Epicurean nirvana at Momofuku Seiobo
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a group who had gained a coveted reservation at the rather exclusive and exquisite Momofuku Seiobo, David Chang’s restaurant in Sydney. I’ve been to his noodle bar and Milk Bar in NYC and absolutely love his rock star chef style of Asian fusion that can be casual or incredibly upmarket. His Sydney place has taken the restaurant here scene by storm and earned three hats (like three Michelin stars in Australia) in its first year. I’ve been wanting to eat here since it opened and I was absolutely thrilled to get the chance. I had very high expectations (it is approximately $200 for the meal so it had better be spectacular, right?!!!) and I am pleased to say it met, if not exceeded them.
This was definitely in the top 5-10 meals I’ve had in my life. The innovation at work here is truly awe-inspiring and perhaps even more impressive is the air of zen and efficiency that all the chefs have. It is an open kitchen in quite a small restaurant, where most of the seats are looking into the kitchen, so there is really zero room for error, and the chefs all appear to just excel in this environment. There is no yelling or tempers or chaos here – it all appears to be executed flawlessly and calmly as the chefs work in unison to bring bite after bite of surprising, delicious, and unique combinations of flavours and textures. Almost every course was enough to draw oohs and ahhs of appreciation from me. I would say the only area that was slightly underwhelming was the desserts, but I think that was more a matter of personal taste (um, they served no chocolate) than their execution, which was perfect throughout the meal.
Overall, if you are going to shell out the big bucks for a meal in Sydney, this is without a doubt the place to go if you don’t like the stuffy fine dining scene and instead prefer a restaurant with equally amazing food to the big restaurants here like Quay, Sepia, and Marque, but with a much funkier, cool vibe (amazing music throughout the meal – made me want to dance!). But let’s get to the food.
Our starter set the bar ridiculously high immediately. It was just two bites but it was to die for. It’s a smoked eel cigar with freeze dried apple and apple gel at the bottom. I have no idea how they got the eel to that weird consistency in the middle of the cigar but it tasted like sushi except not with this delightful additional apple flavour. I don’t even know how to really describe it except to say that it was AMAZING.
The famous pork buns! You can get these in NYC for cheap, or you can splurge here and get them as one of many courses haha. But they were every bit as good as they are in his original noodle bar in New York. Pork belly, cucumber, and mushrooms in the softest bun imaginable. I could eat these forever.
Chicken tail, confit potatoes, ocean trout roe, and those little white things are mushrooms. I have NEVER in my whole life had potatoes this good. Honestly, they were elevated to heavenly level. The chicken tail was just kind of an afterthought and even though I thought it would be weird and gross it was crunch and kind of good. And the roe in combination with these utterly heavenly potatoes was just heavenly. Definitely in the top three courses of the meal.
Mud crab, miso, and toasted amaranth. I loved the thickness of the miso with the lightness of the mud crab, and the grain added a fantastic crunch. It had a tough act to follow in the last dish but it nearly matched it!
This was a crazy course. It came out looking white and fresh and beauitful – radishes with flavours of black beans, wagyu, and watermelon. You could only see the radishes, but when you mixed it up, everything else was underneath it, and it went from being pure white and beautiful looking to a black mess. The contrast was weird and cool and I liked the lightness of the radish and the watermelon contrasting with the dark saltiness of the black beans and wagyu. It was almost unnerving how it went from being so pretty to rather ugly (not pictured haha) but I’m sure that was the intent!
Oh man. Best vegetarian course EVER. This was roasted cauliflower, fermented mushroom, and smoked egg yolk. This was definitely one of the best courses in the meal in my opinion. Of course David Chang can make vegetables unbelievably interesting! This dish felt so smoky and chargrilled with a depth and intensity of flavour that was unparalleled to any other vegetable dish I’ve tried in a restaurant to date.Sweetbreads with baked apple and onion and a watercress emulsion. So I am not a fan of sweetbreads as they are a rather gross part of the animal, but I will of course try them when I’m in a fine dining experience, and though this wasn’t my favourite course, I was a huge fan of the central flavours – the emulsion was light and refreshing and I loved the addition of the apple and onion.
Marron – which is like a little lobster – with a seaweed emulsion with salsify, a fresh herb. This was absolutely divine and definitely one of my favourite courses – marron is a very rare and expensive seafood here and this was perfectly cooked, so it’s a real treat to have it!
Getting heavy – deep fried beef short rib, baby carrots, and confit glaze. I have to say the meat didn’t feel deep fried at all and it was unbelievably tender. This was very simple looking but man it was good.
Their take on a “cheese course” of sorts – goats curd, mint jelly, sourdough crumbs, and a raspberry coulis. This was a cool concept but as I’m not much of a cheese person in the first place this was not my favourite.
Mandarin with coconut and sweet egg yolk curd. Normally the thought of egg yolk on its own is kind of gross to me but I was expecting it by this point in the meal. And this was a stunning dish – I love citrus and in this rendition it was brilliant. The contrast of the curd with the mandarin jelly and the little pieces of meringue and coconut was unbelievable.
Pear with jerusalem artichoke and sunflower seeds (and some edible flowers on top of course) over a sort of burnt caramel-like sauce. It wasn’t that sweet but the combination of textures was of course fantastic.
The VERY aytpical finish to the meal – roasted caramelised pork with brown sugar that was served without utensils and just a few wipes. It was basically just utterly delicious pulled pork. I have to admit, I was very skeptical about this as a final taste, but it was scrumptious. That being said, when I look back on it, I still would have preferred some good old fashioned chocolate. But David Chang is not about being typical in the least.
As you can see, there were a ridiculous amount of courses, but they were all so small that I actually ended the night not feeling miserably stuffed but instead just satisfied and absolutely amazed. The whole degustation took just a bit over two hours, which was a perfect amount of time, and the way it was executed was just flawless. Although it’s ridiculously expensive, I would definitely come back here for a special occasion, because I know that the team here will continue to amaze and delight diners for years to come. This place is an amazing and funky addition to the Sydney dining scene and it absolutely cements David Chang’s food hero status in my eyes!