday seating at 7.30pm. I couldn’t be happier.
I actually didn’t tell The Pom where we are heading for dinner and leave it as a surprise. It is funny (and for my own entertainment) to see The Pom utterly puzzled and trying to guess which restaurant we are going as we hop onto the monorail and head over to the casino.
I met David Chang personally during my short stint on a cooking TV show, he sure lived up to his reputation for being so gangsta behind the kitchen. Chang undoubtedly is one of the most influential chefs in the NYC’s food scene introducing a new hybrid of Korean ‘dude food’ and New Yorkers couldn’t get enough of it. Chang’s Momofuku empire has expanded to 10 establishments across New York, four in Toronto, and Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney is the only one in the southern hemisphere opened in 2011.
Momofuku Seiobo is definitely not on the prime spot in the Casino complex, because it doesn’t need to as the restaurant is usually fully booked weeks ahead by hardcore Chang’s fans and aficionado of fine food. The restaurant is cleverly camouflaged behind a wall of black wooden beams, there is no signage but a silver Momofuku’s ‘lucky peach’ logo. If you look confused enough standing outside wondering how to get in, the maitre d’ will soon spot you and open the door to welcome you in.
We are ushered to the last two seats at the far back of the chef’s table, with the giant glass fridges behind us. We have a sneak peek of the fresh ingredients inside the fridge which gives us a hint of what’s on the menu. A chef welcomes us and explains about the menu, also making sure we have no specific food allergies. There is only degustation menu on offer at the chef’s table at $185 per person. There will be approximately 14 courses this evening, and guests are welcomed to choose the meal to go with matching beverage at $105, or a reduced-pairing for $65 with wine served every second dish. We opt for the latter one.
A silver plate of amuse bouche is placed in front of us as the chef leans forward to explain each bite-size morsels of what they are and suggests us to try the ones with the lighter flavours first. We start with the snow crab, the delicate white meat really captures the sweet taste of the sea; with silky smooth chickpea puree inside a crispy wafer. The beetroot and black garlic jelly is surprisingly bold in flavour and umami from the earthiness of the beet and the meaty almost caramel flavour from the black garlic. We are advised to try the veal last, a perfect combo of sweet veal tartare with shavings of smoked yolk over the top.
Head Chef Ben Greeno comes over next introducing us to our next course. To be honest, I will never able to catch every single elements in the dish whenever a chef trying to describe it to me. But I am almost certain of what I heard, or believe that’s what I’ve heard under Ben’s strong English accent before he leaves us to it with a cheeky smirk on his face. I turn to The Pom still believing (or in disbelief) what I just heard, “Did he just say ‘chicken arse’?”
I have to admit that the triangle-shaped golden nugget is dead give away; it is indeed a deep fried parson’s nose concealed underneath the clump of popping trout roe. Within the thin, crispy layer of golden chicken skin is an explosion of rendered fat and some meat floss.
Hmm… I like big butt and I cannot lie.
Truffle season is currently in full swing here in Australia, so no surprise that these ugly, smelly lump of fungus are being showcased at most restaurants. The next course is as simple as it gets to let the truffle shine; sandwiched inside the pan-fried crusty, cheese toast is a thin layer of black truffle from Manjimup in WA.
You know what they say? “Once you go black, you can’t go back.” I have no reason to argue.
We gradually move on to meaty dishes. Underneath the white dome constructed with circles of King Brown mushroom is a hearty mash of black pudding, shredded beef and caramelised celeriac puree; the perfect winter warmer.
The most stunning looking dish this evening, the organic plating resembles a bed of fallen autumn leaves freshly tainted with specks of dirt. We are instructed to give the dish a good mix before digging in, underneath the colourful radish ‘petals’ are tiny cubes of seared wagyu beef and pickled watermelon, the textures are both so similar that it plays trick on your palate between sweet and salty. The fermented black bean crumbs elevates the umami of this dish whilst the radish adds crunch and a hint of mustard heat.
The next course is simply exquisite. The baby abalone is prepared with respect and perfectly cooked, it retains a nice yielding chewy texture but not tough, a light charred on the surface brings out that caramelised flavour like any shellfish. A quenelle of jerusalem artichoke ‘porridge’ studded with smoked sunflower seeds is surprisingly comforting, this dish sure reminds me of Chinese abalone congee.
This dish paired extremely well with Aziza’s Chardonnay from Harkham Wines in Hunter Valley.
Head chef Ben Greeno and sous chefs plating our next course. It is refreshing to see chefs are so calm and collected while working in the kitchen, there’s no yelling but concentration.
The fish course emphasises on simplicity and clean flavour. A wedge of steamed flounder is served with bones on, the delicate flesh is so soft and flaky, which makes removing the bones a breeze. It has a simple pairing of sous-vide carrot and carrot puree, and keeping the umami profile in check with kelp oil.
Next course is one of my favourite dishes this evening. Pretty as a picture, a web of deep-fried tripe looks more like a crunchy honeycomb, balancing on top of a block of braised daikon and some tendrils of tripe doused in XO sauce that packs a subtle heat kick. I save the crunchy tripe for last so I can savour slowly while it last. I wish I had a bowl of that stuff!
Our last savoury course is duck. The duck breast is smoked for twenty-five minutes then a quick pan searing to yield that glorious crispy skin. The pink duck meat is succulent and tender, with a perfect hint of smokiness that is not overpowering. A wedge of chargrilled red cabbage adds another level of meaty flavour to the dish, with the house made barbecue sauce (made from pumpkin) that wraps everything up nicely.
We are sitting right in front of the dessert station and get to observe pastry chef plating up our next course.
We move on to cheese course before dessert. Thin slivers of potato sheets are rolled and bound together then baked inside a buttery pastry shell. I have to admit I am not too keen on the chalky texture of the potato. But the hero of this dish is definitely the C2 cheese, a raw milk (aka unpasteurised) cheese from Bruny Island, Tasmania made using traditional method. It is a strong sharp flavour like cheddar but smooth and extremely creamy on the palate.
First dessert is a big wedge of crimson poached quince with a sweet caramelised coating, encasing a dome of sweet caramel sorbet on a disc of crispy almond sablé. The quince is soft like baby’s cheek, the sour note mellows down from the sweetness of the sorbet.
From the first glimpse, I thought we are being served green tea ice cream until the chef explains to us is actually sorbet made from chervil. This delicate herb is from the same family as parsley, its refreshing clean flavour reminds me of fresh cut grass and fennel fronds, works surprisingly well with the sweet corn puree and the aniseed flavour from the fennel seeds adhered to the white crispy dome of puffy meringue.
I can’t help but feeling a little sad that many dishes that I was hoping to try are no long on the menu, especially the Momofuku pork buns are no longer but reserved to bar menu only. *sad face*
Momofuku Seiobo was once known for being so gangsta and unorthodox by serving sweet sticky pulled pork shoulder as the parting petit four, but that has also been taken off the menu a while ago and this evening we are given two sweet canelés, a satisfyingly chewy finale to conclude a fabulous meal this evening.
As you may aware from my blog that I hardly do fine dining, especially degustation as it can be a very exhausting experience. Hence I was in no rush to join the hype when Momofuku Seiobo first opened 3 years ago. However, I am glad that I finally made it here and found myself enjoyed the experience tremendously. Most courses were executed perfectly, unpretentious yet sophisticated through the beauty of simplicity. No smears, no foams, no molecular, just honest food.Momofuku Seiōbo The Star, ground floor (opposite Adriano Zumbo) Make reservation online only. Opening hours
Lunch Friday – Saturday
Dinner Monday – Saturday, tasting menu at $185Reservations open online 20 days in advancebar
mon – sat / 6:30 pm – 10 pm
sat / 12 pm – 2 pm