So I bought the cookbook, poured meticulously over every episode of “Mind Of a Chef” I could find, talked endlessly with my friends, peers, random passers by who actually had no clue what I was ranting about, and here I am, finally. A golden ticket to David Chang land, reservations at Momofuku Seiobo, standing at the gates of fresh inspiration and the window to culinary excellence, and we were fucken late!
“Where the fuck IS this place?”
“What did the bell boy say? Left, left, and straight to the end?”
As the clock ticked past 6.30pm and the cold, crawling fingers of panic start to wrap around my wind pipe, Momofuku Seiobo was still nowhere to be found. As our booking time came and went we were now, however unintentionally, committing the ultimate hospo sin.
Being late is not just an inconvenience for the people trying frantically to manage the fray of a busy service; at a high end restaurant is considered to be something of an insult! And those who are hospo bred, should fucking know better. We had of course intended to be early for this auspicious occasion, but inside the glittery bowels of the hulking goliath of greed that is the Star Casino in Sydney, we just simply couldn’t bloody find it!
Finally, after the third set of vague instructions from the disenfranchised husks that vaguely represented people working the floor, and a second lap of the large intestine of this pit of lost dreams and squandered fortunes, we stood, at last basking in the iridescent glow of that oh so familiar symbol of the Momofuku empire, the ‘Lucky Peach’.
Suffice to to say that I had been looking forward to this dinner a fair bit. When my partner suggested make the New Years pilgrimage to Sydney, I’m quite sure she was thinking how nice it would be to get away, visit her sister, go to the beach; I, on the other hand, had but one motivation for undertaking this voyage, Momofuku Seiobo.
As we are gracefully ushered in through the very large, dark stained wood of the otherwise unmarked door into a modern, yet surprisingly well lit dining floor, I can feel the feverish anticipation of impending deliciousness begin to boil over. As we settle in for the evening, I mentally prepare myself for the onslaught of the wondrous bites I am about to shovel into my undeserving maw. Tasteful 80’s pop music blaring at a slightly louder than comfortable level, us cutting a few shapes as we await our starter; this immaculately designed space gives way to an atmosphere more suited to a bar than one of this countries cutting edge eateries. Relaxed but hungry as we ordered some drinks, we found ourselves having way too much fun for a fine dining encounter.
Metal bucket in hand, our table is approached by a tall chef. As he plonks his curious prop down in our midst he begins to explain.
“Hi there, this guy will be part of your meal tonight”
Staring up at us is our very own live rock lobster (crayfish). Feeling quite relaxed, beer in hand I asked if our dinner had a name. Caught a tad off guard, our chef revealed that in fact it did not have a name, perhaps personalizing our quarry too much moments before he personally dispatched it. We bestowed the auspicious title of Sally upon our main course, and watched as he was carried away to met his maker at the pointy end of a chefs knife, and then his corpse committed to fire.
With a massive fourteen courses put in front of us on this balmy January eve I will do my best to summarize the highlights, of which there are many, but will attempt to refrain from a dish by dish analysis (‘coz neither you or I can be fucked with that shit, let’s face it….)
Of the four or so starters that we devoured that night my favourite had to be the raw scallop, diced and served in its own shell with a refreshingly tart puree of Davison plum and lightly garnished with sawtooth coriander (often referred to as mexican coriander even though I have mostly found it in Vietnamese cuisine). At once rich, briny, and fresh, this dish was the perfect precursor to an evening of well balanced decadence.
Of the lighter meals, or entrees if such a thing can exist inside the format of a fourteen course degustation, I found the cold soup/salad of raw calamari and green mango, seven courses in, particularly worthy of mention. Once again, I am a sucker for raw seafood presented in a novel way. Beautifully prepared seafood served simply leaves you nowhere to hide mistakes or shitty produce, just like a simple piece of fruit eaten whole, it is either perfect at the peak of its’ life cycle, or it’s fucken shit! Gracefully garnished with pickled shallots, shredded seaweed, and green mango, this immaculate calamari is dressed in a delightfully fresh bath of green apple soup. Summer just jizzed in my mouth people! Enough said.
Now we can’t let this review go by with out a heart felt shout out to our old mate Sally from earlier in the piece (WHADDUP SALLY!). Now as a Kiwi we are renowned for putting even the finest morsels between two slices of bread to enhance our enjoyment, and convenience. I can plainly remember an add on TV featuring a french chef in one of those farcical muffin shaped hats, who upon receiving an order for 15 lobster sandwiches, promptly loses his shit and storms out onto the dining floor to give the offending heathens a good ole piece of his mind, Marko Pierre White style, only to discover that the offenders are the 1989 All Blacks starting line up. Needless to say, our Marco Pierre White caricature promptly drops his nuts and scampers off back to the kitchen and makes the All Blacks some fucken sandwiches!!! I don’t know why I remembered this weird advertisement, but as soon as this dish was put in front of me I was instantly transported back to this childish moment of glee.
We return to our dear friend Sally. Char-grilled to perfection and then lathered with Koji (Koji is the fungus used to ferment soy beans in the production of miso) infused butter and scooped into our ‘busted roti’ and garnished with an onion mayo and an interesting preserve of muntrie (a tart Australian native berry), in one beautifully tactile dish, a veritable umami bomb, had re-imagined my All Black lobster sandwiches! (And it was really fucken tasty, just by the way)
And finally the best of the three dessert plates, coming back to my emerging obsession with sandwiches, we find ourselves staring down a decadent slab of lime ice cream slapped in between impossibly crisp and thin almond cookie. One would assume that after twelve or so courses of amazing that you would become desensitized to the ever escalating assault of sensory overload; and then one finds that there is an equally decadent mousse of green banana piped into a delicate and thin, crispy tube of cassava, lovingly dusted with icing sugar. FUCK!
So to summarize, there is no summary……. this review (or lack there of) only barely scratches the surface of this immense dining experience, which, I might add, changes nightly! All that I can hope to achieve with this pale homage is that you will go and experience this for yourself. Though this meal was not made by David Chang, in fact I doubt he had much to do with the food we ate that night at all, he is accredited with the conception of a truly and wonderfully creative environment that allows its’ chefs to grow and express themselves, and by extension, their customers are afforded the opportunity to bask in the reflective glory of an ever expanding culinary empire that prizes, above all else, innovation, and flavour. I only hope other culinary pilgrims have better luck finding the holy, lucky peach than we did…….