Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Momofuku Seiobo

We were offered a booking at Momofuku Seiobo when it first opened in October 2011.  We were staying in a fabulous suite at the brand new Darling Hotel at the Star Casino and the Concierge offered us a booking, but something came up and we couldn't take the last minute availability.  Been regretting it ever since, as it is a pain to book.  You can only book online, and have to register first. 
The booking page only shows 10 days in advance - and usually is just full of X's.   This snapshot was taken at 10.13 am this morning and all bookings taken.
I decided I was going to get a booking that day, and logged in around 9 am one morning.  I was told bookings would only be available from 10.00 am, so I was all ready to push 'Enter' at 10.00 am on the dot - and wonders of wonders, had several choices available.  You are told you only have seconds to confirm, so I just grabbed the first one - which was at 6.30 pm last night (two weeks hence from the booking date).  I was then directed to a website where I had to provide my credit card, and agree to be charged if I didn't turn up.  I had another ticking clock - 110 seconds, to input my credit card details.  Bloody hell.  Pressure, pressure - but I did.  I then received a reminder email the day before the booking (you pay a cancellation fee of $175 per person if you cancel within 24 hours of the booking), then a phone call confirming the reservation the day of the booking.

We made sure we arrived on time, but found the doors locked - we were a minute early.  So checked out Adrian Zumbo opposite till we heard the doors open! 
We were thrilled to be offered a seat at the kitchen bench - front and centre.
Momofuku Seiobo is the first Momofuku restaurant outside New York.    Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssam Bar (2 Michelin Stars and one of the 50 Best Restaurants of the World), Komofuku Ko and Ma Peche, and five Momofuku Milk Bar bakery outlets - are all in New York.   Seiobo is the Japanese Goddess of the West and her sign is the peach tree.  The only Goddess I saw was was a print of Angus Young from ACDC resplendent in his school uniform.
David Chang (30's), New York's ground-breaking Korean-American Chef and one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People had arrived in Sydney to huge hype, but he sure delivers.
Momofuku Seiobo already has 3 Hats and Best New Restaurant 2012 - Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide; Restaurant of the Year 2012 - The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards and Time Out Food Awards; New Restaurant of the Year 2012 - Gourmet Traveller.

Our Chef for the evening was Clayton Wells.
It was a pleasure to watch him and his team in action, and as his station was right in front of us, to watch him successfully juggle a full restaurant with everyone at different stages of food and wine.  So professional all of them, constantly wiping down surfaces and plates, and not a cross word to be heard.
We opted for the matched wines to the tasting menu at $95 per head, but worth it.  There were some amazing choices, most of which we would never have ordered.  They kindly emailed the wine list.  The Mukai Shuzo 'Ine Mankai' Junmai Genshu was made from red rice, looked like Rose, and tasted divine.  Have to buy some!  The wines were all a perfect compliment to the dish.  Our fabulous and very young wine waiter was very knowledgeable about all the wines.

beverage pairing
17 october 2012 

mutemuka shuzo 2011
junmai muroka nama genshu
kochi, japan

keller riesling trocken 2010
rheinhessen, germany

terres dorées jean paul brun chardonnay 2010
beaujolais, fr

mukai shuzo ‘ine mankai’ junmai genshu 2012
kyoto, japan

cotar vitovska 2007
kars, slovenia

domaine de l’r ‘no so2’ 2011
chinon, fr

eric bordelet poire ‘granit’ 2011
normandy. fr

toro albala ‘don px 2007’
montila, spain

 The tasting menu costs $175 per head. Not cheap, but..... This restaurant is why you go out for dinner. 
We ate:

A snack of Blood, Nori, Mochi, Smoked Eel.  Wow!

Steamed Bun; Pork, Cucumber, Hoisin.  Absolute Standout.

Pink Snapper; Celery, Mustard.  Delicate pieces of Snapper, picked celery and Mustard Oil (Wasabi).

Raw Purple Scallops; Rhubarb.  Really lovely - didn't know they existed.

Potato; Quandong, Bottarga.  I love potato and these crispy fried balls were fabulous.

Beef; Radish, Fermented Black Bean.  Bit too much raddish for my liking, but very good.

Quail; Courgette, Black Garlic. The Black Garlic was delicious.

Congee; Ham, Yolk.  I was nervous about this as I'm not a Congee fan, but this was nothing like Congee.  The egg yolks were fried!!!

Marron; Chickpea, Asparagus.  Barely cooked Marron, tender and juicy.

Shortrib; Eggplant, Kombu.  The burnt eggplant was interesting, but rich.  The meat melted in your mouth.   I was filling up big time by now!

C2; honey licorice, bee pollen.  This was actually grated cheese.

Blueberry Ice Cream; Passionfruit, long pepper with shards of White Chocolate Wafer.

Potato Ice Cream; Muntries.  Extraordinary - you could taste the potato.

then - to finish - believe it or not
Caramalised Pork Shoulder (which you ate with your fingers - so sweet and even though I was so so full, it was absolutely delicious.  I had watched the Sous Chef cook this from start to end.).
We were offered a final glass of our favourite tipple - we of course chose the Red Sake, and were given some Kim Chi to take home.
Momofuku Seiobo deserves every accolade.   I couldn't recommend it highly enough.  I have to give it 12/10.  Just register, sit on your computer ready to push the final 'Enter' at 10.00 am on the dot, and grab a booking.  I promise you it will be worth it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room

 While I'm in the mood, I should mention another new eatery that recently opened - The Morrison.
On the sight of the former Brooklyn Hotel on the corner of George and Bridge Streets, and again a short walk from home -
(thanks for the photos Simon Food Favourites),  Head chef Sean Connolly (ex Astral and Sean's Kitchen)
and chefs Oliver Carruthers (ex Bambini Trust) and Michael Robinson (ex Quarter Twenty One) have teamed up to celebrate quality ingredients, cooked simply.  The Oyster Bar offers over 30 Australian varieties delivered fresh daily from the growers, together with organic produce and free range grain fed beef.  There's the Oyster Room, the Parlour and the Conservatory (open air terrace) so lots of areas to explore.

Once again we were on our way home from a city appointment, and having read great reviews, we decided to drop in to try it out.  Never did make it past the main dining area, but would have liked to have seen the Conservatory.  We did ask a waiter what was behind the doors, but he said 'just a bar' - being The Parlour.  What about the Conservatory?
We sat by the window overlooking all the workers heading out of the city.  The wine list is printed 'newspaper style'.
 There was a big crowd, growing every minute.  Lots of groups meeting for a drink after work, then moving on to dinner.  So the kitchen was busy.
We couldn't resist the Chicken Lollipops (Southern Fried Chicken, Chili & Molasses Dip) - really lovely, the Molasses Dip addictive.  
We also had the Crab & Lettuce Tacos (Chardonnay Vinaigrette, Salmon Caviar) - again, light and delicious.
Hal ordered the Dry Aged Hamburger (Brioche Bun, House Pickles, Chipotle Mayo, Duck Fat Chips),
and I had the My Diane (60 second seared Beef Tenderloin, Yorkshire Relish Spiced Gravy) which was good, but not traditional and a bit too sweet. 

We couldn't resist a side of Grandma's Carrots which were served chunky and soft but just like Grandma would serve!   Need I mention the thrice cooked Duck Fat Chips?

Good food, nice ambience, efficient service.


Ananas Brasserie and Bar

For some months we have heard about a new restaurant coming - by the same owner (John Szangolies) who owns Sake, The Cut, The Argyle, etc. etc.  We just couldn't figure our where it was going to be.    It opened on Tuesday night, so we just had to try it last night (2nd night).  Wow!
The 1920's inspired decor is amazing.  Particularly when you think about having to deal with the heritage listed building.
You enter the bar from Argyle Street in The Rocks - they have put out a carpet to make it easier to find it.  A huge bunch of flowers greets you, then you walk into this amazing room with brass birds hanging in the windows, and fantastic pineapples everywhere - particularly loved the pineapple chandeliers.   
Ananas is the scientific word for pineapple! 
The bar is a real feature, with an oyster bar at one end.  There are various areas to sit in - bench seat looking out the windows, long high tables and chairs, small high tables and chairs and a lovely area with normal tables and chairs. The Bar Manager Stefan was charming - born in Antibes, and I gather he had a lot to do with the cocktail list.  Their Dirty Martini was perfection.
The bar/supper club, complete with DJ, is open till late and the bar menu is available until 3 am.

Through the bar is the Brasserie - and what a wonderful space.  Pineapple lamps line the banquettes which divide the room into smaller spaces, and the clever use of mirrors, some painted, make the space look even bigger. The private dining room on the left has an open verandah on the side which looks over the courtyard of The Argyle  (nice spot for lunch).
The staff were so friendly and obviously very proud of their restaurant.    Justly so.  Very happy to recommend dishes without being pushy.

It's described as French Mediterranean.  The Chef is French born Jerome Lagarde, who came from the Three Star Sens & Bund in Shanghai.

Unfortunately I didn't photograph our dishes - wish I had because they looked as good as they tasted.  The hardest thing was the choice.  Hal had the Alaskan Crab and Avocado, which was fresh and delicious.  I took our waiter's recommendation and had the 65 degrees Free Range Egg on Bed of Smoked Cream, Asparagus, Sauteed Porcini, Bellota-Bellota (a rolled piece of superb ham).    How on earth do you cook a very soft boiled egg, shell it, then coat with a crunchy crumb mixture?  The smoked cream was a fabulous taste.  It also came with two tiny perfectly cooked pieces of Asparagus.

Hal then had the Stuffed Squid on a bed of Mushroom Risotto, which he said was fabulous.  I had the Lobster Ravioli, rich but really amazing.  We also ordered the Cos Salad - a whole baby Cos with a lovely vinaigrette, and of course the Pommes Frittes - which were tiny and crispy. 

We had to try a (just ONE) dessert - the Salted Caramel Eclair.  Superb.

We feel so lucky to have another fabulous restaurant literally underneath our apartment.  Bit dangerous though.  If I had a criticism it was the way they serve the food - very French.  There were two 'servers' (they wear aprons), one a tiny slip of a thing, who carry out the food on huge silver trays (which was almost bigger than her), but they have to stand and wait till a waiter is available to bring it to the table.  Sometimes she had to run around the room - carrying the full tray - to get a waiter's attention.  I guess this will improve with experience and maybe more floor staff. 

Even though it was Day 2, the food and charming service overall was standout.


Two new restaurants in Sydney

Two new restaurants have inspired me to blog - after an absence of some months. 

Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney

We have been watching the hoardings on the ground floor of the Four Seasons Hotel facing George Street, wondering what was going to be there.  Suddenly it was open.  The entrance looked fabulous with my favourite plants - Grass Trees (no longer allowed to be called Blackboys).
We were on our way home from an appointment in the city on September 10th, so of course, just had to drop in.  It was opening day.  The bar, designed by Architect Michael McCann, is very classy and the timber warm and welcoming.  The retractable windows were half open, with a great view of Circular Quay, and the gas fire looked very cosy. 
We really only planned on having a drink, but a quick look at the menu and after discussions with the very friendly staff, we decided to stay for dinner.  The Chef, Hamish Ingram from Bar H in Surry Hills is in charge here, and we were told will soon open a restaurant on the other side of the Four Seasons Hotel Foyer.

We were persuaded to try one of the bar snacks - Deep fried old man's saltbush with aioli.  Never heard of Saltbush, but it was amazing - crunchy and salty, and the Aioli was gorgeous.
Hal then had the Burger - huge but very very good, and I had the Hanger Steak, served sliced and very rare with of course, Fries! 

Lovely venue, good service, good food.