March 8, 2013: Lunch at Momofuku Seiōbo.
Owned by noted Korean-American chef David Chang, the Sydney branch of Momofuku Seiōbo at Star City Casino is easily missed. In much the same way that I mistook the front door of Neil Perry’s Spice Temple for a bus stop advertisement, we walked past the front door of Momofuku Seiōbo a good four times before figuring out how to get in. I’m not sure if I should feel embarrassed or annoyed by the fact that these front doors are as hard to spot as those Dwarfish caves in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
Dining at Momofuku Seiōbo for the first time is a rather novel experience, firstly because you’re not given a menu. After you’re seated at one of the restaurant’s six tables and offered a selection of drinks, the food starts rolling out – ten whole courses in all.
The truth is, I didn’t know what to expect at all as I did no research in advance of going, but the restaurant’s reputation was such that I wasn’t game to ask what, how or why our food was being served. I imagined, if I did ask, that the conversation would go something like this:
“YOU WILL SIT. AND YOU WILL EAT.”
“But what exactly are we ea…”
“AND YOU WILL BE GRATEFUL.”
One by one these dishes were presented, made to complement the drinks we were being served, and they were all delicious. Each dish was brought to us by the cook who prepared it. Some of them were nervous, some were confident, others were barely intelligible. It’s weird not knowing what you’re being served, and relying on the description provided by the person serving you the food. I often felt the urge to to question them, but again I imagined conversations going along the lines of:
“THIS IS SLOW-COOKED EGG AND BURNT LEEK”
“Oh. Is the leek meant to be burnt?”
In the end, all was explained in the bill, which was accompanied by the menu. It turns out we had:
– Smoked potato apple
– Steamed bun with pork belly
– Pink snapper, celery, mustard
– Potato, roe, parson’s nose
– Smoked eel jelly, turnip, almond
– Onion, burnt leek, yolk (pictured)
– Hapuka, cucumber, black garlic
– Lamb, eggplant, lettuce
– Curd, blackcurrant, mint
– Pear, honey cream, muntries
The one thing that wasn’t listed was the petit four, which came in the form of a fried doughnut with pig fat caramel. Its taste was inversely proportionate to how revolting the name sounds, which is to say it was ridiculously good.
Oh, the bill was also accompanied by two packets of kimchi.
Still haven’t figured that one out…