A question that comes up four times a year with our crazy fine dining crew is ‘Where are you having your birthday dinner?’ In turn we select the one place that is the top of our respective list for whatever reason. For me it HAD to be momofuku seiōbo (pronounced say-oh-bo). Sure it was awarded three chef’s hats from SMH in its very first year, but more importantly it is the first restaurant in the momofuku empire to open outside of New York City and an experience I knew would be special.
Almost everyone knows David Chang is the genius behind momofuku and it was great to see him make his first international venture in Sydney. Obviously I could go on and on about David and what he has done for food/restaurants/gastronomy/etc. but there is nothing I could write that you cannot find elsewhere.
tasting menu – $185.00 per person / with beverage pairing $295.00 per person
- smoked eel, apple
(mutemuka shuzo 2012, junmai muroka nama genshu, kochi, japan)
- steamed bun, pork belly
- potato, roe, parson’s nose
(yann durieux ‘love and pif’ 2011, hautes côtes de nuits, france)
- crab, mullet roe, leek
(immich-batterieberg ‘c.a.i’ 2011, mosel, germany)
- lamb, radish, fermented black bean
(mukai shuzo ‘ine mankai’ 2012, junmai genshu, kyoto, japan)
- tongue, watercress, fennel
(ngeringa ‘growers selection’, pinot noir 2010, adelaide hills, sa)
- cauliflower, mushroom, smoked yolk
(grace rebula 2009, vipava, slovenia)
- marron, seaweed, salsify
(phillipe bornard ‘le blanc de la rouge’, chardonnay 2009, arbois pupillin, france)
- shortrib, daikon, turnip
(moric blaufrankisch 2011, burgenland, austria)
- curd, blackcurrant, mint
(eric bordelet poire ‘granit’ 2011, normandy, france)
- mandarin, coconut, egg
- pear, jerusalem artichoke, sunflower
(toro albala ‘don px’ 2008, mantilla-moriles, spain)
When there is only one menu option it makes things pretty straight forward. From there we only need select from the four beverage options. The first option is no drinks, the second being a juice pairing for those designated drivers out there (which is pretty cool, I guess), the third is a smaller wine pairing and the fourth is of course the regular size wine match. Naturally I opted for the full size wines; it was my birthday dinner after all.
As we arrived it seemed quite fortuitous that we were seated at the bar surrounding the open kitchen, two on either side of the corner with fantastic views into the final prep section of the kitchen. Obviously our prime position is meant to be great but until you’re actually sitting there and watching I don’t think you can fully appreciate it.
smoked eel, apple.
mutemuka shuzo 2012, junmai muroka nama genshu, kochi, japan.
Our first course was a smoked eel brandade in a tuile cigar with both an apple gel and a freeze dried apple powder. First and foremost the eel stood proudly, intense and subdued at the same time, an undercurrent of smoking throughout that was brought back with the apple that was both sweet and sour but never imposing. I loved the crisp cigar which seemed to enable everything to work so flawlessly.
steamed bun, pork belly.
Pork buns. Everyone has said it, done it, eaten it, loved it, hated it and all the rest. What makes this one any different? David Chang does. While versions have existed in Asian cuisine for a long time it was the eleventh hour inclusion on his noodle bar menu and his take on the classic that has made David Chang and momofuku synonymous with pork buns.
It starts with pork belly that is superbly cooked, a generous slice of fantastic pickle, and a dash of hoisin sauce on an impeccably steamed bun. Combine this with a dash of Sriracha (provided in mini bottles) and you have quite simply something that is addictive. While there is nothing to explain ‘exactly’ why these are such a phenomenon there is no denying their brilliance. Please sir, can I have some more?
potato, roe, parson’s nose.
yann durieux ‘love and pif’ 2011, hautes côtes de nuits, france.
Does not knowing what parson’s nose is make me an idiot? Sure it may but oh well, can’t win them all. The fatty ‘tail’ of the chicken was battered and deep fried to make for a crispy little gem. Confit balls of potato were amazing, but with the other three exclaiming how they were just like airline spuds from years back I just tried to ignore them and enjoy. Salty popping ocean trout roe and tart crème fraîche rounded out the flavours nicely making for a perfect dish.
crab, mullet roe, leek.
immich-batterieberg ‘c.a.i’ 2011, mosel, germany.
Initially I had thought the mud crab was far too delicate to hold up against the intensity of dill let alone a mullet roe butter (that reminded me of sea urchin roe) but to my surprise it not only held its own but really claimed the title. We all loved the toasty flavour of the amaranth and the peppery hint of the shallots throughout.
lamb, radish, fermented black bean.
mukai shuzo ‘ine mankai’ 2012, junmai genshu, kyoto, japan.
Someone said lamb but all I saw was radish with a scattering of finely chopped fermented black beans about. Below the fine slices of radish and black bean crumbs there was some roasted lamb loin and burnt watermelon. The ash of burnt watermelon gave quite a bitter taste and such a dark encompassing blackness to the dish. The charcoal went so well with the black bean but it masked the lamb just a little too much for me.
tongue, watercress, fennel.
ngeringa ‘growers selection’, pinot noir 2010, adelaide hills, sa.
Wagyu makes everyone think of a juicy, unctuous piece of scotch fillet cooked just beyond rare to get the fat melting and flavour bursting. This was not that. It was tongue, generally a tough cut, something more aligned with corning. We had two finely cut slices, grilled and rolled along with some fennel and watercress. The char from the tongue was spot on, the texture was on the verge of being too firm, but this was just right. Everything was so good until you got into the watercress sauce/puree. Holy hell was it sour/strong/intense. I made sure to avoid it as best I could and really enjoy the rest of what was a great dish.
cauliflower, mushroom, smoked yolk.
grace rebula 2009, vipava, slovenia.
Overhearing this dish being described to other diners all I heard was mushroom. So when watching it being assembled I strained way too hard to work out what mushrooms were being used. It turned out what I thought was mushroom was actually roasted cauliflower, served with fermented mushroom and the finishing touch of smoked egg yolks. The yolks were cooked, smoked and then finally grated over the whole dish. The dish was rich, salty, earthy and just all round perfect. The yolk just melting away and adding to the complex richness of the dish.
marron, seaweed, salsify.
phillipe bornard ‘le blanc de la rouge’, chardonnay 2009, arbois pupillin, france.
Marron, just the thing that Em did not want to hear (well cauliflower was definitely up there) but for the rest of us it was a little ‘oh yeah’ moment when it was announced. Plump and vibrant portions were presented and a few dollops of vin juane (yellow wine) sauce were atop the marron. Toasted salsify looked rather charred but tasted incredible. There is an innate sweetness in marron but this seemed amplified and so perfectly suited to the vin juane sauce. The inclusion of minute amounts of chive and tarragon were not unnoticed either as everything was so carefully selected to combine into a sensational dish.
shortrib, daikon, turnip.
moric blaufrankisch 2011, burgenland, austria.
‘Hello, my name is Dylan and I am a beefaholic.’ Shortrib is to die for when cooked right. Why not deep fry it? What? Yeah that is right, this is deep fried shortrib (yes of course there are other methods in play but still, deep fried sounds AWESOME). It was charred, just so slightly crispy and rich on the outside, but soft and incredibly indulgent on the inside. Deep frying beef is pretty amazing but for me there was a revelation in the charred daikon purée that accompanied it. I may sound daft but it was amazing, somewhere between… yes here we go… apple purée and vegemite, and it was so damn good.
curd, blackcurrant, mint.
eric bordelet poire ‘granit’ 2011, normandy, france.
And so it seemed that the savoury courses were done, time to cleanse the palette and move on. A goats curd from Adelaide Hills was given a moat of blackcurrant juice, a few crumbs of roasted bread and dash of mint oil in the centre to balance it all out. So many things in this happening all at once; salty, creamy, herbaceous, sweet, crunchy. It was almost perfectly balanced with only the mint outshining the berry, but all in all a great combination.
mandarin, coconut, egg.
The mandarin sorbet was utterly amazing, so full on and pure I can’t imagine any other mandarin sorbet being better. Shards of meringue were cool and there for texture more than anything else. Below the scattering of coconut, dried and toasted, there was a silky vanilla cream that really shone more than I thought it may. Yet although the cream was amazing the sugar cured egg yolk made this a dessert to remember. The sugar curing made the egg yolk like a jube on steroids – so awesome.
pear, jerusalem artichoke, sunflower.
toro albala ‘don px’ 2008, mantilla-moriles, spain.
I had seen a sunflower at the back of the kitchen all night but hadn’t really given it much thought. When presented with the last course of the night it finally clicked. Jerusalem artichoke puree and the roasted pears were an unusually good combination, combined with the creamy sunflower seeds and meticulously shaved slices of Jerusalem artichoke it was quite a memorable dish.
Obviously after the dessert comes the petit four – the final sweetness before coffee or sleep. Thankfully momofuku seiōbo have something special lined up for everyone. There’s no room for macarons and truffles here, instead we have a portion of slow cooked pork shoulder. Tender beyond belief and with a caramelised sauce to satisfy even the most loyal ‘sweets’ fans.
Somewhat surprisingly it was over quite quickly, maybe even too quickly. The floor staff were so attentive and efficient that you barely notice they were there. The attention to detail exhibited by the whole crew was amazing, it made the evening feel more relaxed than I have experienced at a restaurant of this calibre.
It was a solid evening with some of the best wine matches I’ve experienced and flavour combinations I have only dreamt of. For a birthday this was magnificent, exactly as I had hoped it would be.
It is worth mentioning the overindulgence did not stop there, we departed momofuku seiōbo, made our way over to Zumbo’s and I ended up with a bread and butter pudding macaron. We then moved on to Gelato Messina for a night cap of sorts. Since we didn’t have coffee at momofuku seiōbo I deemed it necessary to have a scoop of ‘The Hit’ – coffee gelato with coffee cake and coffee cream. Wow indeed, so much coffee in such a small sugar filled scoop.
Level G, 80 Pyrmont Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
momofuku seiōbo website