Monday, 2 September 2013

Momofuku Seiobo - 11 November 2011

Today's entry is one from the archives, my meal at Momofuku Seiobo (The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont) about a month after its opening back in 2011. From time to time, I like to reminisce about some of my best meals before I got into food blogging. And the photos were taken with my old point and shoot camera, a Canon IXUS 100, which has seen better days, so apologies for the image quality. Hopefully they do the job.

Momofuku Seiobo is David Chang’s first venture outside New York. The brash American is a global star that needs no introduction. Such is his stardom that he was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010. I was so excited to see David Chang choose Sydney, but why Sydney and The Star of all places? There are many other bigger cities he could have chosen and in his own country too. I am not complaining though, and I was going to do anything to make sure I would eat at Momofuku.

Securing a reservation at Momofuku also means navigating the somewhat draconian online booking system. New reservations were released each day at 10am 10 days before the day you are trying to book (it has since changed to 20 days in advance). But you need to be quick as bookings are all snapped up within minutes (especially a Friday night reservation, which is what I was looking for). I still remember sitting in front of computer madly refreshing the reservations page from 9.59am until the new set of reservations were released. These are the lengths that I go to eat at highly sought after restaurants.

View of the open table from my seat
And wow, what an experience it was! Love it or hate it, this place has attitude and personality. Gone are white tablecloths, fancy cutlery and heck even tables. There's loud music such as AC/DC playing in background. There's a picture of Angus Young hanging on the wall. What I love about Momofuku is that you sit at the counter and watch the chefs prepare your meals in front of your very eyes in the open kitchen and then serve each course to you. Now this is my idea of theatre and taking the open kitchen to another level. David Chang might had already flown back to New York, but Peter Serpico, David Chang’s former right hand man at Momofuku Ko in NY, was in town and overseeing the kitchen on the night. I believe he has since left Momofuku to open his own restaurant in Philadelphia (which is named Serpico after himself).

One of the chefs at work
There is only a tasting menu of around 14 courses at Momofuku ($175 at the time of meal, now $185). Vegetarians are well looked after at Seiobo and there is a vegetarian alternative for my wife (unlike at the Noodle Bar, where David Chang famously took every vegetarian item off the menu after a customer had complained about the lack of vegetarian items). It’s not all about that famed pork bun at Seiobo, although the pork bun is pretty awesome and certainly deserves its reputation. We were taken on an amazing gastronomic journey like no other and there were so many highlights. Some of the courses seemed quite experimental and even crazy but it somehow managed they hit the mark most of the times. Burnt watermelon oil? Crispy milk skin? Miso flavoured ice cream? Petit four of pulled candied pork shoulder? WTF? How does this all even work? I don't know how but it does and it was amazing!

The famous Momofuku pork bun – probably more like 
a bar snack rather than something on a tasting menu, but 
Sydney demanded it and got it as David Chang wasn't 
originally going to include this on the menu
My favourite courses were the hand torn pasta, egg custard and the crab & Yorkshire pudding. Beautiful sheets of thin silky pasta with creamy goats cheese, fragrant basil and mint and cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth are a match made in heaven. The savoury egg custard, Momofuku's take on the Japanese dish chawanmushi, is absolutely divine. It was so silky smooth and delightfully moreish. But for me the crab & Yorkshire pudding was the best course of the night. Perfectly cooked crab meat was sweet and delicate, Yorkshire pudding was deliciously crabby and the butter and pepper sauce was so amazing. This is the kind of dish that made me want to scream out "this dish was effing amazing" at the top of my lungs! These courses, along with the rest of the meal, can be seen in the pics at the end of the post.

I would recommend Momofuku Seiobo to anyone that is looking for a memorable meal. I do suggest going the full 14 course experience. However there are other options too that don't cost as much. The 8 course lunch menu is $110 looks like decent value and I may just come back to try it for a special occasion. And there’s the no reservation, first come first served bar menu. There are only 5 seats, so probably best to come at 6.30 when they open. This is the best way to try that famous pork bun without having to go for the full-blown tasting menu. Plus there are other goodies like spanner crab roll, fried brussel sprouts, confit chicken wings and roasted rice cakes on the bar menu that sound mouth watering. 

Highlight: There were quite a few "stars" in this meal, including the hand torn pasta and egg custard. But the crab and Yorkshire pudding was a whole new level of amazing!
Lowlight: ZOMG, so much food! This is the most full I have ever felt after a degustation and I think I am one with a large appetite. I was already full to the brim by the time the petit four (of candied pork) came out. How can anyone say no to that pile of sweet, juicy, succulent pork meat? It didn’t help my overworked stomach lol 
Overall: Sydney is extremely fortunate to have a restaurant that's part of David Chang's Momofuku empire. Come to Momofuku for a rollicking meal. The food here is wacky at times but is exceptional in execution and flavours. Watch the chefs display their fine skills. You will be impressed and I can assure that you will have a great time. 8.5/10 (Excellent)

Snacks - dehydrated shitake mushroom chip, deep 
fried nori, mochi ball: The mochi was our favourite of 
the snacks

Veg Course 1 shitake bun: The vego gets slippery 
shitakes in place of pork belly. Just as amazing as the pork 
belly version. For us, there is no match for the Momofuku 
bun in Sydney. Pillow soft, fluffy bun that has no hint of 
sogginess or doughiness    
Inside the shitake bun. Love the hoisin sauce and 
Inside the pork belly bun. Delicious melt in your mouth 
pork belly!
Course 2kingfish, warrigal greens, furikake: A nice 
fresh dish with kingfish sashimi to get the taste buds 
Veg Course 2grilled onion, mulberry pickled onions 
My wife loves mulberries! Great combination of bitterness from 
radicchio, acidity from the picked onions and sweetness from 
the mulberries
Course 3white asparagus, marron, szechuan pepper
The marron was amazing and was so tender that it melted in 
the mouth!
Veg Course 3asparagus, white and green, miso dressing
Course 4 beef, radish, fermented black bean  
Wow, what a pretty dish! Thin slices of radish are delicately 
placed to form some sort of floral arrangement. 
Underneath are tiny cubes of wagyu beef, that melt in the 
mouth and drowned in fermented black bean and burnt 
watermelon oil. Yes, that's right burnt watermelon oil! 
As bizarre as this sounds, it worked. 
For the vegetarian, beef is replaced by watermelon cubes, 
even more bizarre! Looking more like tuna in a 
savoury course rather than watermelon, the texture is 
certainly different as it is soft and not crunchy. My wife 
quite enjoyed this unusual course.  
Course 5eel dashi, hailstone radish, chive blossom
A nice broth with an intense smoky eel flavour.
Course 5eel brandade with apple puree
Accompanying the eel dashi was this weird thin,crispy eel 
thing that looked like cannoli with an apple puree filling. This 
needs to be eaten in conjunction with the dashi 
otherwise it just tastes weird. 
Veg course 5shitake dashi
An aromatic, umami filled dashi
Veg course 5brandade with truffle
In place of eel, my wife got this egg roll with truffle 
shavings, which we thought was better than the eel version. 
Course 6 spanner and swimmer crab, butter, pepper, 
biscuit: My favourite dish of the night. Absolutely delicious 
and to die for! That buttery and peppery sauce was 
so delicious when mopped up with perfectly cooked 
crab meat and moist, fluffy Yorkshire pudding.  
Veg course 6artichoke, sunflower seeds, grapefruit
Course 7egg, toasted rice, brown butter
Insanely awesome take of egg custard. 62 degrees of creamy 
and fluffy egg goodness! Perfect with the nuttiness of 
brown butter.
Course 8Hand torn pasta, goats cheese, chilli, mint
Momofuku is on a roll. 3 absolutely cracking dishes in a row! 
Wow! Velvety sheets of pasta that melt in the mouth. 
Creamy goats cheese with mint and basil. And cherry 
tomato that explode in the mouth with juices.
Course 9blue eye, broccoli, horseradish, potato 
Veg course 9beets, artichoke, purple kale
We are both starting to get quite full by this stage...
Course 10 lamb neck, daikon, pickled turnips
Lamb neck was cooked to perfection with a lovely pink 
centre. Incredibly tender and favoursome meat.
Veg course 10cauliflower, whole roasted, puree, 
sultanas: My wife makes the comment that the cauliflower 
looks likes a brain hehe. Delicious dish with a smokey 
cauliflower that had bite, and smooth cauliflower puree.  
Course 11pecorino, honey licorice, bee pollen 
This was an excellent cheese course. We are both not 
normally a fan of licorice but when you mix it all up with the 
salty pecorino, honey and bee pollen, you get this really 
delicious mixture :9
Course 12 wattle seed, malt ice cream, crispy milk skin
Dehydrated wattle seed, wattle seed meringue and crispy 
milk skin? WTF? These are great textural elements to go with 
that amazing malt ice cream. A great dessert indeed
Course 13 miso ice cream, pickled strawberry, toasted 
rice, mustard: This is a bizarre sounding and tasting dessert 
but it works! We enjoyed the miso ice cream, which actually 
tasted like miso and those mochi cubes.
The chefs are getting the petit fours ready
Petit fourcandied roasted pork shoulder
I was ridiculously full by this stage but when this pile of 
juicy, succulent meat, with its juices flowing everywhere 
on the plate, was placed in front of me there was no way 
I was going to turn it down. The meat was soooooo 
amazingly tender!
Digging in with my hands. Tastes even better with messy 
Veg petit four candied witlof
Unfortunately, this just did not work and the first time in the 
meal thatthe vegetarian really gets gypped. A sweet witlof 
just doesn't taste good.   

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