Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney
The full version of this post, together with photos, is available at my blog: http://fatmanthinwallet.wordpress.com...
After months of (im)patiently waiting, David Chang has finally opened Momofuku Seiobo, his first restaurant outside of New York, at The Star casino in Sydney, Australia.
Reserving two seats at the restaurant was easy thanks to the online booking system where each day at 10am seats are released for a particular day a little over one week in advance. While I have heard negative comments about Momofuku Ko's online reservation system, which I assume has been reused for Seiobo, I had no problem making a booking the first time I tried at 10am.
Once the online reservation form had been completed, an email came into my inbox confirming the reservation and advising of a $175pp late cancellation fee. A follow-up email and telephone call were also received the day before the booking to confirm the reservation.
The restaurant itself is located just behind the main food court at the Casino and can take a bit of effort to find, in no small amount due to the lack of useful signage in the Casino.
Whereas the Casino area surrounding the restaurant entrance looks rather drab, the restaurant itself is very sleek and modern, making use of dark colours and minimal decor besides two pictures of Angus Young from AC/DC.
The restaurant is split into three areas - a bar to the left of the entrance that went unused during our visit; a counter surrounding the kitchen floor where guests can watch the chefs work their magic, and five four-seat tables spaciously set out in the main floor area. Upon entering and seeing the four-top layout of the tables I assumed my wife and I would be seated at the bar only be to placed at the table closest to the bar with the remaining two chairs being unused. Whilst initially annoyed with this development, we still had an excellent vantage point from which to watch the kitchen area even if it would have been better to be seated at the bar. Next time I will be sure to be asked to be seated at the bar!
At present Momofuku Seiobo only offers a single tasting menu consisting of 15 dishes. I understand there is consideration being given to a lunch and bar menu in the future; I am sure Sydney-siders would be grateful for an option to purchase multiple pork buns once from a bar.
If I had to describe the food I would have to go with a modern blend of eastern and western themes, but that wouldn't do it justice. While the choice and progression of courses might seem odd at a glance, what with a pasta course wedged in just before the last of several meat and fish courses and dessert being followed by a "Petit Four" of pork shoulder, everything worked well and I never once thought myself questioning the menu during the course of the evening.
In terms of the food itself, everything was wonderfully prepared and presented and it is obvious the chefs, and David Chang, spent a lot of time and care developing the menu. The menu strung together a number of standout dishes including the fabled pork bun, tender spanner crab served with a fluffy Yorkshire pudding that you could use to create a crab roll, the pasta (perfect in every way), the pecorino cheese dish and the carsmelised pork. A number of other courses were also excellent even if they did not achieve the lofty heights of deliciousness. If I had to fault the food, it would only be to say that some of the dishes, notably the kingfish and two desserts, lacked the "wow" factor of the other dishes. Nevertheless, the meal was still overall a delight.
A word about portions. At the beginning of the meal I was concerned about the smallness of the portions, especially given the portions in the first course and the pork bun that seemed to me to be the slider equivalent of the pork buns I remember having in April this year. However, my concerns were soon put to rest and I only just managed to finish the caramelised pork at the end.
The menu layout was as folllows:
“Snacks” – dehydrated shitake mushroom chips, deep fried nori, mochi ball
“Steamed Pork Bun” – pork belly, cucumber, hoisin
“Kingfish” – warrigal greens, furikake
“White Asparagus” – marron, szechuan pepper
“Beef” – wagyu beef, red ball raddish, fermented black bean
“Eel dashi” – hailstone radish, chive blossom
Eel with apple gel and apple powder
“Spanner & Swimmer Crab” – butter, pepper, biscuit
“Egg” – toasted rice, brown butter (a substitute my wife was given for the Egg dish consisted of artichoke, grapefruit and sunflower seeds
)“Hand torn pasta” – goats cheese, chili, mint
“Blue eye” – broccoli, horseradish, potato and an accompanying broth
“Lamb Neck” – daikon, pickled turnips
“Pecorino” – honey licorice, bee pollen
“Wattle Seed” – malt, crispy milk
“Miso” – pickled strawberry, toasted rice, mochi
“Petite Four” - Caramelised pork shoulder - no cutlery provided
Wine and beverages
The restaurant offers a selective drinks menu together with a sake, wine and beer pairing to match the food for $95 per person. My wife and I elected for the pairing and were both happy with the experience, even if the sommelier refilling of our glasses whenever they were empty was both a blessing that night and a curse the morning after.
We were also offered the choice of sparkling or still water. Electing sparkling, our glasses were continuously refilled throughout the night and I was surprised and grateful to see on the final bill it was provided at no cost. I am not sure if this is a benefit limited to those who do the sake, wine and beer pairings but it was a welcome feature that all fine dining institutions should be encouraged to adopt.
Service was friendly and casual whilst still being attentive throughout the meal. Alcohol and water were constantly replenished and plates promptly cleared when finished. My wife's alleged egg allergy was acknowledged on the day without question despite it not being raised on the booking form and a substitute that delighted my wife was provided.
The only service snafus that I can recall were a bowl being taken away when I had not finished the dish and the bill taking too long at the end of the night (even though they were packing up for the evening when we finished the meal).
Overall we had a great time and Momofuku Seiobo is a very welcome addition to the Australian dining scene. While some of the dishes could use some tweaking, there was nothing that tasted bad and several of the dishes, including the final "Petit Four", were smash hits. Add to that great music, at least for someone of my vintage, and a friendly service staff and we have a winner. I look forward to visiting the restaurant again in a month or so to see how things are going.
As an addendum, it appears that about ten minutes after I left the restaurant on Friday the hostess emailed me a copy of the sake, beer and wine list I requested (excellent service!)
MOMOFUKU SEIOBO BEVERAGE PAIRING
11 NOVEMBER 2011
Mutemuka Shizo 2010
Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu
Crawford River Riesling 2010
Bass Phillip Rose 2010
Mader Pinot Gris 2009
Gembrook Hill 'Village' Pinot Noir 2009
Yarra Valley, Victoira
Moriki Shuzo 'Hanabusa' 2009
Torbreck 'The Steading' GSM 2008
Barossa Valley, SA
Hitachino Nest Lacto Sweet Stout
Kameman Shuzo 'Genmaishu' 2010
I was not a big fan of the casino itself, although this might be due to the fact that I frequently visit Las Vegas so my expectations might differ form others. However, the main benefit of the casino location is that when you arrive at the front entrance (i.e. by taxi) someone opens the door for you and there are people offering directions, which helps add to the class of the occasion.
The big problem with the location of the restaurant is that the floor on which the restaurant is located is rather drab and looks like it is still being completed. Further, you have to walk through the food court to get there, although I suppose the out-of-the-way location helps reduce the number of people milling around the restaurant.
Once inside you forget about the casino although if you are sitting at a table and seated so that you have a view towards the entrance you will possibly once or twice during the meal be distracted by people walking past or peering through the grills that act as a wall for the restaurant.