You know the drill. Or at least have heard of it. Many a time has it been remembered and revised by keen diners before me. Make an account through the Momofuku Seiobo website the night before. Write all your credit card details and booking details somewhere the night before. Wake up at 9:50 with the aid of 3 alarms going off simultaneously. Turn your computer on. Log in by 9:58 Momofuku time. Frantically press refresh until the word enter becomes available. Don't panic, you're nearly there. Pray some early bird hasn't gotten your time slot mere seconds before. Input all your details in as precisely as you can within the time frame. Phew. Job done. Grab a towel and bucket to drench all your sweat and tears. Go back to sleep.
I was so nervous I was having practise runs the week before. It is quite ridiculous the effort that goes into having to book a restaurant but I suppose that's the price for falling into all that hype. And about time as well. It's been open since late October in 2011 but it doesn't even remotely show signs of slowing down. Boy are we special in the land down under. Listed in Time's 2010 most influential people of the year, this is radical 'bad boy' chef (a ridiculous title if you ask me, it pains me as much to say it as you to hear it) David Chang's first international foray with all his other restaurants in the states. A degustation only menu runs every night at 175 dollars with the option of wine pairings or interestingly juice pairings. If you're after something smaller, best you join the bar area where there's little snacks on offer.
|smoked apple, eel|
|steamed bun, shitake|
|striped trumpeter, celery, mustard|
|potato, roe, parson's nose|
|beef, radish, fermented black bean|
|tongue, watercress, fennel|
|cauliflower, mushroom, smoked yolk|
|marron, broccoli, lemon|
|squab, burnt eggplant, onion|
We spy a giant slab of sugar-roasted pork shoulder, dark and caramelised and taken out from the oven to be purposefully placed in the middle, tantalizing eyes around the kitchen. It gleans and glistens in the light and just teases everyone for the final course to come.
|curd, blackcurrant, mint|
|pineapple, lime, sesame|
|pear, jerusalem artichoke, sunflower|
|pink lady, caramel|
The 'Best New Restaurant of 2013' is run by a group of assured Gen Y'ers, complete with a green baseball caps and white button ups. The pass is manned by head chef Ben Greeno, a reliable and strong force that's capable of running the remote empire of David Chang's that is Momofuku Seiobo. It's unnervingly efficient and free from any Ramsayesque chaos and it's really nice having the person who's plated up your dish bring it to you rather than a waiter.
Whilst I always do appreciate the lack of a physical barrier between chefs and diners (Sixpenny, Buon Ricordo), there's a mental one that exists which begs for a little... life. Quietly confident gradually feels a little conceited and steely as the dinner progresses. A little smile at the presentation of a course, a 'how was your day?', the little things, that's what's needed.
It's easy to see why Seiobo isn't everyone's cup of tea. You might call David Chang's Momofuku Seiobo many things: avant garde, progressive, controversial, loud, rushed, irritating, over-hyped, a little try-hard but the word boring will rarely ever pop up in a conversation involving Seiobo. And honestly, besides an irritating booking system, I thought it was pretty much great. I'm not head over heels over everything but it presents a surprisingly nice change from other fine diners.
Unusual to be saying this but it's the uncluttered nature of the pairings, with no more than 3 core ingredients on a plate, where you'll find the ingenuity and complexity. Some juxtapose, some lift. That's where the fun lies. Service needs a little animation but food is where it shines as it should be. Like it or not, Momofuku Seiobo is here to stay.
Momofuku Seiobo, The Star
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