Dinner at Momofuku Sydney, and a Recipe for Cheese
I’m a planner. I get mocked on a regular basis for planning my holidays two years in advance and writing itineraries when people come to stay, but I can’t help it if I like a good plan. This also means that I’m not that good at spontaneity, but even I managed to be spontaneous when a friend called to say she had a table for two booked at Momofuku Seiobo and I had first refusal. I would normally struggle with twenty four hours notice for a night out, especially on a school night, but Momofuku is the hottest table in town at the moment. David Chang has bought his Michelin Star dining to Sydney and everyone wants a piece of the action.
And why wouldn’t you want to sample one of the fifteen courses that are part of the degustation menu. There is no a la carte menu at Momofuku it is all about the set menu that changes according to the produce that’s available. This means that there is no specific theme to the menu. The chefs are from the UK, the States and of course Australia, so there are influences coming from all directions. Including the Korean influence from David Chang himself.
The dish that everyone is raving about is the pork bun. I normally avoid such things at Yum Cha because I’m not too keen on the sweet bread, but this pork bun was nothing of the sort. It was light and fluffy and savoury, with pork that you could cut with a spoon if required. Sadly there was only one on the plate. I’d have happily eaten more, the only thing stopping me were the 13 other course that I had to get through.
Each and every course was unique in its own way. There were some that I favoured more than others but I could see the merit in each. Another stand out dish was the lamb neck. Perfectly cooked, the lamb neck was served with daikon puree and pickled turnips. Despite the claim that this restaurant cooks no particular cuisine, rather it focuses on show casing local produce, you can still see the Korean influence throughout. In this case the pickled turnip.
Now Momofuku has already secured itself a good reputation in the Sydney dining scene for it’s food, but the food is only half the story. Any Sydney foodie worth their salt wants a seat in Momofuku so they can watch the chefs plate up their dishes and chat to the chefs as they present each course. Just be warned though, this a conversation stopper, so probably not the best idea for a first date!
I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I seem to have been scarred by childhood experiences of dessert; so when I was presented with a bowl of rice pudding with miso ice cream and pickled fruit I couldn’t stomach more than a mouthful, but the cheese course prior to this more than made up for it. If I see cheese on a dessert menu I go for it every time. I would gladly eat a slice of cheese on a cracker, but when restaurants put a little more thought into the cheese course I get very excited. This was no exception. I was presented with grated pecorino, accompanied by apple cider jelly and bee pollen. So simple yet so delicious, and minus the bee pollen probably something I could recreate at home.
With fifteen courses on the set menu there was no way I could re-count all of them here and have you still reading by the end so I’ve picked out the courses that were my personal favourite. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like the rest of them but I thought you could make your own mind up about the other courses. But there was one course I just had to write about. As the old saying goes, people often “save the best ’til last” and in my eyes that’s exactly what Momofuku does. But wait a minute, I don’t usually do dessert and I’m actually not talking about the dessert course here, I’m talking about the Petit Four course. Momofuku has really pushed the boundaries and is serving slow cooked shoulder of pork after dessert. And surprisingly it works. I usually have trouble mixing my sweet and savoury courses and I like a plan and things to be just so; so pork shoulder post dessert should be a no no, but the subtle sweetness that has been added to the pork skin while it cooks for twelve hours means you can eat it after wattle seed meringue and not feel like you’re starting all over again. Be warned, this could be appearing on a Nic Cooks dinner party menu soon.
A dish that has already made an appearance at a dinner party is the cheese course. I love trying to recreate dishes I have eaten at restaurants and not feeling quite brave enough to tackle the pork bun the jelly seemed more manageable. I made a cider jelly using the best quality cider I could find in the local bottle shop. The Jelly is very simple. I heated 100ml of the cider with 50g of sugar until the sugar had dissolved then stirred in the rest of the 500ml bottle of cider and 4 platinum sheets of gelatine I had pre-soaked in water.
Allow the jelly to set in a shallow, rectangular baking tray lined with cling film. When you are ready to serve, slice the jelly into small cubes, and grate over the best quality pecorino cheese you can afford. And if, like me, you can’t lay your hands on some bee pollen, you can add a sweet edge with some maple syrup.
Momofuku Seiobo is situated in Sydney’s Star Casino. It is open for dinner only from Monday to Saturday. They serve a set tasting menu that costs $175 with an additional $95 for matching wines.