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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Momofuku Down Under

Snacks (left to right): smoked potato with apple gel and freeze dried green apple
Shiitake chip, mochi (Korean rice cake) and nori crisps
Steamed bun with pork belly, cucumber, hoisin and sriracha
Sea mullet crudo with crispy shallots, nectarine and sichuan pepper
"Marron" (fresh-water lobster) with burnt eggplant and rhubarb
Seared wagyu rump with radish, watermelon and fermented black bean
Smoked eel with jerusalem artichoke and pink grapefruit and smoked eel dashi
Lemon "Aspen berries"
Mud crab with old bay butter sauce and Yorkshire pudding
Slow cooked egg with toasted rice, green tea and brown butter
Pea and ham agnolotti with parmesan foam,  diced water chestnuts and parmesan
"Mulloway" fish with smoked mullet roe and lettuce
Pork neck with storm clam, sweet and sour turnips and scallion
...cut up and assembled into perfect bite-sized snacks
Shell of the giant storm clam
"C2" cheese with honey licorice tuile, crab apple gel and bee pollen
Peach with rose meringue, rose foam and pistachio ice cream
Malt with brown sugar and smoked butter caramel
Post-dessert: a honey-glazed BOMB of fatty pork
(served with a smug smile, hot towels and no utensils!)
...and still largely untouched 30 minutes later
when the staff are nearly done cleaning the kitchen
Delicious "Ine Mankai" red rice sake
View to kitchen from the dining bar
LOCATION: Momofuku Seiōbo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Level G, Sydney
CATEGORY: Pacific, Australian, fine dining, tasting menu
DRINK: the reduced beverage pairing plus a few additions:
Sake: 2011 Mutemaka Shuzo, 'Mutemaka,' Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu (Kochi) and 2011 Mukai Shuzo, 'Ine Mankai,' Junmai Genshu (Kyoto)
Sparkling: 2010 Riesling, Sato Petillant Naturel, Otago, NZ
White: 2009 Pinot Blanc, Pyramid Valley 'Kerner' Marlborough NZ and 2009 Chardonnay, Philippe Bornard 'Le Blanc de la Rouge', Arbois Pupillin, FR
Red: 2010 Nero d'Avola, Gulfi 'Rossoblejo' Sicily, IT
Yellow: 2007 Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio, Dario Prinčič Bianco Trebež
Cider: 2009 Eric Bordelet Poiré 'Granit' Normandy, FR
Dessert Wine: 1985 Don PX Pedro Ximenez Moutilla-Morlee, Cordoba, SP
Digestif: Fernet Branca
WE THINK: Seiōbo is David Chang's first Momofuku restaurant outside of New York City and is located in a (gasp!) food court inside a (gasp!!) shopping mall attached to the (gasp!!!) Star Casino! It is way sleeker in appearance than his other restaurants but still feels like Momofuku, due in large part to the cool and excited young staff, the great iPod playlist and the quirky toilet, access to which involves walking through the entire kitchen, past the glass fridges, behind the dishwasher and into a small hallway--a byproduct of opening a restaurant in a mall where patrons are normally expected to use the public toilets.
Seiōbo's 15-course tasting menu which incorporates native Australian ingredients, is best enjoyed sitting at the large U-shaped bar which wraps around the kitchen from where you get served directly over the counter by the hard-working chefs. To accompany the tasting menu, it's possible to have a full or a reduced alcoholic beverage pairing. Terrified of repeating our embarrassing drunken behavior at Momofuku Ko last year, where we had the full beverage pairing and a near black-out two thirds into the meal, we decided to order the reduced beverage pairing. But then we found out that a rarely delicious red rice sake was missing from this, and a wonderful orange wine from one of our new favorites, Dario Prinčič, so these had to be added. And then some re-fills and a Fernet to finish off the meal... We were still standing by the end of it, but only just.
Regarding the food, our overall conclusion is: delicious. Our impression was that the flavors at Seiōbo have been toned down a little compared to its American counterparts, making for some very subtle flavor combinations--sometimes maybe a little too subtle, though there were some distinct smokey/burnt/toasty flavors running through the entire meal. Our undisputed favorites were the sea mullet crudo with sichuan pepper and delicious crispy shallots, the smoked eel with grapefruit and eel broth, the pea and ham pasta and the pork neck with sweet and sour turnips, all of which ranked high above the other dishes of the evening. By dessert time, we were already too full (blame it on a late lunch) but managed to enjoy all 3 of them, taking comfort in the fact that we'd made it to the end of our meal. That is, until a sticky glazed pork bomb hit the table, and all we could see on our plate was David Chang flipping the finger. We were very embarrassed. We knew it was going to be ridiculously delicious, but we just couldn't get ourselves to eat it. Or look at it. So we just poked it a little and turned down the offer of the excellent head chef, Ben Greeno, to wrap up the pork so we could bring it back to our hotel mini bar. (Note: some of our friends ate here the night before us and ordered a SECOND HELPING, so we can't decide if it's Shame On Us or simply Don't Serve Pork At The End Of A Meal...)

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