I was completely surprised, after hearing about how difficult it is to get into Momofuku, to log onto their internet reservation system on a Thursday morning and have a spot come up for two nights later, Saturday night at 8pm. Woohoo. We must have got a cancellation.
Immediately, I received confirmation of the reservation and at least two other e-mails warning me that if I cancelled unexpectedly, they’d charge the full cost of a degustation to the credit card number I’d given them. Then another phone call or two to confirm we didn’t have any food allergies or issues. It certainly felt like an event!
Perhaps because I hadn’t been paying attention, I didn’t know how small the restaurant is, a handful of tables, and the majority of folks seated around the kitchen, as if in a Japanese restaurant. Fun. I blanched slightly at the cost of drinks and funnily, no one told us how much the tasting would cost – it ended up cheaper than I expected at $175/head; matching alcohol was another $90 I think.
I missed taking a photo of ‘snacks’: blood, nori, mochi and smoked eel. The blood was like a rice cracker made out of blood pudding. Little roasted mochi cube was tasty and reminded me of my last trip to Japan. Here’s the real first course though, what Momofuku is famous for: a steamed bun with pork belly, cucumber, hoisin and srichacha sauce on the side. Pretty perfect, really.
Next was a striped trumpeter with pomelo and pistachio. Interesting texture of the pomelo, which I don’t really like in its whole form. I missed taking a photo so we skip to marron with burnt eggplant and rhubarb. Beautiful, no? One of my favourite dishes of the night. Burnt flavour was a bit intense though.
This dish was prettier than it tasted. Bits of wagyu beef in fermented black bean paste with radish slices. The paste is an odd flavour, and the beef was unmemorable. Weird. Friends be warned. I’m going to construct radish garnishes in this way sometime in the future for you!
But following that was a dish that was also unusual, but one which I though was one of the best of the night. Potato roasted in beef fat with quandong and bottarga, dried mullet roe, which we’d seen in a challenge on Masterchef only a little while ago! It was such an interesting use of ingredients and flavour combination.
What next? A little egg custard with toasted rice tea and brown butter:
And then another of my favourites of the night. Mud crab with old bay and yorkshire pudding. Holy cow. Lots of flavour. Absolutely delicious and rich. And playful to change a traditional dish like roast beef and yorkshire pudding and put in crab instead.
The pink snapper with periwinkle and chrysanthemum perhaps sounds more interesting than it was. The periwinkle, shaved, didn’t make much of an impression on me.
The beef cheek that followed was another favourite – wow, tender and melt in your mouth but it retained its form. Accompanied with cucumber and artichoke.
The home stretch. ‘C2’ with honey licorice and bee pollen was the first of the desserts courses, followed by a pear with yoghurt, sultana miso and whey:
Er. and another dish that I don’t even remember now: potato with muntries (a native cranberry) and muscavado. At the time, I thought it was interesting to have a potatoe in a dessert. And then, the final ‘dessert’. Slow cooked pork in a sweet sauce, to be eaten with the fingers! (matching sherry…)
Now, this is my kind of restaurant.
Sorry for the poor quality of my iphone photos by the way.
Now, what I didn’t get photos of was my highlight. The matching alcohol was perhaps the most inventive and engaging matches that I’ve experienced. Starting with a sake, it went to a cloudy organic white. There were a few more whites that tasted old and interesting and only one red. There was a sake made by a woman master (unusual apparently) from red rice. And the final Pedro Ximinez sherry, 20 years old I think, poured like thick black vinegar and tasted like… heaven.
And the other highlight was sitting around the chefs, watching everyone in action. It’s theatre of a sort, and probably doesn’t suit everyone. We were fascinated, and it does bring a different appreciation of the food to see how it is prepared, plated and presented.
At the end of the dinner, we got two little packets of kim chi as souvenirs, the menu of the evening and a postcard.
It was a great night, an eventful one that matched our mini-celebration. There were a handful of ‘wow’ moments, and I think I might have been expecting a few more – my first reaction to a number of dishes was ‘interesting’ rather than OHMYGODTASTY. But perhaps I have more conservative tastebuds than I know. I’m not sure when and if we’ll go back BUT I’d definitely recommend a visit for a special occasion.