I booked a meal at momofuku seiōbo and survived.
And, no, it wasn’t that difficult – or I was just lucky – to get a spot for the day and time that I wanted. The occasion was the other half’s birthday, part two, with part one being the traditional dinner at Ocean Room (that meal was the 12-course degustation, good value and service).
To make a booking for momofuku seiōbo, you need to first set up an online account, which gives you access to all of the Momofuku restaurants around the world. Then, you go to the reservations site and try your luck at getting a table. Fortunately, the booking window is now 20 days ahead, so I was able to nab a table for lunch on a Saturday. And, really, it is luck of the draw, because when people cancel a booking, it comes back into the reservations system for someone else to get.
momofuku seiōbo is located at the back of The Star (casino), so if you’re feeling doubly lucky, you can try your luck at the casino tables beforehand. And, if you enter through the casino and you wear spectacles, the security staff there may give you a piercing look to check that you don’t have ‘smart glasses’ on.
The staff at momofuku seiōbo are much friendlier. Try and get a seat at the counter of the open kitchen so you can watch them put your meals together. However, it’s more like food arranging rather than food preparation, as not a lot of cooking takes place. This doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the experience, as the dishes are very prettily arranged by the chefs and then they bring it over and tell you what it is.
The food is exceptional: top quality, beautiful, clear flavours. The signature steamed pork buns are ethereally light, miles away from the mass-produced efforts of other local restaurants. Portion sizes are reasonable, though if you are particularly hungry, you may have to stop for a burger and chips on the way home… I took the Cronut route - see further down.
There seems to be a shift away from high-end fine dining in Sydney, what with the imminent closure of restaurants like Claude’s and Guillaume at Bennelong. What’s left if you want a special place for a celebration – Aria, Rockpool, Quay, Tetsuya? All in the CBD, interestingly, unlike the more hip places in Surry Hills, though the hipster joints do not seem to have the staying power of the fine diners.
momofuku seiōbo sits in between ‘hip’ and ‘high-end’, I think. You won’t feel out of place if you don’t wear a jacket and tie here, but it’s definitely not bistro or dude food. The overall vibe is ‘upper middle smart-casual’, despite the high price tag ($110 per person for the 8-course lunch). There is a 5-seat bar area that has a separate small menu (there was a tasty-looking terrine that seemed very popular when we were there), so they may be covering their bases in regard to the mid-to-high end of the dining scale. You don’t need to book for the bar, so maybe you could take a chance there if you don’t succeed in the momofuku seiōbo booking lottery.
Smoked potato cream in a crisp shell, with apple jelly
The momofuku Pork Belly Bun
Striped trumpeter (fish) with celery leaves and mustard oil
Potato balls with mullet roe and parson's nose
Onion, various ways, with burnt leek and egg yolk (that's the round thing with black on top)
Eel dashi jelly with octopus and almond milk (my dish was missing the almond milk)
Striped trumpeter (again!) with fennel and dill
Pork neck, squash and kombu
It's very Intensive Care Unit in the open kitchen
Goat's curd with crushed blackcurrant and mint (two dishes, here. Looks like Eyes!)
Pear with honey cream and muntries (Australian native berries)
Petits Fours: Canelé, and caramel with kombu
Au revoir, momofuku seiōbo, I'll be back.
And because I was not completely full after lunch at momofuku seiōbo, and because Adriano Zumbo's patisserie was just across the way...
I got a Zonut cronut to have a little later.
This flavour was Pina Colada. Tasted just like a finger bun, only greasy.